At the end of 2018

Here I am, thinking about what to write at the end of 2018 (and feeling like a time traveller since I'm in China for it this year!)

"What will you do tonight for the new year?" Phila asked me this morning, and rolled her eyes when I suggested sleeping.  So now I'm trying to remember what all has happened this year.

A year ago, I had just surprised Susan and Natalie (and quite a few other people) by showing up for Nat and Jason's wedding and I was in Virginia, hanging out with the Wilsons before going back to PA to finish off the surprises.  This year I'm looking forward to being in Thailand soon before heading back to the US briefly for Abbie's wedding.  The past year has been full of travel and transition, despite the stability of living in the same apartment and keeping the same campus team.  I feel extraordinarily privileged to live the life that I do, to get to call so many places home and so many people my favorites, but the continual transitioning feels fraying at times.  At the beginning of October, I tried to reckon up how many places I had slept in since I left China for the summer vacation and came up with eleven locations, nine cities in two countries, plus four nights spent in transit... no wonder I have trouble remembering everything that's happened!

I had the pleasure of continuing to study for my master's degree with the most fantastic of cohorts.  It's been a wild ride and a bunch of us are getting close to the end, with just one final class to take (and comprehensive exams.)  I got to see (and climb on) some of the craziest natural scenery I've ever seen, stuff that I would have totally believed was a set for a sci-fi movie.  I got to show Laura, Mom, and Ben around parts of China and introduce them to many of my students; what a joy!

(Stone Forest, Kunming)

We said goodbye to a bunch of city teammates and welcome to some new ones.  I changed departments and teaching buildings and learned to love a new batch of students.  During the spring and summer, I studied how to teach spoken language to large classes and then was promptly handed the opportunity to try out my theories.  This fall semester brought surprising friendships with several Chinese colleagues, as we not only work together but also spend time eating, watching a movie, or just talking about life.

I got to spend time this summer with a bunch of beloved friends and family.  I'm always amazed at the astounding wealth of relationships I've been given.

I handed my camera off to other people and had a lot of fun getting a glimpse of the world through their eyes.  There were a lot of deaths this year of people who I loved dearly (and a dog, too.)  It's been a year of transition not just for me personally, but for both of the countries that I call home; it's an interesting time to be alive.

pc: Merry

Or, in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda,
Look around, look around/
How lucky we are to be alive right now.  
Despite the tears and struggles, that encapsulates how I feel about my life much of the time, and 2018 was no exception.

Oh, and of course -- I listened to a lot of music (see: Andrew Peterson, Jonathan Gabriel Masters) and read a lot of books (see particularly The Three Body Problem by CiXin Liu.) 

There are hundreds and thousands of other events and conversations and details that made up the texture of 2018, but those were a few that came to my mind quickly.  What about you?

My word for 2018 was integrity.  As always, the word played out in some dimensions besides what I had imagined; I figured it would mean vulnerability and willingness to admit my faults, but I didn't anticipate that it would lead to so much reflection about what it means to be embodied or how to live well in all of the chaos of transitions.  I have the rest of my life to continue learning what it means (and how) to live with integrity, and I'm grateful -- I'm going to need it!  So much of integrity, it seems, is learning how to do the hard work of loving well at all times and in all places.

And now... now, onward to 2019!


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