“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”-John Steinbeck
Looking back on 2013 brings up a whole load of emotions and memories. Being my last year as a teenager, 2013 didn’t exactly bring loads of booze, boys, and other *insert crazy adolescent activity here*. No, while others were busy “living it up” or whatever, I was scrambling to keep my life together (or keep my life at all, really). I think my inner self aged about ten years in the span of the one, and now I’m stuck in this awkward limbo where I simultaneously feel like I’m in my mid-thirties and also like I missed out on my teenage years and want to rewind and do it all again. But then I remind myself that unlike many people do when a new year comes around, I don’t want a clean slate. I can’t afford to rid myself of all the things that have happened to me in the past year. Without the events that unfolded and the knowledge that I gained, I would be little more than a hollow mannequin, a shell of a person with all my hopes and dreams locked up somewhere deep inside and nothing to offer the world but an empty gaze and a blank stare.
No, this year I’m not “starting over.” Rather, I’m continuing. I’m soldiering on. I am working, working, working–on my self-image, on my identity, on my priorities. When I sat down to think about what I want to focus on in the new year, I thought that I pretty much had my priorities straight. Then I realized that, actually, for as long as I can remember, I have been prioritizing the externalities and the people around me and haven’t really given a damn about myself. Like, to the point where my life didn’t seem as important as other things. How in the world did that happen? Because without my life, I wouldn’t be able to sit down with pencil in hand and make a priorities list in the first place. However my train of thought got there, I’m determined to stop it dead in its tracks and get back on the right path–a path where my health and well-being is front and center. Now, it’s not a bad thing to care about others, and I would be fooling myself if I thought that I could tone down my concern for the people I care about. But 2013 has taught me that if I truly want to be able to give my all to others, I need to focus on nurturing my self and becoming confident in what I have to give. It’s not fair to the world for me to be anything less than what I am.
Now that is a statement that my brain loooovesss to mix up and twist around and re-write and spit out something like “I have to be the very best I can possibly be in every way.” And where, yes, this is true, I should strive to be the very best I can be, I have a tendency to re-focus this from where it really matters, like in the heart, the personality, and the personal effort, and tell myself that being my best means being the best. In school, in extracurriculars, in my choices, on the treadmill comparing myself to the girl next to me, at the table where I kick myself for not sitting up straighter. Yes, my perfectionism runs this deep. In 2014, I want to lose this belief–this belief that my personal best means being perfect. What is perfect anyway? If 2013 taught me anything, it’s that perfect is just this myth that everyone creates in their head in order to give them a sense of purpose–something they feel like they need to work towards, to strive for.
Well, this year I want my purpose to be much more than striving for perfection. Forget non-frizzy hair and a “flat” tummy, screw the wheatgrass shots and the non-scuffed boots and the nail polish that never chips. I don’t want to follow the fads; I want to anchor myself in something deeper, something that will last. And I want to learn to embrace all that I am and forget about all that I am not. I am above average height, my laugh sometimes sounds like a hyperventilating donkey, I’ve got a Kardashian ass and the chest of a pre-pubescent boy, but I can walk, run, sing, hug, belly laugh, snuggle with my sister, jump, throw, pet my dog, give Eskimo kisses, fold my hands in prayer, and for all of that, I am thankful. My heart is passionate and beating, my brain is functioning full-speed ahead. I am so very capable–I just need to decide where and when to exert my energy.
I see and hear so many people talking about wanting to reinvent themselves, thinking that shedding pounds or going gluten-free is going to somehow unlock the mysteries of life or release their full potential. Well, all I want is to stay exactly who I am, because I need more time to figure out who that is. I want to learn how to be comfortable in my own skin no matter what society tells me. So, dear 2014, don’t hold back–throw it all at me. I’m strong; I can take it. I want to be tested, to learn, to experiment. I want to love deeply and walk boldly. And most of all, I want to be able to look up and enjoy life as it passes. My teenage years may not have been all that the young adult novels promised, but my twenties will be roaring. So come on 2014, I’m ready for ya.
“I like to dance…some nights, after dinner, my dad turns on some music and we dance.”-Madeline McCallum, journal entry, age 8