This time of year, I am on a threshold where I’m simultaneously looking backward and gazing forward. Like you, the personal and collective experiences of the past year have left their impressions, but I’m hopeful for our shared future that includes meaningful work, adventures, and friendships that honor the Earth. What lies ahead is anyone’s guess, but approaching the unknown with equal parts wisdom and enthusiasm, will help us thrive in 2023.
I like to channel my wizened elder self when I reflect on the past year. She is the one who understands that challenges and setbacks are part of the human experience and invitation to grow. I liken reaching the end of the year to finally returning to the trailhead after a long hike in the woods on a new route, where I momentarily felt disoriented and alone. Seeing my car in the parking lot is like winning the lottery. I’m relieved and physically tired, but somehow mentally invigorated because I survived! In hindsight, I understand that wandering into unknown territory, even if it’s simply a new section on my usual walk, is about paying attention and being in harmony with the natural world.
As I look forward into the New Year, I start by channeling my enthusiastic youthful self. The one who is encouraged to dream and envision beyond the practical brain. The one who is creative and says yes despite the voice that says, stay home and read. I’m not suggesting this old spine should go bungee jumping, but I’m proposing that the youthful self’s qualities like courage and idealism, are what pushes the wizened self to keep growing. She is the one who chooses a spot on the map and drives up the coast, often without a plan, to discover rainforests and rivers and like-minded adventurers.
At some point in the year, the enthusiastic youth and the wizened elder join stride to collaborate. Like well suited companions, they encourage and support each other’s journey. When one feels panic, the other can offer reassurance and a sense of calm. When one feels defeated, the other can remind her that she’s overcome much worse and will again. The two might be in step in early January or it might take many months for them to find their rhythm. They might pass each other going opposite directions on the trail, and simply pause for a hug. There is no right way. The play between the two asks us to be flexible and forgiving as we navigate a whole new year, unlike any we’ve seen before.