At the beginning of this year, I quietly announced to myself that this would be my best year yet. I'm not sure why I thought that 2010 would be different from any other. I don't know what I was expecting, and I had no clear goals or plans. I suppose by "best yet," I meant that I wanted to pursue a positive shift of thought. Less negativity, less cynicism, more positivity and creativity and love. My hope was that the creativity would flow, my artistic endeavors would flourish, and personal satisfaction and happiness would abound.
But in reality, I actually feel like I'm in an even more uncomfortable place now than I was 12 months ago. My work life has been challenging and stressful, leaving me creatively exhausted at the end of each day. This year has left me questioning my passions, questioning my future, and questioning everything, really. And in the process, I've probably let much more anger into my world than all that positivity and inner peace I was aiming for. It has been a hard year. I still feel like I'm fumbling around, searching for plans and answers and clear-cut paths, knowing that nothing is ever really clear-cut. I wish my mind had a shutoff valve, like our currently malfunctioning toilet. Broken? Running constantly? Twist the knob and turn it off. Bam. Fixed. At least until you can figure out what the real source of the problem is.
It has also been a very very good year.
We bought our first home. Epic, really, when you consider that less than 3 years ago we moved out here, terrified, with no real plans other than 1) get a job 2) see how it goes. Looking back on the photos from our closing day, my eyes well up with tears. The flowers in the yard were blossoming, the sun was setting golden and perfect, our dog was tearing up happy circles in her big new yard. I remember laying on my back on the ugly mauve carpet upstairs and thinking, "This is MY mauve carpet. And I love it. Because it is mine."
I never in a million years thought I'd be where I am today. In so many ways.
Home has always been a bit of a struggle for me to put into words. Wisconsin will always be my first home. I returned there over the holidays for a long overdue visit. Truth be told, I had been feeling pretty homesick lately, second-guessing whether we had made the right choice to move across the country. I was missing my family and my friends, I was missing my old neighborhood in Milwaukee, and just generally feeling uncertain about everything we had worked so hard to build.
But sometimes all it takes is a trip back to where you started to restore your confidence in where you ended up. I love Wisconsin, but it no longer feels like it is mine in the way that it used to. Driving down old familiar streets, I felt like an outsider, transplanted from a different country. Different planet, even. We drove past the tiny house that we used to rent, and balanced on the planters out front were two pale frozen pumpkins in various stages of icy rot. I felt sad. Everything was covered in ice and gray snow. Absolutely nothing had changed, everywhere I looked. This is what I left behind.
Outside of the city, the quiet rural roads near where I grew up were still beautiful and serene. But something was missing amidst those wide white fields.
Just a couple days into the trip, every ounce of homesickness that I had for the Midwest was replaced with an aching for Washington. I had never been so excited to get back on the plane, look out the airplane window, and make out the familiar peaks of the Cascades, the deep blue gray of Lake Washington, and cars dotting the floating bridges.
For the first time in...probably...ever, I unpacked my entire suitcase within hours of returning home. Usually it's a process that lingers over the course of several days. Slowly the clothes make it out and into the laundry, then the tiny soaps and shampoos make their way to the bathroom, and the guilty pleasure trashy hollywood magazine finds its way to the recycling bin. Then it takes me another week to put the empty suitcase in its rightful place in the closet. It's like I'm not quite ready to let go of a trip and acclimate to reality. Not this time. I was so ready to sink back into the rhythm of home. The past few years have felt a bit nomadic at times, and finally, my suitcase has a permanent resting place. It is a good feeling.
What's next for 2011? I have no idea. I'm not one to make resolutions, and I'm not going to set myself up for disappointment with fluffy thoughts about how this year will be AMAZING and AWESOME and my BEST YET.
But I can't help but cling to a tiny strand of hope and think that yes, the best is yet to come.
Here's hoping that this year is everything you dream of, and more.