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A Brave New Year

Happy New Year! It's been a while, I know. Sorry about that. I've been busy trying to do all the things that are required of adults, but my goodness adulting is hard! I'm trying to get my act together to take on 2017, though, and I'm doing it without New Year's resolutions. At least not the "normal" ones.

Most of my life, I've been a big fan of New Year's resolutions. After all, I'm genetically predisposed to be seriously Type A, so I love a good plan. I don't know how many times I've spent hours and hours in the days leading up to January 1 coming up with goals for the new year, outlining action steps to get there, and setting mini-goals along the way. And, y'all...there are even spreadsheets. Glorious spreadsheets! Then the ball drops, and I realize I am not quite ready to go all in. I'm tired. I'm off my routine. I'm just not there. And this, friends, is why I love having a January birthday. I get exactly four weeks to pretend I'm living a new, goal-focused life, and then I proclaim my birthday as my "personal new year" when I'll really start working on those goals. Brilliant, right?

So January 29 rolls around, and I get to work. I plan the things. I do the things. And I fail. Every. Single. Time. It took me a while, but I finally realized that I was setting myself up to fail all along. I was setting goals and expectations for how to meet them that just weren't very reasonable. I was also setting goals related to things I don't really control--or at least not all on my own. I was never going to succeed at anything that way.

2015 was the last straw for me. I sat in Atlanta Bread Company on New Year's Day mapping out my goals. This, friends, was going to be MY year. I eased into those plans during January and really jumped in on my birthday. Everything was going well for a while, but by March all hell was breaking loose. It started with a bad breakup that I didn't handle well. Then I got sick and couldn't seem to get well for over a month. Family members and loved ones spent extended time in hospitals, and I was scared every time my phone rang, thinking I was going to get horrible news. Opportunities that once seemed promising were being ripped away from me (or at least that's what it felt like). It was one thing after another, and for the rest of 2015, I wasn't focused on anything except being miserable. Those goals? The spreadsheets? Worthless.

When January 2016 rolled around, I'd had enough. I didn't even bother with any resolutions or measurable goals. All I knew is that I wanted to be happy again. Although I wasn't sure exactly how that would work, I knew deep down that it was my responsibility to make it happen. So for my 33rd birthday, I bought myself a My Intent bracelet inscribed with the words, "PURSUE JOY." I wore it as a reminder to seek out moments of joy instead of waiting for happiness to come to me. Those words became a mantra, and eventually I got the hang of turning the words into action.

So what did it mean for me to pursue joy? For one thing, it meant saying yes to more fun things--even when it required putting on pants and a bra to be social. It also meant saying no to people and to parts of my life that were draining me. It meant starting to date again. It meant remembering all the things I love about my job and pouring myself into those aspects of my work. It meant being grateful for all the ways that God blesses me. Most importantly, it meant finally understanding that while I'm not always in charge of what happens to me, I am in charge of how I react and how I let those things affect me.

Needless to say, 2016 was a much better year for me. Was it all chubby puppies and rainbow chip cupcakes? Not at all. I had some health issues and ended up having surgery. My grandmother passed away. And did you SEE America in 2016?!? It wasn't all great, but for me it was one of the best years I can remember. It's amazing what can happen when you stop pushing yourself to have the "perfect" life and teach yourself how to just be happy. Tomorrow, I'll turn 34. As I embark on a new year, I will continue to pursue joy. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? This year, though, I want to pursue joy with an extra challenge--BE BRAVE. To be a so-called grown woman, a lot of things still scare me. I'm not talking about the Boogie Man and spiders and snakes (although I do NOT play with the whole snake thing). I'm talking about taking risks and being vulnerable and trying new things. Maybe those things shouldn't scare me anymore, but they do. My hope is that over the next year, I will pursue--and find--joy in some new places, new experiences, and new people. I'm sure there will be messy times. There will be moments when I still let fear get the best of me, but I've surprised myself enough times to know that anything is possible. So here we go. A brave new year is coming my way, and I can't wait!