For some reason, 2012 has been a year of much personal growth for me. Now that I'm finally on Christmas break, I thought I'd take a moment to just reflect on this a bit. I don't know that I had set out at the beginning of the year hoping to be a better -- or even different -- person, but I feel distinctly different from the person that I was at the start of this year, and definitely more comfortable in my own skin.
Looking back, traveling by myself over the summer was one of the best decisions I had ever made. It really gave me clarity and room to think about who I was and (very importantly) to learn to listen to other people's stories and concerns with no distractions on my mind. I learned to stay in the moment and to really value my travel companions for the stories that they had to tell about who they were and what brought them to that place, at that time. Most of those people I had met, I have no doubt that I'll never see again, but it made me feel very fortunate to have made the short connection with them in that small slice of space-time continuum. There's something very zen about meeting strangers, caring about them, and wishing the best for them without future expectations.
When Geoff and I started planning our wedding this year, there were a few dear friends who I had always envisioned would be at my wedding, who responded and said that for one reason or another, they would not be able to make it. At first, I was feeling pretty hurt about this, but soon I came around and realized that the last thing that I would want was for our wedding to be an imposition upon our friends. I think it is very easy when you plan for such a big day in your life, to forget that other people have other priorities -- families, school, etc. I was glad to have caught myself feeling that way. Instead of dwelling upon who cannot make it to our wedding, Geoff and I will simply cherish the fact that so many of our friends and family will be able to make it all the way to Belize and to spend several days with us during this joyous time in our lives!! :)
Speaking of friends, 2012 was a good year for taking some risks and hanging out with new people, for me anyway. It always takes me a bit of time to feel comfortable in a new place, before I can reach out and hang out with people one-on-one. But, once I get to that point, that's how I know that I'm really settled in to a place. This year has been a very busy one with getting to know people better and spending quality time with them outside of work. Once I had developed that personal relationship with some of my coworkers, it made working at the school a totally different experience (as it always does).
Then, towards the end of 2012 I had two separate people in my professional relationships (one a colleague and one a student parent) send me a series of very accusatory, very blatantly condescending emails. Both times, their emails really got under my skin, and I had to expend hours of energy in restraining my own responses, so that what came out was extremely polite but still firm. In both cases, the people on the other side ended up realizing eventually that they were being unreasonable, and actually became very thankful for my even-keeled handling of the whole situation. One person, following a series of making-it-up-to-me gestures, actually sat down next to me at a party recently and chatted to me for 30 minutes about their baby. Afterwards, when I walked out of that party, I felt so euphoric not because I really care or not care about this person, but because it feels so great to really forgive someone and to let what had happened to be water under the bridge -- something that would not have been possible, had I decided to reciprocate with the same tones that those emails had been written or if I could not let it go on my mind and had continued to act awkwardly around this person. It reminded me of the saying that, on your deathbed, you will never wish to have forgiven fewer people in your life. It sounds super corny, but I think it's so true that when you forgive someone else for their offenses, you're releasing yourself from the anger. (And, tied to this is the issue of general integrity. If you don't have integrity and faith in what you do, then it is extremely difficult to hold your temper when others are coming at you with extremely ill-intentioned accusations.)
Lastly, Geoff and I have been trying to make some big decisions for 2013, and it's gotten us thinking about all kinds of things. In the end, I think my priorities are clear, and we are just waiting for a bit more information before we make our decisions. This is the first time we're really making decisions as a family, and thinking ahead about what things will be like in a few years when we do have a kid. So, my whole frame of mind is different, and that's an interesting -- and nice -- place to be. It also got me thinking about all the reasons why I love Geoff. In the end, when all the other things fall away, his character deep down is so aligned with my own, that we can understand each other even without saying anything. And that is amazing.