I recently had a birthday. Birthdays, like New Years are often a time for reflection and goal setting. This year, my birthday has brought both. I’ve been reflecting mostly on the past few months, but also on the past few years.
In about a month I will be the same age that my brother was when he died of cancer, almost five years ago. In my experience, when you lose siblings or friends of your own generation, you can’t help but be reflective about your own mortality and what you want to do with the rest of your life. I have spent much of the past five years doing just that and it has taken me down some interesting paths with new opportunities, new friends, new goals, and new experiences. I’ve travelled new places (though not as much as I’d like), taken new risks, made big decisions that while I don’t regret, I have changed course on. I’ve made new goals, and while some I have failed to reach, others I have exceeded far beyond my expectations.
I started a PhD and then, after completing my course work and passing my comprehensive exam, realized that it wasn’t what I wanted so I left it almost two years ago. I have no regrets about starting or ending it. Neither was a rash decision, and both were the right decisions for that point in my life.
I’ve become a leader in my field, pushing an open educational resource initiative (free textbooks, etc.) at my university and being recognized by others throughout Canada for it. I feel like I’m making a difference, even on those days when naysayers abound or the valuable resources of money and time are in short supply, as they so often are in education.
I’ve made many new friends through a variety of avenues, including tweeting to strangers at conferences to have dinner and forming good friendships that continue. I’ve made other friends who I now consider family, and connected with family I now consider friends.
I set a goal for myself early this year to lose five pounds by my birthday. Achieving weight goals had never been my forte, but this year proved different. As I wrote in an earlier post, starting at the end of June this year I found a path that worked for me and I lost my five pounds, and then five more, and five more, and now I’m more than 20 pounds down from the start.
I’m being more bold, more courageous, more tenacious, and more reflective. I’m more grateful for all that I have, but also more clear with others about my own needs, and, as Brene Brown argues for in her most recent book Braving the Wilderness, I’m more apt to call out bullshit. I’m trying to be more kind and patient with others, and with myself. And I’m trying to find my my own path, which has really been the secret to my evolution over the past five years, and is at the heart of this site.
This brings up an important point. When I write about the steps that I have taken and continue to take on my journey, those are my steps, not yours. This is my journey, and everyone has to find their own path. What I hope that others find here is not a detailed “how-to” guide of what tools you should use, books you should read, foods you should eat, etc., but rather how to find what works for you because that really is different for everyone.
The most important thing that I have gained in the past five years is the courage and belief that I am capable of forging my own path. You have that same courage and capability (yes, you do). What are the principles, your manifesto, that guides the life you want to live? What differences are you making in the world and the lives of those around you? How will your life and your vision evolve in the next five years?