Are You Ready?

The new year will challenge us but we will grow because of it. We will become better than we ever were.

Verena Wilmes
Age of Empathy

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Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

I’m never ready for New Year’s Eve. When the clock strikes midnight and the whole world welcomes the new year, I always wish those quiet and lazy days between the years would last a little longer. These days, when everything seems to stand still, are the most relaxing ones of the year. At least for me. And they are the perfect days to reflect on the past year. A year that taught me more lessons than I care to remember. A year that has presented me with a multitude of challenges. A year that has rewarded me with more than I ever dreamed of.

1) Being an adult means facing your fears and taking responsibility for yourself.

I turned 30 this year and yet for a long time I didn’t feel like an adult. Exactly one year ago, at the beginning of last year, I was convulsively refusing to deal with a topic that scared the crap out of me. Whoever had multiple cases of cancer in their family, whoever met the criteria for genetic testing for the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, probably understands what I mean. I am one of those cases, in my family breast cancer occurred and for years I did not want to deal with this issue. My refusal to deal with it was only surpassed by my anger at the injustice of having to deal with it at all. (Very adult)

But fear is irrational and we can decide to face it, even though that is easier said than done. However, that’s exactly what I did in the fall. I began to search for testing centers and preventive actions, and I got more than just answers. I found that when we finally manage to look our fear straight in the eyes, the fear gets smaller and ultimately even disappears. In the meantime, genetic testing has been initiated in my family and doctor appointments have been made. For many reading these words, this may not seem like much of an accomplishment, but I believe we are all afraid of something and allow that fear to seem overwhelming. We can break free from this stranglehold. We just have to start with the smallest possible step.

2) Consistency is key.

How often do we say we don’t feel like this or that today? How often do we wait for motivation? And how often do we need small gestures, minimal successes to still believe in ourselves? I am a coach of a women’s basketball team that took years to move up from the lowest league to the next one above. We’ve had to deal with the usual problems that recreational teams have: few players, little support, hardly anyone who believes in us, and of course, a little too little talent. And yet me and a handful of players were in the gym every Friday night (the only practice time left), season after season. And in a slow process we managed to attract more players and after a hard season we could celebrate the championship and our right to play in the next higher league. That happened in spring last year.

And all of a sudden we got attention.

More players joined the team, we got a second time slot for practice and are currently leading the league. We are to be taken seriously and may even win the championship again in spring. Something that grants us the right to play a league higher in fall. Who would have thought that a few years ago? But we have given our best week after week. It’s not always easy to believe in ourselves, to believe that all the daily efforts will pay off one day. Because sometimes setbacks pile up or we just don’t have any successes to report. Then we are ready to throw in the towel and give up. We all have to decide for ourselves how long and how much we want to invest in a dream. However, as long as this dream and every little step in its direction fulfills us, we should not give it up just because someone else thinks that we will never be successful or that success should look different. Consistency is key.

3) Everything changes. Constantly.

It often seems as if things never change. Day after day, I drive the same way to work, see the same colleagues, discuss the same concerns with my friends. And yet, we share different concerns today than we did 10 years ago. The demands at work are changing. My body suddenly needs more sleep and my temples have gray hair. When did all this happen? Every single day.

In the last year, friends have moved away, got married and became parents. One has passed away. It’s all in flux every single day. We often don’t see change, but it’s also happening right now in this moment. Just three years ago, I celebrated Christmas with my grandparents, my father and my brother at my grandparents’ house in a winter resort. Like every year. And on the drive back, I wondered: how long will this go on? It was to be our last Christmas together in this place. If only I had known that.

The point is that we never know when we will experience something for the last time, but we shouldn’t be foolish to think that everything will stay the way it is now. That may sound depressing, but it’s also a reason to hope for the future.

Now we have a new year ahead of us.

Let’s make it one to remember.

Happy New Year.

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