I know I wasn’t alone last January when the clock struck midnight and I sat there thinking, what could possibly follow 2020?
I was feeling let down by the happenings of the last year, especially since the foreseeable future seemed to hold much of the same. And yet, the word I felt stirring in my heart, the word that would be the defining word of my year, the word I believed God was showing me, to guide me through the twists and turns of 2021, was…start.
Defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as:
To move suddenly
To come into being, activity or operation
To begin a course or journey
To do or experience the first stages or actions of
To start is all about beginning. It’s all about moving from a still place to an active place. It’s about newness.
But I didn’t feel new. I was almost a year deep into a global pandemic, I had just recently turned 30, I’d been working the same job for over a decade, and my sister and I had been living in the same condo for almost six years.
There wasn’t a lot of newness in sight, and with so many restrictions on what we could and couldn’t do, and who we could and couldn’t see, I didn’t see a lot of opportunities for newness up ahead.
I didn’t understand how this could possibly be my word.
But alas, as it always does, the word showed up in blazing colors. Saying, YES, I AM YOUR WORD. I DON’T CARE IF IT DOESN’T MAKE LOGICAL SENSE. I AM YOUR WORD, BABE.
And so, the year began.
Seemingly five minutes in, I was ready. Impatient even. Okay, I thought, START. Bring me all the good things. All the new things. All of the everything that I’ve been wanting. If this is the year of start, then start.
Funny how my go to reaction at the beginning of every year is to be selfish and impatient. I always try to mold my word into a kind of assurance that I will finally get what I want, even though those wants change and grow based on what I learned the previous year.
Still, right on schedule, I was greedy. So, right on schedule, I got the polite pat on the shoulder/slap across the face reminding me to RELAX.
This time, it came in the form of a blog post from a longtime favorite blogger of mine, Hannah Brencher. She wrote a post (which was an excerpt from her book Fighting Forward), which inspired me to then write this post about the idea of “slow magic.”
“I can tell you, the magic lives in the secret hours. In the time invested in a process rather than a finished product. The magic will find you there. And if you let it, it will transform you on deep levels.”
The magic lives in the process rather than the finished product.
It was January 4th and God had already called me out. Trust the process. Be patient. Stop trying to find a finish line in January.
Part of me got goosebumps because I felt so seen and understood. Another part of me stomped my foot like a bratty teenager and was like, FINE.
I wrote “believe in the slow magic” everywhere, so I could always see it. It became a partner to my word and a mantra to keep me calm.
And then the beginnings started.
In January, I started taking a Creative Nonfiction writing class as part of my Creative Writing Capstone at UCLA Extension. Over the 10-week course, I wrote five pieces that dug deep into parts of myself that I’d never written about before. This then carried over into the Personal Essay class I took in the spring, where I wrote six more pieces, all of which I’d never dreamed of having the courage to write.
In February, I started a small, part time accounting job to help out a friend and make a little extra money—the small profit of which would come in clutch more than once throughout the year—and I signed up to become a Backyard Harvest Leader for Food Forward, which allowed me to safely volunteer amongst COVID restrictions.
In March, my sister Natalee and I started packing up our condo because our landlord informed us she was selling the property. We then spent hours on apartments.com trying to find a new place to live.
In April, we started the application process for an apartment that was not only in a great area but was affordable and had an incredibly kind landlord who we fell in love with instantly. We moved in on the 15th.
In May, Natalee, my best friend Allison, and I took a mini trip to Ojai where we started talking. Not casually, not flippantly, but openly and intensely honestly. We showed up to the Topa Winery with the intention of drinking a little wine and getting a little tipsy, but we ended up spending five hours sharing our deepest fears, hopes, regrets and hurts, provoking a healing that none of us expected.
In June, I started online dating again. I’d had my sights set on someone for a long time and I worked up the courage to go for it, but I got rejected. So, after letting the sting simmer for a little while, I downloaded an app and put myself back out there.
In July, I started a big writing project with a couple from my church. I was asked to help tell their incredible story so that it could be shared with the world. It was the first time I’d ever written a story that wasn’t my own, and it tested me immensely, but it was also so incredibly rewarding that I cried when I finished.
In August, I started giving blood regularly! I’ve felt drawn to give blood for a number of years now, but have had a handful of struggles and scary experiences in the process. Still, after every mishap, it would only take a few weeks for me to hear that call again. So, after talking to my doctor and figuring out what the best way for me to give was, I donated in August both smoothly and easily—and it’s been that way ever since!
In September, I started an online bible study with Proverbs 31. It was the first time I’d ever done an online bible study, and the first time I’d done any kind of study outside of my church. It allowed me to connect with thousands of women around the world who made me feel more seen and understood than I ever had.
In October, my mom, sister and I started our “Epic October Trip” that would take us to four states across two weeks. It allowed us all to disconnect from the chaos of normal life and just exist in the day to day with each other.
In November, I started (and finished) the final chapter of the church writing project. After typing the final word, I sat, stunned. I couldn’t believe that I had actually finished, couldn’t believe I’d reached the top of what seemed like an un-climbable mountain. I didn’t know where it would go from there, who would read it, or if it would reach any farther than the population of my church, but I felt so incredibly purposeful in that moment, as if I’d used the gifts I’ve been given to make something very powerful—and then I cried.
In December, I started making plans for the new year. I set 17 new goals, I made plans for upcoming vacations, I opened my heart to trying new things and I promised to embrace whatever came my way.
Amongst all of my “starts” this year, it should be noted that I also learned to stop looking for the finish line. Sure, there are goals that I want to complete, lists I want to get through, and things I want to achieve and finish in my life. But for a long time I was looking for a kind of finish line that would promise no more pain, no more struggle, no more anxiety, no more low self-esteem or seasons when I feel lost, scared and lonely. I wanted there to be a way that I could finish everything hard in my life, so that I could finally relax into it. But there is really only one finish line. And while I don’t necessarily fear what’s on the other side of it, it is a final and lasting line.
Thus, if there are always lists, always goals, always things I can reach for, people I can meet, mountains I can climb, and wonder I can experience, I am on this side of the finish line. I am learning, I am growing, I am becoming more and more like the person I was made to be.
So while I can think of each day as another day closer to the finish, I can also think of each day as a new beginning. A new opportunity. A new journey. An exciting and inspiring, fresh start.