Every year around the sun brings with it a multitude of opportunities, but the most important one to me these last few years is taking the time to understand myself better, explore those things that I connect with, what doesn’t, and express what’s on my mind and heart through outlets like this blog. Intentionally or not, I have often found myself alone on the journey which provides (more than?) ample time to think, reflect, overthink, and act. In a world that creates so much noise, the solitude isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
As it’s been in previous years, I struggle with finding ways to summarize a whole year of my life into one post. What parts should I share about publicly on this platform? What am I comfortable sharing? Can I be vulnerable enough to go deeper than I have before? Is there anything about my life that is useful to others? Was there a common thread tying everything together?
The finale of my 30s may have looked relatively calm on the surface, but upon further inspection, it has been more complicated and turbulent below the surface. This is frequently the case for me as an INFP who tirelessly works to maintain an outer facade of having it all together and not wanting others to worry about me. Or perhaps more honestly, not wanting most people to see what’s going on behind the curtains.
2017 brought some new challenges, some of which I wrote about last year. Challenges often require us to face ourselves in the mirror and rely on the depths of our character and being. Who we are will be reflected in how we respond. Our true identity is on display for all to see. They are good and healthy for us. We can’t grow if we’re not stretched.
Whether or not I realized it, the end of my 30s has been a lot about unraveling and understanding myself.
I’ve been processing and dealing with a lot of themes of loneliness and disconnect. I explored some of this in previous posts including the more photography focused “Open Seating” and also in “Your Presence is Requested.” The common thread here was this feeling of or physically being alone. There have been plenty of moments throughout the last year where I haven’t felt connected and engaged in my surroundings. It’s stemmed mainly from my own issues, but there have been plenty of other moments where isolation came out of the actions of others. And if I look more intently at the why, it’s because I haven’t felt heard or valued. The and value and skill of listening is so vastly underrated; I’ve written about this topic before, but the gift of our ears, time, and undivided attention are easily one of the greatest gifts we can offer one another.
I am reminded that creativity and the mere act of creation often require focus and time alone for the best work to be done. For all the (literal) talk of collaborative this and that and how much better it’s supposed to be for everything, we don’t often remember that some of our best work happens in those still silent places where we’re free of distractions and noise and people. And while for me time alone at my house or at a coffee shop or wandering around the streets of Chicago admiring the urban landscape may look or feel lonely in a snapshot, my mind and heart are processing much deeper within.
Being lonely is not a bad thing for a writer.
– Chuck Palahniuk
Creating is a lonely thing in a lot of ways.
– Ann Demeulemeester
But all this work is not easy. The more I reflect and look back, the more I realize that I’m being challenged to ask myself, “If I had to strip away all the running medals and professional accomplishments and gadgets and books and stuff in my house, who is it that’s left? Is it someone I even recognize and am comfortable with looking at in the mirror? Is he willing and able to let the world see a truer version of himself?”
I can’t comfortably say “Yes” to that last question yet. But this may be the decade to honestly and faithfully answer these questions.