I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions. For one, I suck at keeping them. Then I feel bad. And no one likes to feel bad. But I also believe that if you really want to change something, why wait until January 1st? Like the saying goes, “No time is better than the present!”
That being said, I do like the symbolism of a new year: a fresh start, a clean slate, and, I suppose, a proverbial fire under your rear if you really need one to get you going.
If ever in the Life of Lauren there was a time for fresh starts and clean slates, it was New Year’s 2011. December 30, 2010 was my official last day as an active duty Air Force officer. Thus, I began 2011 as brand-spanking-new civilian. FREEDOM! No work. No title. No responsibilities. No obligations. (And no house, no concrete plans, no paycheck, eeek!)
I didn’t make any official New Year’s resolutions, but if I had, they could have been these:
1. Figure out what I want to do with my life. While I’m still working out the finer details (like how to make a living . . .), I know with 100% certainty that I want to be a writer. I’d even go so far as to say that I’m supposed to be a writer. If you believe in “finding your calling,” I’ve found mine. A career change is always a leap of faith. But sometimes it’s worth it to follow your passion.
1.5. Get accepted into a grad school program in support of said career choice. Check! (Thanks, Emerson!)
2. Make up for lost time with family. Call me old fashioned, but I’m the kind of person who actually likes my family and enjoys spending time with them. Don’t let the fact that I’ve – twice now – chosen to move to the other side of the country fool you. I really do like them. Maybe even a lot. They have always been my biggest supporters, my confidants, my voices of reason, my shoulders to cry on. I hated the geographic separation from Florida and I hate it from Boston. I hated it most from Afghanistan, where “just a phone call away” didn’t really apply. Sure, we had email (as long as a storm didn’t knock out the connection). Sure, I had cards and pictures taped precariously to the plywood wall above my bed that sometimes unstuck themselves and scattered over me while I was sleeping. Sure, we had static-filled, 12-hour time difference phone calls placed from a crowded office where no conversation was really private. Maybe it was the stress, or the danger, or the sheer distance, but during that year away, I ached for my family in a way I never had before.
So, when my conversion from Air Force officer to grad student included an eight month transitional period, I jumped at the chance to move back home. (Wait, you lived with your parents for eight months?! you ask. By choice?! I did, dear readers. And it was wonderful.) I watched chick flicks with my mom, went house hunting in Boston with my dad, bonded with my beautiful baby nieces who previously had no idea who I was beyond my face in photographs. I stashed all my life’s belongings in my parents’ garage.
And I healed. There’s no Band-Aid like family.
3. Discover who “Civilian Lauren” is. With a massive life change (and no uniform to wear every day, no institutionalized code of conduct, etc.) comes a bit of an identity crisis. Again, I’m still working out the finer details, but this I know:
- Civilian Lauren has bangs. She likes to wear nice, tailored clothing and high heels. Except for sometimes when she just wants to wear pajamas all day.
- She likes to speak her mind, even when people around disagree. If she has a strong opinion about something – and she has quite a few of those, it seems – she’s not afraid to show it.
- She’s feisty, emotional, sometimes irritable (especially when she’s hungry or tired), and a bit moody. But overall, I think she’s pretty cool.
- She’s a veteran. Sometimes she likes to talk about that, sometimes she doesn’t. (It’s a big can of very slippery worms, after all.) But she has accepted it as part of her identity – all the good, bad and ugly parts of it. And she’s proud of it, too.
4. Be thankful. I know it sounds trite, and I won’t get too much into it (you can read more in my other posts), but thankfulness was definitely a theme of 2011. Though they came with a price, with sacrifice and some baggage I still struggle to carry, I’m thankful for the decisions I made to join the military and to go to Afghanistan. I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had and the worldliness I’ve gained. I’m thankful for the veteran’s organizations and programs that are helping me learn to carry my acquired baggage gracefully.
In a time of financial crisis, foreclosures, unemployment and debt controversy, I’m thankful to be debt-free, that I had the luxury to be able to leave my job and take a leap of faith, that I have the resources to be a homeowner. Sometimes the post-Afghanistan cynic in me tries to convince me otherwise, but in a time of protesting, political/religious/athletic scandals and bad news splashed across every page of the newspaper, I’m thankful that there are still a lot of GOOD people out there; GOOD news and GOOD things about being an American. (And, incidentally, I’m thankful for freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom of the press. Those are pretty cool, too). And in a time of so many broken, dysfunctional, strained relationships, I am, of course, thankful for my wonderful family and friends.
Huh, maybe I'm better at keeping resolutions than I thought?
Now, looking forward on this eve of another symbolic fresh start, my unofficial non-resolution list-of-things-to-think-about/work-toward-in-2012 is as follows:
1. Have my condo “visitor ready” at all times. a.k.a. be more organized. That’s on my list in some form every year. . . (Reference comment about not keeping resolutions)
2. Work on those finer details from 2011 non-resolution #1. Writing contests and literary journal submissions? Freelancing? A publishing internship? A wealthy benefactor and/or a scratch ticket addiction? We shall see, my friends!
3. Ditto for 2011 non-resolution #3. Namely, I want to learn to manage that irritability and moodiness, balance that cynicism. I want go through that baggage and throw out any bitterness that got stuck between my socks and undies. And I want to keep talking (and writing) about the veteran thing. I think that's important. Plus, most of the time it feels pretty good in the end.
4. Continue to be thankful. ALWAYS!
5. Limit my intake of Twizzlers, chocolate and Cheetos. Seriously. This is just ridiculous.
Cheers to that!
Wishing everyone a blessed 2012! If you’re making New Year’s resolutions, best of luck. (If not, maybe you can help me eat my junk food?)
HAPPY NEW YEAR!