“Make a little money, take a lot of shit.
Feel real bad, then get over it.
This will be a better year.”
– Strictly Game by Harlem Shakes
I’ve always found the Christmas and New Year season a time to reflect on the year past and to consider the year to come. This past week is no exception.
A year ago at this time not only was I in a very different place in my life, but on a very different trajectory. It was not necessarily one that I was happy with for a variety of reasons. I pledged to myself to change that trajectory, no matter how hard it would be to do so.
So I did. And it was hard. Very hard. In fact in retrospect I am prepared to say that 2013 was one of the most difficult years of my life.
Momentum is a funny thing. When we are younger, we have less built up. That means it doesn’t take as much effort to change course. As I am learning, as we get older we build up more momentum (some might call it inertia, but I actually think momentum is a better way of describing it even though the practical effect is the same). The more momentum you build up on a certain trajectory, the stronger the G-forces are when you try to change that trajectory. Our natural inclination is to ease off on the throttle, not to change so much so quickly. Yet the pain is probably a good thing, and fighting that natural instinct likely saves us in the end. The longer you stay on the same course, the more momentum you are going to build up; it will never be easier to change something in your life than it will be right now.
Five years ago I was finishing up my first semester at Harvard. I wrote a piece called “Emotional Homelessness” about my reflections on that first semester and some of the struggles that came along with it. It resonated with many of the friends I shared it with. Today I was thinking about the last line I wrote in that piece:
“Perhaps this is indeed the curse of our generation; the realization that comes over the course of our 20s of what has been sacrificed upon the altar of unlimited possibility.”
Five years later, it occurs to me that my perspective has evolved. That there is a growing realization, often just a whisper in the subconscious, that those sacrifices may have been to a false god. That in fact over time you can’t keep a door open without closing others, and that the ability to choose what you are prepared to let go of in life is just as important as knowing what you want.
If this all sounds a bit dark, it isn’t meant to be. It is meant to be honest. In fact I am very proud of what I have been able to accomplish this past year. I co-founded a tech startup company. I learnt French (well…”learnt” may be overstating it…survived six months of language training might be more accurate!). I lead a team of 10 people to make huge advances in the Government of Canada’s internal use of social media tools, for which we received the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Award of Merit. I continue to be blessed with loving and supportive friends and family across the globe.
Life is good. Not in spite of 2013 being a tough year, but because of it.
I am legitimately excited about the year to come. One way or another I will be moving into a new phase of my life professionally and personally. There are some great opportunities ahead, and my only resolution is to grab hold of them as they come and to enjoy the journey each and every day.
Happy New Year to you all and wishing you the very best for 2014!
5 replies on “Hello 2014”
Ryan, this hit me right between the eyes for a number of reasons. So very proud of you.
Loved reading this, Ryan:)
I empathize with a lot of what you’re saying. In many ways 2013 was wonderful, but difficult, but gratifying. For me, the difficultly came from choosing to close doors – a self-imposed decision that will improve my overall well being over the course of many years, even if in the immediate it’s hard to do.
I’m with you in reflecting at the end of the year, but I don’t really like overthinking the “new year” – we should all be assessing your lives on a regular basis. Wishing you continuous growth, always!
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