2018 was a year like no other. Please disregard the fact that can be said about most years. 🙂 This year was unique; this post will explain why as well as a backstage pass into the reflections and lessons of yours truly.
I am well aware that if you clicked on this post, odds are you are one of the elite few who cares enough to read my personal reflections. I don’t mean that callously, to imply that not many care about me. That is not true. Instead, there aren’t that many who would take the time out of their day to read a post like this without a flashy title. Please know that I appreciate you more than you probably know.
Reflections from 2018: why it was unique for me
2018 was unique because it found me in a set of foreign circumstances.
At the end of 2017, I was laid off from my job as the Operations Manager for a small marketing company for which I had worked for the previous 2.5 years. I faced the holidays with the reality of being able to claim unemployment benefits for the first time in my life. My opportunities were wide open, and I looked forward to the possibilities. (Side note: in all previous instances of being laid off from jobs over the past decade, I had been working as an independent contractor, and thus disqualified from unemployment. So being able to file for it was in itself unique to me.)
I was determined to make the most of this transition, using my time wisely. I made a fresh commitment to getting up at 5:30 a.m. each morning, so I could be intentional to start the day with time reading God’s word and praying, as well as exercising before getting into the grind of the day. This was always my goal as a full-time employee also, and I was able to do it about half the time, but I found that even then either my “quiet time” or workout time was cut short, because it was hard to do both and make it to an office job by 9 a.m. So one or the other suffered. I wrote about that struggle in this post.
A transition point
Not long into my period of unemployment, I was offered a job that I had held in 2009, working as office help for a friend’s business. This particular friend ran his company (as a real estate appraiser) out of his home, and it was a casual environment. He offered a part-time gig with generous pay and plenty of flexibility. My only hesitation was that it was part-time, and I wasn’t sure if the wages would pencil out for our budget. I ran some numbers and realized we could make it work if we were extremely careful. So I gratefully accepted my friend’s offer, knowing I had the flexibility to fit in other employment as needed.
Thus, I ended 2017 and began 2018 working part-time for the first time in my professional life. This presented a variety of conflicting sentiments and realities.
Working part time?
… As a full-time employee, I always pined for more free time to get more accomplished on the home front and spend more time on hobbies (like blogging!).
… Working part time, I suddenly had more unscheduled time than I had in years, tempered with the reality of diminished finances that came with my schedule.
… As a full-time employee with multiple exciting professional positions over the years, I most often had a job that became my identity. The answer to the question, “What’s new with you?” could always be answered with the latest stress, challenges, adventures, or business travel that occupied my world.
… As a part-time office employee with a job that didn’t provide any drama or stress (not complaining about that), I realized my world had become less filled with stories and excitement. When someone asked me, “What’s new?” I struggled to answer. Since my job was only a piece of my life and not the defining portion, I didn’t know what to say.
Lest you think that is sad and pathetic, allow me to continue. This is actually where things got good when I stopped to ponder my situation.
Being vs. doing – processing the conflict
Have you ever stopped to ponder the paradox of being vs. doing? In other words, who you are vs. what you do. Or put another way, the state of your existence, or who you are becoming or wish to become, vs. the daily activities you do. It is a fascinating mental exercise. But it also breeds the complexity of pondering a paradox, because of their intertwined nature. I.e., you can’t become without doing, but enjoying the “being” portion is necessary also.
All that to say, that was something I thought about a bit this year as my lifestyle was turned upside down.
Given the gift of more time at home, I had the luxury of doing more strategic and less tactical, survival mode living.
Things I did with more time freedom
- Expanding my culinary skills, making new recipes more often.
- Keeping up on chores/housework a bit better (always a struggle).
- Joining a women’s Bible study at church, with intensive homework.
- Most often taking the time to complete the intensive homework, which was enormously beneficial.
- Taking more time in the morning to read the word and pray.
- Making sure to exercise regularly after quiet time (As noted above. My work schedule helped accommodate the time to do that with a later start time).
- Taking more time to visit with relatives.
- Spending more time with friends. (For a task-oriented introvert such as myself, this and the item above get easier to skimp on the older I get.)
- Getting a record number of blog posts written in a year.
- Being more deliberate, strategic and prayerful about my interactions with the middle school students at church, at the youth group where I volunteer.
- Listening to a lot more informative podcast content and less music. Reading more books.
- Growing in my knowledge of theology (mainly due to the above & quiet time).
- Recognizing the need to speak the truth in love and practicing when given opportunities. Even when it is poorly received, regardless of how lovingly spoken/written.
- Nurturing an urgency to have spiritual conversations with others more often (discipleship).
- Getting more organized, bit by bit.
Then there is the recreational/fun stuff, like hiking, camping, family weekend trips, exploring the Northwest and get-togethers with friends.
It was indeed a full year. Full of activity, growth, and fun. Yet, with the small but significant things that kept me just as busy as any other year, it was difficult to give a brief response to, “How’s it going?”
Maybe I don’t need to give a concise response. Perhaps my life doesn’t require drama or an important job title to be significant. In pondering “being versus doing,” I realized that in fact, “being” the person God is making me to be, though not always with an exciting story at the ready, is of higher value than I give it credit.
Learning to be content with a smaller budget and lifestyle was a dominant theme for the year. And you know what? I am better off for it.
I should also mention that I spent quite a bit of time this year working on a project I am very excited about that I am prepping to announce in early 2019!
2017 was a tough year, with multiple deaths of dear ones and various other challenges. 2018 was a year of adapting to changes and finding joy and delight in a simpler life.
2019 should be amazing. I am looking forward to a lot more moments to savor and enjoying the people God has placed in my life.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this update! I wish you joy, peace, love, and contentment as we head into the New Year!