Blind Willie Johnson - Dark Was the Night
Frankly, dear readers, this was a tough year. Hella tough. Every year, around Christmas, I've written a personal retrospective on the year, and it's traditionally been among the writing I worked on the hardest, and was most proud of each year. This year, I'm going to give you a list of the things I learned, or realized and need to apply, because it was a really full year of stuff to be learned. Before I get into that, here's the big big, tippy-top high point of the year:
On Chuseok holiday, on a pretty little bridge in the loveliest neighborhood in Kyoto, Japan, Girlfriendoseyo and I got engaged. It was pretty sweet. I gave her a nifty ring and now we're working on setting dates and stuff. Anybody out there who can recommend a wedding planner who speaks both English and Korean?
But now, in list form, are the things I learned this year, in no particular order. Some of them have stories, but some of those stories pertain to people who read this blog, so this year's retrospective is going to be a little more circumspect than previous ones. Sometime this year I became circumspect. I'm still deciding how I feel about that.
1. Two things that comfort me are the sounds of ironing, and church. Church totally stomps ironing, though.
2. If I'm not working on improving myself, I'm in decline: human beings are too malleable to stay the same. If I'm not sure how I'm changing, in the absence of actual work on self-improvement, chances are I'm regressing in some area. That's something I learned in the absolute worst way this year. Nope. You won't be hearing the gritty details here. The first place to look to suss out the shape of that regression is where I spend my time. Without a goal, a guide, or a purpose for what I want to become, the combined stimuli of the ways I spend my time will decide for me. I learned this one when, for a while in the middle of the ATEK storm, which kept me crazy busy writing, moderating, and keeping in touch with various players, I assumed an important friendship would be around for me when I got back to it, and because of that neglect, it nearly wasn't.
3. Even when I think my friend is in the wrong, stand by that friend. The middle of a messy situation is not the time to let my friend know we're not on the same page; later, when it's just the two of us debriefing about the situation, is the time to have that conversation.
4. It doesn't take that much time a week working out, to feel a lot better.
5. It doesn't take that much money spent helping people, to feel a lot better. If you don't know yet about KIVA.ORG, then you need to find out, and help out. Seriously. Twenty-five bucks is nothing to most of us, but it can change a life.
6. Be generous with acquaintances but miserly with who I call friends, and who I trust. It helps to have a network of people and connections, but I discovered I need to be really sure about a person before calling them a friend, and be cognizant that usually adding a friend to the circle means having less time for the other friends already in the circle. I started learning this lesson back in 2008, and maybe it's a necessary step in becoming an online presence, but this is especially true of people I meet on the internet, and personalities that gravitate there. That's all I'm saying here.
7. It's worth my while to maintain ties with my family. Traveling back to Canada this summer was an eye-opener for me; it was so wonderful to see my family all together, that it caught me right off guard. Especially those of us who are a long time overseas, it's easy to go "out of sight, out of mind" but it's important not to. In fact, it was kind of shocking to go back and see everybody, like pulling off a bandaid and discovering that I'd missed these people way more than I admitted.
8. Remember my audience, not just in presentations, but in social situations. I hurt some of my friends with careless comments that, though funny, were disrespectful or hurtful to them. (Notice a theme? It's been a tough year friendsip-wise for me this year. I gotta learn to read people better.) This sensitivity is especially important when hanging out with people from a different culture, who might misread the wrong intentions my delivery.
9. Read books. After spending a long time mostly reading online articles and things, I finally started reading books again this fall. Books are great: they just get in deeper than blog posts and newspaper articles, and it's vital to look a little more rigorously at stuff from time to time.
10. I can't be friends through someone. The thing about friends of friends is that they're not my own friends yet, and it takes time and effort to turn those acquaintances into actual friendships. This is especially important in Korea, where people come and go, and the connection through which I knew someone might leave Korea before I have a chance to solidify that friendship, if I'm not on top of things. Gotta take ownership of that stuff.
Dear readers, I'm tired. This year has been exhausting for me, at different times, for different reasons, but sweet mercy, I want to lie in bed for two weeks... except that I'd probably feel worse at the end of that than I did at the beginning. I had a long talk with a friend, just this week, about seeking out quiet, and the way that without some time for introspection, and meditation, things can get hollow, and even worse, important things can be lost without noticing, if one doesn't stop to take stock.
But all that said... I got engaged this year! If I don't get at least twenty comments of congratulations on this post, I'm shutting down the blog forever.