20 Important Things I Learned in 2015
The pie pictured above is the A-maize-ing Pie featured a few weeks back–sweet corn custard and fresh blackberries, you gotta get on that this summer. Anyhow, this snap was one of my most popular photos on Instagram in 2015. I had that generator thing pull up my #2015BestNine, but I didn’t post it. A.) Because it feels like a weird touchy-feely PR ploy. B.) Because my most-liked photo collection didn’t seem quite as beautiful or glamorous or warm as a lot of folks’.
I remember this picture, this pie, vividly. The photo depicts the iteration of this recipe that was finally spot on. I’d been working on it for a couple of weeks, and I nailed the formula with this very pie. I was late to my desk the day I brought this to the office because I stopped by the test kitchen to share piece of the pie with my feedback crew and to take this picture in good light. I received a lot of love, and I was proud. I remember this pie because I brought it in and showed it off the day before one of the most memorable weekends of my year.
I’d never felt pain or fury like I had the weekend I associate with this pie. It was something special. It was the weekend I learned to stop apologizing for someone else’s bullshit and stand up and say what I know to be true.
The past year, 2015, has been one of the most tumultuous, weird, eye-opening, gut-wrenching, rewarding, terrifying, love-filled, angry, boring, exciting, battering, enriching years in my adult life. I’ll say, it’s probably not my favorite. But looking back, this year has both hardened me, softened me, and stretched me in all the ways I needed in order to be the best possible me. Not to say I am that–the best possible me–but it’s all we can do to reach out and get to know that best, most wonderful self.
This year, I’ve been less concerned about NYE plans and more concerned about “Am I actually ready for a new year?” Which is why I’m sitting alone on my couch drinking riesling out of a cat-shaped wine bottle (literally, it’s a golden kitten full of wine) and sort of watching Parks and Rec. Sure, we’re all welcome to make positive actions and/or changes at absolutely any point, but there’s something about the transition into a new calendar year that feels close to a legitimately clean slate. And for anyone who’s ever fucked something up… that’s all you actually want, a chance to do better next time.
Everyone has their own way of celebrating a new year full of potential–champagne, alcoholic things that aren’t champagne, shiny dresses, music, and where I live, college football. Personally, I write. Well, I write and drink lukewarm white wine out of cat figurine. Because frankly, that’s the best way I know how to process this world. Spilling out words I’ve found to be true helps me to understand what’s happened or happening, to me or to others, and revel in it. In the words of one of my all-time favorite authors and general heroes Cheryl Strayed, “I believe in the power of words to help us reset our intentions, clarify our thoughts, and create a counter-narrative to the voice of doubt many of us have murmuring in our heads–the ones that say you can’t, you won’t, you shouldn’t have.”
All of which is a long winded way to say, I’ve learned a hell of a lot in 2015. And I want to share some of those things here, because I am utterly thankful for them. Coming to know these things has made this year the unforgettable year it has been, and I sure as shit can’t wait to see what 2016 has to offer.
Stuff I Learned in 2015:
1. Forgiveness is not: a joint project, instant, or a pardon to give.
I realized early in the year, I’m not so good at forgiving. I was great at saying, “I forgive you… now make it up to me.” I used the term “forgiveness” as a bargaining chip, I offered it as some shred of redemption I had no authority to give in hopes that maybe somehow the bad could be undone or downplayed. It’s hard for me to accept that someone–especially someone I cared for–would intentionally hurt me or do wrong by me. But forgiveness has little to do with the person who wronged you, forgiveness is not a byproduct of the offender’s apology. Forgiveness isn’t dependent on whether or not the offender is even legitimately remorseful. Forgiveness is a deliberate peace you make with yourself. The dictionary definition of the verb is to “stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.” Sometimes, forgiveness is an easy and obvious place to arrive in. But forgiveness requires acknowledgement and acceptance of the reality surrounding a wrong against you, and arriving there can be excruciating. Offering someone a penance isn’t forgiving them, it’s power-playing them and asking them to doctor up your wounds. The person who wronged you can’t help you in letting go of the fury you’ve harbored against them, they cannot make that process easier–earning forgiveness is not a thing.
Forgiveness is not: a gift of compassion to someone who wronged you. Forgiveness is: a gift to yourself for successfully healing.
2. Showing love is often more important, and ultimately more satisfying, than showing that you were right.
3. The CHEMEX is the only coffee brewing device I want in my life.
4. Figuring out why an asshole is an asshole is the asshole’s work, not yours.
People do all sorts of heinous, messed up, dangerous, terrible things. People hurt others–intentionally or carelessly–because they hurt, they’re scared, they’re confused, their brain is sick, they’re selfish, or any other countless number of reasons. Whether you’re a victim or a confused bystander, it is never your job to justify, rationalize, or explain someone else’s fucked up actions.
5. One well-done martini is usually enough. Two definitely is.
6. Acquaintances and casual friendships aren’t enough. Seek out, foster, and keep feeding the relationships that make your soul light up and feel known. Find the support that is not conditional. Give the support that is not conditional. Those are the bonds that will save your life in more ways than one.
7. If you’re a hungry, driven, passionate person, focus on what you have to give before what you want to obtain. What you want is likely going to come… because you’re a hungry, driven, passionate person.
8. Talking to yourself (which includes writing to yourself) doesn’t make you crazy, it makes you more apt to get shit right the first time. If you aren’t doing this naturally, carve out a chunk in the day to do it intentionally.
9. Hydration is key.
10. Say sorry when you’re wrong, not when you’re nervous.
Apologizing with sincerity when you realize you have done wrong is a part of being honest, kind, and graceful. Do it, even if it doesn’t seem necessary. Anyone who would turn their nose up at you for it isn’t someone to concern yourself with. Apologizing when you know you have not done anything wrong–to keep peace or gain approval–is harmful to your well being. Do not do it. This would include apologizing for your feelings, or for crying, or for an opinion someone didn’t agree with, or for being a burden, etc.
11. Petty drama is super unattractive.
Whining, bullying, and withholding are things children do because they’re not emotionally developed enough to handle feelings with rationality and awareness. Adults continue doing these things, I guess, because they never came to grips with how dumb, ugly, and boring those actions make them appear. And they probably never learned that not all attention is good attention, and no matter what kind of attention you receive for that behavior, it’s never going to ease a single insecurity. Don’t drink the poison, don’t get caught up in it.
12. People who don’t know you, but feel compelled to speak ill of you in secret aren’t worth losing sleep over.
Look, sure it hurts your feelings, but consider the source. Those are people who probably aren’t getting a lot of sleep at night themselves. No sense in the both of you being exhausted. Refer to #11.
13. Getting knocked down sucks, but getting up stronger is the payoff.
Getting up is something to be proud of. Breathe it in–if you get up, and getting up is ultimately the only viable option, you ARE getting up stronger. Give a little nod and wink to whatever/whoever knocked you on your ass. We don’t grow in spite of our adversities, we’re growing because those adversities gave us no other choice. In the strange balance of the universe, maybe whoever/whatever knocked you on your ass was on your side all along!
14. Do not fear humility. Do not fear vulnerability.
Any hurt you may experience in these states is well worth it. You’ll be better for it.
15. Remember how big the world is. Allow yourself and your stresses to feel small in the midst of that idea. It’s a relief.
16. You can’t love someone enough for the both of you.
17. Stop saying “just,” “like,” and “I mean” so much
18. Sometimes showing up and being present is enough. You’ll remember the people who showed up.
19. Living is a messy business. You’re gonna get dirty. That’s fine.
20. There’s always something to be thankful for.
We can all be ungrateful brats. We can all fall down into an impossible pit of self-pity. We can be gripped with anxiety that makes stepping outside yourself feel like you’re literally splitting yourself in two. We can experience phases or depression, anger, fear, and numbness–we should allow ourselves to do that without guilt. It’s human. But we also have the free will to decide to get out of the bed, and focus on something positive. We can choose joy. We can choose to do better. That’s also human. And it’s kick ass.
Hope everyone has a Happy New Year and a happy TGIPieday. May 2016 bring you and abundance of possibility and adventure. And pie.