Everything has a beginning and an end. Whether it’s a book, a relationship or a life, there are chapters or phases to everything. I’m thinking about beginnings and endings as 2018 quickly draws to a close. My birthday happens to fall on the last day of the year so I find it especially meaningful to examine how my experiences of the past year helped shape me and impacted my personal growth. Reviewing your own experiences of the past year can be a mechanism for moving forward more productively and with clarity.
Perhaps the most defining moment in my life this past year was when my husband and I became empty-nesters. Our youngest son made the decision to move to another city for his university studies.
I’d found it emotionally difficult at first when our older son moved away a few years ago to pursue his studies. I felt sad in the weeks leading up to my younger son’s move. I was a bit depressed and anxious. However, I reminded myself that the mother bird must let her baby birds spread their wings and fly.
After we moved him to the University of Waterloo for his engineering studies, I quickly accepted the situation and became accustomed to the quiet. In fact, I was able to appreciate some of the new benefits of empty-nester life: I don’t need to do large grocery orders or chauffeur anyone.
I remember when my little boys were both in diapers and I told my father I couldn’t wait for the day when I’d no longer have to change one. He told me the years will go by quickly. He was right. Now both of my sons are young men. Does this mean I’m growing old? On a recent Sunday outing with my husband, I quipped that it’s a sign we’re getting old age when our “date” is a trip to Costco to buy cheese and get flu shots.
If I had a crystal ball, I’d be tempted to gaze into it and preview my defining moments for the upcoming year. But I don’t have such a device and I’m not a clairvoyant so I can’t know for sure what those moments will be. I can anticipate certain things based on plans and expectations and I can use what I’ve learned from past mistakes to try to avoid future ones. So can you.
Some years we experience great pride and joy and I was fortunate to have plenty of such times this past year. Some years are more difficult than others such as when we experience health concerns, losses, relationship strains or other stressors and struggles. I had some of those difficulties in the past year, too. Everyone has something to deal with at some point.
Starting the year fresh with a hopeful and optimistic attitude – despite our lives’ imperfections and challenges – can lead to better physical and emotional health. We can’t control every aspect of our lives. As Doris Day sang, “Que sera sera, whatever will be, will be.”
For some people, faith or spirituality sustains them and enables them to carry on. For others, introspection and a review of the past year allows them to figure out strategies for moving forward. You can use the knowledge you glean from the past year to mentally prepare for the coming year – what worked well for you and what didn’t work so well. Lack of reflection can make it more difficult to navigate your way through life.
With 2019 around the corner, I’m reminded of my childhood and what it felt like to start a new school year. It was an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things and experience new adventures. There was anticipation. The innocence of childhood is something we should try to maintain to some degree in adulthood. We should try not to let our inhibitions or fears prevent us from enjoying life to the fullest, taking risks, pursuing goals or working to make our dreams a reality.
In his poem “Introduction” from Songs of Innocence, 18th-century poet William Blake wrote: “And I pluck’d a hollow reed/ And I made a rural pen/ And I stain’d the water clear/ And I wrote my happy songs/ Every child may joy to hear.” May we all write “happy songs” for 2019 and bring them to fruition.