Tuesday, December 6, 2011

History Lesson

So this is a little behind, and I've gone back and forth on how I wanted to approach these thoughts. So I've been slightly hesitant to post but what the heck.. there's no better way to process your thoughts then to put them out into the world and see how the world responds.
Why is it that we have to wait all year to start over again? I find it odd that we put so much into the starting of a new year.. a "new beginning." For me, I think every day should be celebrated as a new beginning (if you are looking for one). Instead for me the new year is a time to reflect on the previous months and decide how to continue on forward.

Mr. Codi, one of my favorite teachers from high school, was known for always saying, "Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it" On the day of his retirement he gave me a magazine cut out that had that quote on it. He said he carried it all throughout his decades of teaching. To this day, I still have that cut out and I carry it with me. Why? Because I really enjoyed this teacher (he had the reputation of being the hardest and grumpiest teacher in the school district) and how passionate he was about history. I find a lot of value in the way that history really does have a way of repeating itself. If we aren't careful and do not learn from the past we won't be better prepared the next time or a new time, there will be no growth. One of my favorite bands once said, "If you don't learn you won't grow. If you aren't growing then you're not really living" - Savage Garden. (They're really good just give them a chance)
So reflection and acknowledging lessons of 2011 is what I've spent a lot of time doing lately. The last time I was back in Pennsylvania, over a year ago, I found a book in my Dad's library, Blue Like Jazz. Not sure if he knows it or not, but I took the book because I had heard from some friends it was a great read. I spent the last year reading this book. It's not a long book, but it is a book that needs to be processed, slowly read, and considered. This past November I was coming to one of the closing chapters and it was about loving yourself well in order to love others. He referenced the golden rule "Love others as you love yourself." Naturally I believe we tend to see that and focus on the idea of loving others.. but his challenge was to focus on the second part of that, maybe the more important part, and that is to love yourself well.
And that is what 2011 was about for me. Learning to love myself well. Because if we don't love ourselves well, if we don't have grace with our own weaknesses, if we don't believe in our own dreams, if we don't stand firm in our own convictions.. then how are we suppose to have grace, patience, love, encouragement, or strength in our relationships with others? So as I looked back on 2011, I saw that it presented itself as a year of first experiences and a lot of hard experiences that has led me to a new year of taking those experiences and growing from them.
I started teaching video production at the collegiate level. That is very intimidating for someone who was fresh out of undergrad myself. Not to mention someone who had a history of being way too shy to talk to an audience, let alone carry the responsibility of education. But what I found was that not only do I have a passion for teaching, but that I'm good at it. And I know what I'm talking about. There were definitely times I felt overwhelmed and unequipped. But I kept with it and each class I became more capable and comfortable.
I suffered with my health. My digestive system went all sorts of whack and I faced a lot of trouble with food and my body. I couldn't eat without getting sick which resulted in lot of weight loss. I wasn't very encouraged at all when I went on the treatment and didn't see results. It made me feel horrible about myself... that I wasn't capable of getting healthier and I feared that meant not capable of climbing or mountaineering.
I traveled across the world into a new country without any real plans. I saw an opportunity and I took a leap of faith. I pushed my limits to trek a great distance on foot and climb high for the goal of just doing so. I sought relationships and conversations with people I would never have met if I didn't pick up and go. And I realized new potential and dreams within myself.
I spent the fall teaching and climbing and getting healthier. I put my mind to lead climbing, and I did it with the encouragement of great climbing partners. I started working out with a trainer who definitely pushes me way harder and further then I'd ever push myself. I really began to understand what's failing in my body and what I need to do to work with it and not let it defeat me. I set new goals and made new plans to go further in my travels, my productions, and my climbing. I taught again with a lot more certainty and a lot more confidence. I began to be more bold in my writing and the way I talked to people. I had a new outlook.
Things were going well.. until November when I began to get really sick again. And then I began to lose focus on where I was going in my career and if I was capable of making this film about women development, was it really even realistic? And then I was challenged hard on my faith, what I believe to be true in life, was I just ridiculous? Some mornings at the gym I would just flat out be weak.. why was I working out here again? I do not match up to these other athletes.. but that's when I read this chapter in Blue Like Jazz.. loving yourself well.
See for me, what I came to find to be true in my life is that I have a conditional love for myself. When I'm strong and things are going well, I feel good about myself, what I'm doing, and where I'm at. When things fall apart, take a hit, or challenge me to the point I feel an ounce of defeat.. I break. There is where 2011 ended and where 2012 will take me. What I want to do in my life and who I want to be comes with a lot of mountains and valleys. History has a way of repeating itself. I find myself approaching another semester of teaching, I find my health and my system failing, and I find myself inspired with plans of traveling and climbing this summer.
So here is where I'm at now, taking a look at what I have learned from my past year of experiences, and focusing and applying what those moments taught me.. I know I need to really process and absorb those times if I am to grow and move forward.
If we set new year resolutions without allowing ourselves to reflect and learn from the previous year then we're doomed to repeat the same failures or not grow towards goals. My health for example isn't cooperating the way I would want it to. But I also saw that no matter the effort I put in to make it better, nothing was working. I was setting myself up to fail again... and I had honestly come very far. So I sought some medical attention, I accepted treatment that terrified me, and now I'm also working on loving myself despite how I feel. I found that I can't fully contribute to relationships in my life until I fully invest in myself. I can't be strong for someone I know is sick and encourage that there is light at the end of the treatment if I don't believe it to be true for myself.
I think all too often we rely on each other and the opportunity to be relied on so we don't have to face ourselves. For example, I look to my climbing partners for feedback and encouragement to allow myself to say, good job you've done the best you can do at this point. If I don't get that then I feel very incapable. If I work out and hear someone say, "Nice job today" then I walk out of the gym feeling great. If I work out, and don't hear that feedback and don't reach the number of weight or reps as someone else, then I feel like a waste.
Love your neighbor as you love yourself. I think this is more challenging then loving someone else. But I also found this to be a great challenge, one that I really want to take head on. It makes sense to me and it makes sense how it's not selfish but rather being more capable of being a better half in a relationship whether thats a professional relationship or a romantic relationship. Any day, no matter the date, can be a day of beginnings, of starting a new path, whatever the path looks like. But if you're stuck, if you find that you made a resolution and you're not able to carry through with the commitment, stop. Take sometime to look at how it went for you before, take note of the similar movements and thoughts that didn't lead to success last time, and try something new. Allow yourself to have some grace and be confident enough that you can reach goals. Don't settle on when things aren't working at the moment, that doesn't mean failure. Most importantly, be assured in who you are, how far you've come, and that you can reach where you're going. It'll make you a lot happier and a lot healthier. That's my goal this year, and every year after. To love myself well and to love others well. To learn how to really be a better person to myself, more accepting. To work on my weaknesses, credit my strengths, allow moments for failure and be assured that there is light in those dark areas. And to just know that what I believe, value, and want isn't ridiculous. Its what brings me life and gives me strength, and is who I am. I'm going to learn from history, I'm going to be better prepared for the future, and I'm going to be open to new experiences, opportunities, and challenges.

The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps - we must step up the stairs.