There’s something about the end of a decade that makes me stop and reflect on life, even more than I usually do at the close of a normal year. Mostly, when I think about where I was 10 years ago, it’s amazing to me that so much time has passed so quickly. But it’s been rich and lovely, and I really have no regrets to speak of. More than anything, I feel grateful for the time and the relationships—and for all I’ve learned and continue to learn.
Thinking back 10 years, the lessons are countless. Many paths I probably shouldn’t have taken, several decisions could have been better made. But overall, I feel so happy and so lucky about the direction my life has taken me, and all I’ve encountered along that road. This includes some pretty solid thoughts about who I am and what I know about myself. None of it’s a surprise to me, necessarily, but when I look back on the decade, I see continual reminders of some important lessons.
Sometimes doing something is much better than finding the perfect thing to do.
The first is very simple: I am learning to change my view. This has come in many forms, both real and symbolic. A cup of coffee on a street corner in a town or country different from mine reminds me how much more there is in the world than my worrying brain sometimes remembers. In a whole other way, simply looking at a problem from a different angle has helped me enormously. What if I saw it like she sees it? has forced me to be empathetic. It never occurred to me to see that relationship between two ideas, I'll think when someone comes up with something new. This provides me with a creative solution I never would have considered if I had just continued to stare at something head-on.
Years ago, I read a line that has stuck with me as something I can relate to. And every year it feels even more true and more apt. This year, I became convinced that perfect really is the enemy of good. Whether I’m thinking about a task at work or a rough spot in my personal life, perseverating over the perfect solution is a waste of time. This is not to say that life’s issues don’t take thought, but that sometimes doing something is much better than finding the perfect thing to do. I’ve also learned that, if I’m scared of doing something because I’m worried that I don’t know the best thing to do, waiting for perfection usually means not doing it at all. Trying something is doing something may become my big lesson for the next decade.
One of my favorite life lessons has come to me via unpleasant situations: The worst stuff gets better. And, it’s true whether I want them to get better or not. They just do. The worst part of the worst situations is almost always that moment before they actually occur—when I know they will and I’m dreading them and I’m worrying and lamenting. Once something I’ve feared actually comes to pass, I may not be very happy about it, but at least I have something real to deal with. As each day passes, the weight of the thing is lighter and my own confidence in facing it is deeper and longer lasting.
No matter what I’ve faced or struggled through or blundered over in the last year—or even decade—my life is always richer because of my people and my dogs. My partner and my best friends have offered honest opinions, laughter, and adventures, while knowing looks from a number of different Labs and Corgis have buoyed me through pretty much everything. How and why they've stuck with me all this time is hard to say, but I don’t question it. I will say instead that I look forward to this next year, and this next decade. May we all look at ourselves and our lives from a million different perspectives and give ourselves permission and room to roam and read and reflect. Happy New Year to all.