I started this year with big proclamations - I chose my word and carved it on my heart, and I told myself there wasn't any choice but to begin. I came to this very space and wrote these words:
I want a year of beginnings, both big and small. I want to make more, share more, love more, own more, claiming this life and my choices each day. I want to be less afraid of speaking up about what I want and having those little confessions lead to beginnings. I want to want big, fat, ridiculous things that might not be possible, but I want to want them anyway, and to work toward making them happen. I want to want tiny, seemingly insignificant things without embarrassment, and to celebrate their existence when they come.
I want to begin the year by making a claim to the person I am beginning this first day of January as - a woman in her mid thirties who's half little girl and half grumpy old man, a voracious reader, a lover of lines - the poetic, the dotted, the direct and indirect, and the ones that spur us to cross them. I am someone who's discovered a love for documenting life with paper and glue, words and images, and I think, no, I know that I am getting better, that I might one day even be good at it, and I want to do more with it this year. I am someone who is often too sensitive and too cold, all in the same inappropriate moments, but it makes me love the world in a way that allows it to break my heart, and I am thankful for that, but I'd like to begin to be warmer and stronger when I need to be, or when others I care about need that from me.
This wasn't my first year claiming a word as my own, or for setting intentions, or declaring freedom from some unwanted strife, but this was, and I suppose that's why I'm back here now, the first year that I followed it all the way through to what will soon be the end. This year I didn't just say I was going to begin; this year I began.
I've written before about the advice the writer and activist Grace Paley gave me - that the secret of success is to be lucky - but this year those words took on a new life for me as I realized that luck isn't some haphazard blessing for those are in the right place at the right time. Luck comes to those who lives their lives. Luck comes to those who look for it by living a life that makes room for it - by those who show up.
This year wasn't perfect, and it felt as heavy and hard as 2014 in so many ways, but this year, I showed up for it all. This year when the work week was 50, 60, 70 hours and growing, and the scan was worse that we'd hoped, and the miles didn't get quicker to travel between us, and all the things I thought I might one day do felt unreachable, I let is suck, but then I picked back up and tried again, and I learned that beginning isn't a luxury that happens once a year. I began about a thousand times before we'd even hit May. This year when I felt luckless, I gave myself permission to start over (and over, and over, and over), and as that same luck I didn't think I had would have it, some beginnings take you somewhere, and those are worth working through every single one that doesn't.
This year I put myself out there, and when it didn't take, I didn't break, and I felt my heart bounce back from disappointment in a way I didn't believe it would. This year I met people who changed my life, and I made room in that heart that didn't break for everything they taught me. I learned to take photos of my face and to share them, not just with others, but with myself. I learned to look myself in the eye and recognize the person staring back - to cringe less and smile more.
This year I learned to let go of the right way to love someone and learned to just to love them. I learned that it's never too late to meet the friends you've spent too much of your whole life thinking it was too late to meet. I learned to do so many new things from so many new people that my brain is brimming with a balance of knowledge and gratitude that's shaped every new bit of life I've tried. I learned how to say yes, how to say no, and how to ask for what I want when there is no certainty that it will come to fruition, but to love it enough to want to begin anyway. I learned that some of the most important people we meet in life won't be anywhere close to us in space, and painful as that will be some days, we are so lucky for that - a piece of us, alive in the world so many miles away.
And with the learning, there was so much relearning. This year I relearned that what we love growing up, that "who we want to be" is sometimes just who we are, if only we start paying attention. It seems too simple to say that a few doodles in a mini book could change a life, but in a way this year, they did. I could tell you that it was the act of beginning to draw again that set all of the incredible pieces of this year into motion (classes, collaborations, custom work, etc.), but that would only be a part of the story, because though the doodles might be the vehicle, this year the game changed the moment I started sharing them: I gave myself credit for what I can do. This year I relearned how love myself and my life enough to give it credit, and I showed up and made sure that every doubt was greeted with work and participation even when there was no one but me to clap me through to the finish.
It's important, I think, to learn to clap for yourself when no one can do it for you, and to know, and to really understand, that sometimes no one should do it for you - that sometimes showing up for your life means celebrating it without anyone else to validate that you're getting it right.
It's glorious, though, when there are people to celebrate with, and this year I learned that, too - to let people clap for you when they want to, and not just to say thank you because it's what you've been taught to do, but to say thank you because you believe them, and then to really, really believe them. It's a fine line, learning to love and accept the support, but not being paralyzed by it when it's not knocking down your door, and it's one I'm constantly tripping it over this year. I've been so lucky to meet so many new people online, connecting through social media like Instagram with a community of people who are all so beautifully different, so talented and loving, supportive and invested, and so real and so complicated that I feel lucky just to know they're out there in the world showing up for their own lives. And as my number of followers has grown, I've felt even more grateful and humbled that anyone might be interested in these rumblings of mine, in the view of me, beginning (again, and again, and again), and on the days when that number shrinks (and boy, some days like today it does), I've learned to be okay that I am not the one for them, and I decide once again that I want to share the all of me, whether that's for an audience of one or one hundred or one thousand.
This year I learned that to begin I was going to have to show up with what Zorba the Greek affectionately called the "full catastrophe" of me, and so that's what I've done every day for what is almost 360 full days so far. And every time I start to think I shouldn't post/say/do something because some big unrealistic idea of "everyone" won't like it, I give myself the side eye and keeping going. This year big, fat, beautiful, amazing, surprising things happened, and all I can think about is what Diana Vreeland said: "There is only one really good life...and that's the life you know you want and you make it for yourself."
I cannot wait to make more of this life. When it doesn't come as I think it should, or it takes too long, or shows up wrinkly, when the doubts outweigh the dream that only hours before were drowned out by clapping, when I wonder if it's worth it, and when I worry I won't really know if it is or isn't, I'm gong to do what I now know I can: I am going to show up for my life, and I will begin again.