Happy New Year! I hope your holiday season was lovely. It’s been a little while since I posted – I took a little break from blogging during the holidays so I could spend time with family and work on upcoming projects. Now that the holidays are over, I’d like to take a look back on the past year and what I’ve learned.
I’m not going to kid around – 2015 was hard. My final months in Oxford were some of the most challenging; I struggled at an internship and then immediately flung myself into full-time summer work; and when the new school year started, I worked myself to a breaking point. It felt like only the latest in a list of recent failures. I came home in the early days of October and finally started to heal. It had been one of the hardest times of my life. But then, from the ashes of my darkest months, rose something new.
That something new was Advent Illustrated. Somehow, it saved me. An idea that came to me in the middle of a slow afternoon morphed into more than I could have ever pictured: a website, a book, and a true community. It gave me a sense of purpose and culmination; I had done something in my time away, succeeded at something, and made something that was, to me, beautiful. I had actually, in some small or large way, helped people. And it was totally outside of my niche, outside of my comfort zone, and outside the limits of my daydreams. It was beyond my wildest expectations.
I know that not everyone who reads this blog is religious, and out of a desire to make this space open to everyone, I try not to make my own beliefs center-stage in my writing. But in this case, I feel it needs to be said: through every step of the Advent Illustrated process, I felt I was working with something much bigger than myself. I don’t wish to say, in some self-congratulatory way, that God Himself came down from on high to bless the creative project of a 22-year-old – I’m sure He has much better things to do! But I definitely do feel that I didn’t do this entirely on my own. I couldn’t have.
One day, early into Advent, I met up with a friend of mine who works in ministry. We were having coffee and discussing my hopes for the future. Because her field is related to mine, and because I see her as both a mentor and a friend, I told her about my goals. I told her I wanted to go to grad school and be a writer, studying the Bible and making it more understandable and meaningful for other people.
“Do you think I can make it?” I asked. “Do you think I have what it takes to do this?”
She gave me a lovely list of some of my best qualities. I glowed with joy. And then she said, “But your Achilles’ heel is self-doubt.”
I almost laughed. I was, after all, asking her for this advice because I was doubting myself – and though I had never thought about it before, it seemed painfully obvious. As I thought about it more, I realized it was true. Doubt and, more so, fear, played a huge role in my life. While I didn’t them drive the car, they often rode shotgun. They squabbled with me over the road map. They influenced my choices and kept trying to pull the emergency break.
I was afraid of the coming semester, because what if I crashed and burned again? I didn’t want to travel, because I worried about money and safety. I even feared for the future of my Seasons Illustrated community, because I didn’t know whether I had the strength, ingenuity, and perseverance to lead the community through a year.
But when I had decided to launch Advent Illustrated, I did it without fear getting so much as a word in edgewise. When I decided to write the book for it, and then publish it with Amazon, fear didn’t get a say. As a result, I launched one of the most wonderful, exciting, and fulfilling projects of my life. So what could I accomplish in 2016 if I did the same? If I lived fearlessly?
A whole lot, I hope.
This year, my one word resolution is “fearless.” I am not hesitating to set goals, to invest in my passions, and to throw myself whole-heartedly into everything I do. I will not live a life constrained by fear. I will live a life as wide and unpredictable and beautiful as the world we live in.
Alive. Flourishing. Fearless.