perspective

A Toast or A Roast? (Happy New Year!)

A new year is a fresh notebook. The cover is unbent. The pages are unruffled. Stiff, blank, and clean, it lies before us in wait and anticipation. What words and stories will be the first to grace or mar the first sheet? Regardless of how the year has gone, I think the sentiment I hear the most around New Year’s Eve is excitement for something different. Putting away the old, and starting something entirely new. From what I hear people say aloud, I often wonder if their internal dialogue is something like, Adios! Don’t let the door hit you on your way out! (2020, anyone?!)

Each year, though, holds a story of struggle and growth. I taught for a meager three years, and when I look back at each year, I see three individual lessons God used that year to work me through. In my first year, I grappled with perfectionism and learning to be okay with making mistakes, learning from them, and achieving growth. With perfection as my goal, I realized I was trying to replace God in my life because only he is perfect. His strength gets to show off in all its glory when I am imperfect. Furthermore, by trying to achieve perfection and teach like a veteran rather than a first year, I was trying to skip ahead without putting in the work, devaluing my older and wiser colleagues’ years of labor. Oh, the arrogance of youth!

My second year of teaching presented me with the opportunity to practice persevering in the face of adversity. I had parent-teacher meetings, staff meetings, IEP meetings…. I spent my year in meetings because I had a challenging group of students with a wide range of individual needs. I learned to keep going simply because I believed in my work and my calling, even when it was not fun, and especially when I wanted to quit. 

By the third year, I was able to learn to let go. I discovered I could be a better teacher, wife, and person when I set boundaries, prioritized my own health and other people, and worked less. Ironically, in working less, I found I was actually just as productive as in previous years, covered as much (or more) content with my students, and enjoyed my job and my classes more than I ever had before. Then I got pregnant and quit. Going out while on top of the mountain is a good way to go, but it makes for a hard goodbye.

Like grammar rules, we often have to be taught life lessons more than once for their seeds to fully penetrate the soil of our hearts and take root. Five years into motherhood, these three lessons have been on the rinse and repeat cycle for me. Maybe in 2023 I will add something new!

So, rather than stumbling to the end of the trail with a Whew! We made it! Goodbye . . . Hello! Whether 2022 was “good” or “bad,” let’s remember we’ve been on a journey and learned at least one or two lessons to prepare us for our year ahead. Rather than racing to incinerate the old notebook in the burn barrel, I want to sift through the last 365 days with a reflective heart, carefully selecting the truths and skills which have either been intentionally imparted or casually caught through osmosis. When I’m finished sifting, I want to place last year’s notebook on the shelf with ones from previous years, so I can look at all the spines (lined up chronologically, of course) and see the thread of God’s goodness woven through the spirals, tying all of the joy and heartache together. With thoughtfulness and intention, I want to tuck my little nuggets from last year into my backpack and carry them into the next twelve months with purpose, seeking to apply their wisdom and experience to my next challenge. 

Let’s raise our metaphorical glasses to the past year — whether pleasant or painful — preparing us for both today and the future. May we reflect with thanksgiving and look to tomorrow as a continuation of the good work God has already started and will complete rather than a completely new work that has no depth, history, maturity, wisdom, or skill.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Cheers!”.

3 thoughts on “A Toast or A Roast? (Happy New Year!)”

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