A year of caring about things
Reflections on things that matter
I’ve often done the same. But looking back over the two years since I started this publication, I’ve never written my reflections here (though I’ve shared my thoughts on Medium).
Listing out accomplishments is fine if you want to measure each year as some type of success story. But so many things are outside of our control. Losing a job, natural disasters, a string of really bad luck… the terrible parts of the past 12 months may not have been our fault.
But we can control our energy and affection. We can give ourselves more fully to things we care about and leave behind the things we don’t.
What do you care about?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking back to the years when my kids were little. Much of it is a blur. I worked and I parented and… that was about it. Parenting has brought me so much joy, but it’s not the same as personal satisfaction. I lost a bit of myself in those years of diapers, toddler tantrums, and nonstop caregiving.
Then there was a global pandemic. My youngest was two-and-a-half when everything shut down. We did our best; we emerged. Now she’s in first grade. My older two kids are in middle school. For the past 18 months, I’ve had time to explore what I love.
And I’ve realized what makes me happy is not only writing but sharing my writing with other people. Connecting with other writers. Helping people find shared community — to know that they are not alone in their experiences. I care about the writing I do and the people I reach.
One of the inspirational stories I was able to tell this year was from Gail Marie. She shared that she’s going to prioritize work less and prioritize art more, because art makes her happy. She’s making space for art in her life.
What do you care about?
Who do you care about?
And were you able to devote enough energy and affection to those things/people this year? If not, what stood in your way?
What do you not care about?
Most people in my orbit have had a job shakeup in the past 18 months — either by choice or by force (like a layoff). A job change is a chance to think about what you want. You look at a job description and think, “Yes, I want that role. I want that salary. I want that type of employer.”
And it’s also a chance to think. “I don’t want that.”
Job descriptions that claim, “We are a family”? Hard pass.
Unclear expectations? Nope.
Something that sounds like three jobs in one? Should have the equivalent of three salaries in one.
I recently completed an application for a freelance role with an agency. One of the final questions was, “Which of our company values resonates with you the most?”
I laughed. I freelance, in part, so I don’t have to think about company values. I don’t care about them. My experiences with corporate culture have been very messed up.
You can decide what you want. And what you don’t want. Even if you’re working for an employer, you can put some distance between yourself and your work so you can focus on things you want outside of work.
Earlier this year, I spoke with Stella. Her experience with an employer has led her to be more guarded, especially when it comes to tying her identity to her career.
And that’s critically important, for everyone.
A New Year’s intention around “cares” and “don’t cares”
I’m not big on goal-setting or New Year’s resolutions. Things always seem to come up that send me down a different path. I’ve learned to be fluid.
But I like the idea of making some lists for the new year.
What did I care about this past year?
What did I not care about?
What will be important to me next year, based on what I care about?
What unimportant things can I remove from my life?
I fully recognize that some things I don’t care about are still important. Not all parts of my life are fun. I drive my kids to school activities because those activities are important to them. I do admin work for my business because it’s necessary.
But we can all find an intersection of “don’t care” and “unimportant” and find ways to remove those things from our lives.
We can make space for things that are important.
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