naming the year
my list of quickly abandoned new year’s resolutions is impressive in length. it seems that i am not genetically wired to do yoga every single day, stop gossiping, or read more than ten or twelve books in one year.
this is why andy and i do not make new year’s resolutions anymore. instead, we each set big-picture intentions for ourselves by naming our years. the years have unfurled somewhat successfully with names such as “the year of balance,” or “the year of creativity,” or “the year of efficiency.” but the intentions i set on new year’s eve of 2009 win all contests of longevity and effectiveness. the year 2010, for me, was the year of rearranging.
prior to making this pronouncement, i had the sobering realization that doing the things i had to do prevented me from doing the things i wanted to do… almost all the time. all in the name of the year of rearranging i stopped preaching on a regular basis, started this blog, dropped a regular weekly work commitment, joined a running group, took on some new household responsibilities, organized several rooms of my home, and starting having people over for dinner. keep in mind that all of this movement was accompanied by my own tiresome process of self-analysis and took place at the pace of a turtle.
as late as october and november, i still felt that more shifting needed to occur. i was asked to speak at two private all-girls’ schools in town, and though i had already given up preaching (for the most part) i was excited and flattered enough to accept these invitations. when i walked into both of those schools, i was completely energized. it had been five years since i worked in college chaplaincy, and i had forgotten how at home i feel in places where people are expanding their minds, grappling with big questions, looking hopefully toward the future, and trying on every new fashion trend and turn of phrase in the process. i returned from both of these speaking engagements with a new and much-needed sense of clarity about my vocation. as andy and were cooking dinner one night in november i waved my hands to the powers that be and said,
“i’m putting it out there in the universe: i want to work with students.”
right before christmas, thanks to god or the universe or a divine twist of fate, i was offered a position as presbyterian campus minister at the university of memphis.
it’s a quarter-time job, and one that has excited me enough to enroll the bird in the parents-day-out program at the monkey’s school. the first order of business in my new job was to attend the montreat college conference in my favorite north carolina mountains. there, as i talked with other chaplains and campus ministers (many of whom i already knew from my previous work in chaplaincy), i was heartened to learn that my thoughts and experiences about working with college students still seem to be on target and relevant.
yet, as i look forward to the challenges of 2011, i am a bit overwhelmed! i must learn a new environment and make up for a semester’s lapse in programming since my predecessor resigned. the job seems as if it could easily be full-time, yet i can only spend ten hours a week on it.
last saturday night, andy and i had dinner with old friends, and, as is customary with this group during this time of year, we went around the table and revealed the names of our years. still so involved in the process of rearranging, i confessed that my 2011 was going nameless for the time being.
but as the students are preparing for their return to the university and my excitement borders on anxiety, i am beginning to know what 2011 should be called. the goals at hand are huge, and potentially paralyzing. so this year, for me, will be the year of small tasks.
maybe, by doing a lot of small things, i will end up doing something big.