I’m learning to live without you nowBut I miss you sometimes.And the more I know, the less I understandAll the things I thought I knewI’m learning again. “–Don Henley, The Heart of the Matter
We’ve all been cautioned about the number 13.
It brings bad luck, right? Walk under a ladder on a Friday of that date at your own risk. Yet did you know the Italians actually consider it good luck? Quite an interesting contrast. Even my favorite movie, Apollo 13, presents the number with a conflicting message. The mission, which launched at 13 hundred hours and 13 minutes from pad 39, is considered a “successful failure,” having not made it to the moon, but, against all odds, making it home safely.
My own interest in the number began at a young age; if you’ve read my book, you know that December 13th is the only date I reference. My memory is filled to the brim with birthdays and anniversaries of major events, but in my book, I only considered one important enough to include. The 13th. And this year marks its 13th anniversary.
I should have seen it coming.
I have never asked so many questions. I thought I had it all figured out, I thought I was on the right path, knew exactly what to take from every past experience and exactly what I wanted to do with my future. Read my blog post from a year ago, “Lessons from 2012,” and you’d see a person supremely confident in life and where she’s headed next. The person you get this year is a very different one; My perspective on life almost entirely changed. But just as always, I have more than enough lessons to take away.
I walked into a Target store the afternoon after my dad’s funeral in January having wiped my tears. Less than 2 hours earlier, I’d been 30 miles across town. My sisters and I had walked into a packed church arm in arm, sobbing, as we’d prepared to say our final goodbye after his unexpected death three days earlier. The last 24 hours had been a whirlwind of hugs, crying, and story-sharing with just about every one of my close family members and friends, and this morning had by far been the hardest. It had been one of the worst days of my life.
And nobody knew.
No one I came across that afternoon knew what I’d been through the past few days or week or year. And conversely, I had no idea what they’d been through either. Everyone has a story. Everyone has something they’re going through or has been through. This year has filled me with compassion for every single person I come across.
A recent article about Facebook stated that if you’re in/near your thirties, your Newsfeed is generally filled with new of engagements, kids, and races. While the former two were absent from my timeline, until this summer, I was doing pretty good at the third one. 3rd place in a 10K, a half marathon in an hour, 43 minutes. And yet here I am, six months since I’ve run a mile, and more proud of myself than ever
It wasn’t an easy transition from my injury, and I was pretty miserable to be around in those early weeks. But the experience changed my entire outlook on the value of working out. So much of what I did in the past was grounded in my type-A, delay gratification personality. Run 18 miles because it’s longer than the 17 I ran yesterday; run them the morning before going out to a big dinner; run faster, longer, harder. I maintain or lose weight now by eating healthy, not by working out to eat. I do Yoga now because I want my muscles to stay flexible, I’m (slowly) building up my cardio because I want my heart to be healthy. And if I can ever run again, it will be to enjoy the short-lived high from putting the right song with the right stride, not to win a race or feel better about myself. I could’ve never imagined that not being able to work out would bring about a healthier mindset.
I admit it, I’m a grudge holder. One of my favorite quotes says “I don’t hold grudges, I just hold memories that make me better prepared for next time.” I laughed when I read it — that was me.
Last year, someone said something about my dad that bothered me. A lot. He’s certainly done some things in his past that evoke criticsm, but this particular remark, from a particular person, hit me the wrong way. My mom even voiced discomfort with it, and if you know the story of my parents, it takes a lot for my mom to feel that way. After my dad died in January, the statement made me more upset. I even prepared a follow up to say to this person should my dad ever come up in conversation — I hoped they’d feel really bad. But we never talked. Instead, it was just my sister who had the conversation, and when she told me this person’s only remarks were how sorry they were for our loss, I was reduced to tears.
It made me realize how much energy it takes to hold onto feelings like that, and how in my heart that is still so very heavy, I just don’t have room for them any more. Looking back at my dad’s last three years, three years in which I finally let things be with him too, I realize more than ever how important it is to do so. I’ve never been big on the word “forgiveness;” I think everyone has their own definition and own set of demons to face. But after this year especially, I do believe in setting old grudges aside.
I am at a point in my life where the people I’m close to are ones who have proven themselves time and time again, ones whom I trust… ones whom I never question motives. Someone who’d proved a rare exception to this rule came out of the woodwork a bit with my dad’s funeral, and, feeling compassionate, I agreed to have dinner with her last May. The short forty minutes were some of the most uncomfortable in recent memory.
This year more than ever has taught me the value of true friends; in fact, at many times I’ve been in awe at how much other people have done for me; and I think that’s why when I’m around someone I’m forced to be fake with or I think is being fake with me, it makes me that much more uncomfortable. At first I was upset about it, hating that an event as difficult as my dad passing could bring about something else negative. Yet in the same vain as the previous lesson, I just don’t have the energy to be upset about it any more. My energy is now solely reserved for the (very special) people in my life who I know I can count on.
Life doesn’t have to be linear. And more often than not, it isn’t. A professor this year told me and my fellow classmates (many whom are fresh out of undergrad) to create a career trajectory — where they want to end up just before they retire. I laughed out loud. Literally. I also raised my hand and explained to he and the class why I was laughing. I believe you are shaped by each and every experience and because of that, you have no way of knowing which way each one is going to push you or build off the other. In your career… and in life.
Not married by 30? Doesn’t mean you won’t ever be. Married by 30? Doesn’t mean you always will be. Kids? Travel? Where you live? All are mysteries in their own way. Life is a ride, and I’ve learned to appreciate each and every phase of it.
In other words, stop bucket-listing. My leg injury actually got bad enough for a while that it affected my nerves. For almost a month, the pain was enough that I could hardly sit down, forcing me to instead stand to keep up with schoolwork, etc…. Now that I’m on the mend, I’m thankful for the simple pleasures of just laying around watching football with my dog, playing cards with my grandma, or sitting down to a family dinner.
At one point, I did make my own bucket list of sorts that included running another half marathon and even my first marathon. To my surprise, when I looked at that list a couple weeks ago, I realized I’d actually done everything besides running on that list — attended every concert, taken every trip, witnessed every sporting event. Yet when I look back on this year that’s not what I’ll remember as being the most important. So many little moments that have now become so big to me.
Perhaps I’m too young and inexperienced for this lesson, but given my new perspective (s) this year, I can’t help but mention it. Last year I said I’d figured out the secret to life because I was going to make my passion my career. My passion hasn’t changed at all, I still have a huge desire to help and inspire kids to get to college. But how that will relate to my career is still up in the air, and no matter what, I know there’s a lot more in life to focus on.
Seeing so many close to me get married or have kids last year, I (defensively) thought “it’s okay that I don’t have either of those things yet; since my career is going to be so much of my life, it doesn’t matter if the rest comes or not.” This year, feeling much more comfortable with my personal life (despite not a whole lot changing), I’ve realized that no matter what, I should build life around all the things I love — my career is just a small part of that.
Less than an hour after hearing the news about my dad, six of my mom’s seven brothers and sisters, along with my grandma and several cousins, were there with us. They hardly left our side throughout the next very difficult 3 days. In a particularly rough place this summer, missing my dad and recently injured, I made a four-hour trip to visit my Godmother and her family. In addition to fun concerts and dinners out, I was treated to three days of long, therapeutic talks (and lots of wine). This fall semester, I took on extra credits in order to finish in December; the extra classes, combined with physical therapy and work brought the need for random errands, letting my dog out, and, during particularly stressful weeks, just time to vent. My sisters and mom were there for me each and every time.
I once thought I had to live far away to appreciate my family; I even agreed with a few of my other far away family members’ notion that it’s good to get away from the drama. But this year has taught me that seeing people more often can be even more valuable; and that being around for so many good times helps you realize all the things that make up for the drama or bad times. I’ve said a lot these past few months about how I want to move away again for a while, go somewhere warm, take a new adventure. But more than ever this year I appreciate what I have at “home.”
A month after my initial injury took away my main outlet for stress and sadness, I had a personal trainer show me some arm and ab workouts I could do to keep up some cardio and stay in shape. It was right around this time that Katy Perry came out with what I consider one of the best songs of 2013, Roar. That powerful song, combined with some arm rows and punches finally brought me back to life with my workouts and my mindset — I felt strong again.
Then another muscle injury popped up.
I have had to redo my workout routine so many times this year. I have had to do my ENTIRE routine so many times, and stop doing so many of the things that once made me feel strong. For almost a month, I couldn’t even sit down in class. I had to stop working out for even longer. And yet I still made it through this year. I still completed my master’s degree with a 4.0 GPA. One of my professors said to me at the end — “I know you’ve had a tough year, but it’s really amazing that it hasn’t affected the quality of your work at all.” It reminded me that while I may not have been able to keep roaring as loudly as I wanted to this year, I have persisted quietly, and in that, learned that strength isn’t always something outwardly displayed.
My dad used to edit my blog posts, and naturally, my “Lessons of 2012” post was the last one he read through. He had only one single comment on the entire thing; “regarding your lesson that if one person doesn’t understand your good intentions, you should put your energy into someone/something else,” he said to me: “that’s true, but don’t be so sure that that one person won’t understand someday. You might be surprised.” I laughed at him. “Dad, of all the things on my list, this lesson is the one I’m most certain of.”
A number of events have made me revisit his remarks this year. I’m still not sure what to think about them, but regardless, in the midst of that revisiting, I’ve been reminded once again that there is no such thing as certainty. I have no idea what may come along and change my mind about anything.
According to Wikipedia, the Number 13 brings the test. It symbolizes the birth to the spirit: the passage on a higher level of existence. A tarroah card reading suggests that the 13th “mystery” marks the uncertainty… a transformation: the end of something (the death) and a renewal… a very important change. Finally, Google Numerolog states that the Number 13 is a Karmic Number. It’s the number of upheaval, so that new ground can be broken.
It wasn’t until late in the year that I googled these definitions, and naturally, they caused goosebumps. A test…Upheaval and new ground broken… a transformation… a positive out of a negative… a “successful failure.” Both December 13th and the year 2013 mirror these definitions. Looking at how that night and this year each acted as a catalyst to a journey of discovery, the two experiences nearly mirror each other —
With one important difference.
The person left standing on December 13th, 2000 didn’t trust herself at all, and because of that, she felt like she had a whole lot to go out and prove. The person writing this blog post trusts herself more than ever, and because of that, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anyone. Do I know all the answers? Absolutely not. And you what… I love that.
In a year dominated by loss, I gained more perspective than ever; in a year filled with weakness, I found the meaning of true strength; in a year that brought its fair share of big things, I came to appreciate the little things; and above all else, in a year that asked so, so many questions, I learned to stop searching for the answers. Just enjoy where you are, love who you’re with, and most importantly, trust where you’re going next.
I thought I had it all figured out. And then a million things happened to show me I didn’t.
The Karmic year.
Yes… I think it was.