A year ago, I wrote a post called 2019 Will be the Year Of… In that post, I had three goals that I wanted to focus on – planning, praying and podcasting. I even made a pretty picture for it. This one:
Well, let’s just say that nothing went according to plan last year. I didn’t podcast the way that I’d intended to, I didn’t plan the way I’d intended to and I didn’t pray the way I’d intended to. I had some really great goals at the beginning of 2019 – and I’ll be carrying parts of those goals into this new year as well – but I didn’t tick off any of them. If I’d worked harder at it, I might’ve been able to. If I’d put more effort into it. I might have been able to. But I didn’t. And there were a thousand and one reasons for me not putting in the effort, not spending the time and energy there instead of somewhere else. It all ends up in the same place: I failed at achieving those goals.
Now, I could beat myself up about it. I could let myself internalize that failure and worry about what kind of person it made me. I could carry it forward and take it as a sign that I don’t have what it takes to succeed. I could do all of those destructive, unhelpful things.
(I’m not gonna do any of that.)
A year ago, a month ago, I would have taken all this failure personally. I have a long, unhealthy relationship with failure that I’ve talked about a bunch in the past. The gist of it is that I find it difficult to separate failing at a task from failing as a person. I hate to fail. It makes me feel ugly and unworthy. (I’m working on that).
Right now, I’m trying something else. Because the thing is that while I did not achieve any of those things that I put down in writing a year ago, I did achieve a bunch of other stuff. 2019 was one of the hardest years of my life and it was one of the best too. I put in crazy hours at work, I submitted pieces for two anthologies (that got accepted Alhamdulillah!) and I spoke at two events. I made a bunch of new friends, I stood up for myself and I made it to a year editing full time. I had a radio show for seven months.
It was a hard year. I cried a bunch, I got sick even more. I stopped writing, I started writing again, I worried about whether I’d ever finish another story. I neglected this blog. I pitched myself over and over again – getting rejected almost always. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat and I was snappish more than was reasonable.
A lot happened and things didn’t go the way I thought they would. I didn’t get to do a lot of what I wanted, and I did get to do a lot of things I hadn’t even thought about wanting. Yes, there were failures but there were also a lot of amazing successes. And I sometimes (a lot of the time) focus on the failures more than I should. I forget about the successes because I’m so caught up in analyzing what went wrong every time I fail so that I can learn from it and so that it doesn’t happen again.
Analysis is useful. Reflection is useful. Tunnel vision is not useful.
This year is probably not going to be any less crazy than the last. A lot of that is on me – I can’t deny that I pick up projects and go for opportunities that I know will challenge me. I get bored easily and there is so much that interests and excites me out there. I have gotten better about creating boundaries to ensure that I don’t burn out while still being able to do all those awesome things. And yes, it’s not perfect and sometimes things get dropped, but I’m learning to live with that. Sometimes things crop up. Sometimes you get sick. It’s okay.
The point of this long, rambling post is just: be flexible and kind. I think about half of the things I write and want to say can be boiled down to some variation of be kind to yourself and manage your expectations. I keep saying it, in all those different ways, because it’s so easy to forget. It’s so, so easy to forget to be kind. We’ll just have to keep reminding ourselves.