I've been sitting here for awhile thinking about what to write on the last night of 2008. I wanted to write something profound, something reflective, but of course, as any writer knows, as soon as you sit down with too specific an agenda, the words don't flow.
One of my friends likes to ask people on their birthdays what they learned over the last year. I never have good answers for her because she catches me on the spot and I'm usually in the middle of celebratory birthday shenanigans, so reflective thinking eludes me. But I have been thinking about the answers to that question all day today. So here's my list.
A handful of things I learned in 2008...
* I learned how important it is to constantly, diligently work at your craft so you don't become stagnant. I think all artists know this inherently, but sometimes we need a good kick in the butt to remind us... like returning to school in the fall after not doing much to train and stay in shape over the summer, and then being s-o-r-e for weeks because you took the phrase "lazy summer days" too literally.
* While it is important to continually train and learn and grow, it's also just as important to take breaks. For dancers, breaks and rest are necessary to maintain strength and agility, as well as to prevent injury. Creating new work isn't possible, either, if you're burned out. You can't restock the well if you go-go-go all the time.
* In the second half of the year, I slowly began to feel more comfortable labeling myself as an "artist." I always shied away from this, thinking that to justify giving myself such a title I had to have some kind of huge, published work that was bringing in the cash, or be famous in my field. Well, baloney, I say. I write, I choreograph... I'm an artist. And the more I think of myself as such, the more confident I become in my dance training, in my choreographic ideas, in writing projects, etc.
* Saying "no" doesn't make you a bad person. Doing things you don't really want to do is just a recipe for unhappiness and resentment. I experienced this over the summer with a certain obligation I made that my heart wasn't 100% committed to. No more of that business.
* The biggest and hardest lesson I've had to learn this year is that I'm not the center of the universe. When you're mired in the middle of such a destructive, self-centered idea, you become blind to the hurt you're causing others in your orbit. Sometimes that hurt becomes too much and your world explodes. My world exploded and someone in my orbit, someone I loved very much, someone I hoped to be my future, careened away from me. Since November, everything has been a nebulous confusion of heartache and uncertainty. Yes, it takes two to tango. No, it's not all my fault. But I can only take responsibility for myself. I still cry at night when I go to sleep, I still get knots in my stomach. I still have an empty, dull ache in my heart and there are days when I can't focus on much of anything. I still pray that God forgives me and that he would heal the damage that I caused. But I know that I have the choice to either use this to learn and grow, or to wallow in self-pity and spiral into cynicism. I choose growth, as hard as the growing pains are right now.
So, my 2008 exits on a, well, bittersweet note. To be honest, I'll be very relieved when I wake up tomorrow and it's January 1. The holidays and my birthday were hard, and I don't mean to sound bah-humbug about them, I just want this year to be done. Not that I think that life will suddenly be filled with sunshine and unicorns and rainbows and glitter as our calendars change from 2008 to 2009. I just really look forward to the fresh page of a new year and a new chapter.
With my lips glossed, my hair curled, and my cute new red purse on my shoulder, I bid thee farewell, 2008. I raise a glass of champagne and welcome in 2009 with one supafly dance party.