And that's what scares me about the year ahead: I don't know what's next.
From where it is, my life looks like pretty smooth sailing for the next two years as I finish off the rest of my bond. Do I see myself staying on in this job? I don't know. What I've always wanted to do - write and bake full-time - do I see that realistically happening after these next few years? Can I make a living out of doing those things? I don't know.
So far, all my major milestones in life have come down more or less to my own determination to complete my education according to my targets. But the series of milestones that come after this - things like getting married, moving into my own home, children, and so on - are not solely within my control. There are many other people and factors involved that I cannot possibly impose my own timeline on (although I'd really like to).
As a perfectionistic, ambitious, and goal-oriented person, the idea that I don't know what's next freaks me out. I don't know what I'm supposed to be working towards and looking forward to in the next couple years ahead. It feels like I'm in this transition stage from child to adult and there's a lot I need to learn and figure out... but I'm not exactly sure what those things are, or how long this phase will last.
During some much-needed reflection time at the end of December, I realised that the one thing I can spend the next year or so working towards is simply to be more present. To live in the moment, instead of always rushing ahead.
I struggle so much with that. After reading something Lindsey Mead wrote, I realised that it's because living completely in the moment makes me feel vulnerable. It reminds me that the only thing that really matters is what I have, here and now, and what I choose to do with it. Nothing else is within my control. We know all of this like well-worn clichés, but it is only when we strip away distractions and focus completely on the present that the truth of it sinks in and hits home hard.
All my fears, worries, dreams, goals - all of these are meaningless when held up against the impermanence of every day. Do I want a life decorated with achievements I cannot hold on to or do I want to be remembered as someone who lived every moment to its fullest? I want the second, but it's scary. And sometimes, in the letting go of illusions of control, even painful. But I want it.
So for this year, I kept my resolutions simple. No lofty, long-term goals. More of reminders to take each day as it comes. To stay open to interruptions and surprises, while avoiding distractions.
To cultivate community with like-minded souls, because I've realised that I'm not the only one struggling through this season, struggling with figuring out what it means to grow up and be a responsible, consistent adult while at the same time, living a life of purpose and passion.
I mean, these were the kind of things I grew up hearing and talking about. At youth camps, church retreats, and slumber parties. We talked about the future and growing up and what it would look like... but when you're actually here everything looks very different from how you thought it would be.
But I'm still young enough to hope. A bit older, hopefully a bit wiser, a bit stronger. I may not know what's next but I think I can handle not knowing, with fingers crossed that any surprises will be good ones.
So here's to a New Year, to the messy uncertainty and beautiful spontaneity of life well-lived, to being open to surprises, and to living more in our moments.
I'll close with this wish for you:
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art - write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” -Neil Gaiman