Long before we had kids, my wife and I were on a trip to the mall. (After you have kids, time with just the two of you is far too precious to spend at such a soulless place.) We were visiting one of the many women’s clothing chains and she was looking to find a top to match a skirt she had bought in that store the year before. Or maybe another store just like it; I really couldn’t tell the difference. A saleswoman asked if she could help us, and my wife described the skirt she was looking to match. The helpful saleswoman didn’t try too hard to hide her condescension as she said, “Oh, from last year.”
Um, yeah. From last year.
We often don’t like last year so much. Lots of cultural forces just push us onward.
In the first week of a new year, certainly the expected thing to do is to look ahead. To talk about resolutions. Or to talk about how resolutions aren’t good, but goals are better. Or to talk about how goals aren’t good, but habits are the best. I think they all have some merit, but they are all about looking ahead. About moving on.
Quit reading if you like, but I want to talk about last year. The one that is so last week.
In the infancy of 2024, our best opportunities for growth don’t come in looking ahead to who we want to be in the year to come. Our best opportunities for growth come in reflecting on the year past and seeing who we actually were. And are.
Yes, we make our end of the year lists in December. Some of the more intentional among us set aside time amidst the hustle of the holidays to reflect on the year as it’s closing out. But even for those more intentional than me, the year is worthy of more reflection than we can offer it in the midst of boarding passes and eggnog.
There is a centuries old spiritual practice called the examen which serves as a reflection to close out each day. There are many variations, but the most common form of the examen is a set of questions about the day to be pondered and prayed through. It is an invitation to self awareness and an RSVP to a more meaningful tomorrow.
My best creative work, and I think I’m not alone in this, comes when I am most aware and present to myself. And if the examen is an invitation to self awareness, then surely it is a means to engage my creative nature. And yours too.
So far, in 2024, I’ve tried to be more interested in 2023. You know, last year. Each year, I do an annual examen of sorts. So, below you will find some of the questions I try to consider. It won’t take long, and I’m not asking you to live in the past. Just give it a few more hours of your time:
- What were the high points of the past year?
- What were the difficult times of the past year?
- How have you grown this past year?
- In what ways have you not grown this past year? Or even gone backward?
- If you are spiritual, where have you seen the divine at work this past year?
- If you project this past year forward, who will you be in five years?
- Who do you want to be in five years?
About John Chandler
I am also interested in finding meaningful ways of living outside of my work, which seems to include a lot of reading, watching baseball (Angels!) or football (Broncos!), playing board games, eating salsa, and wishing I was hiking more. Oh, and coffee.
I live on the desert edge of Phoenix with my wife and kids – with previous stops in Austin and outside Seattle as a grown-up, and SoCal and Colorado as a youngster.
You can find more of my meanderings on my micro.blog.
Photo by Maddi Bazzocco