Monday, December 31, 2012

why not?

Y'all, how in the WORLD is it almost 2013? It seems like it was last week that I was sitting down to write about what I'd learned in 2010. It seems I skipped entirely over 2011. It was a weird year.

2012, on the other hand, was a life-changing year, and not just because I got another 365 days closer to being 30. I think I'll be looking back at this year for a long time knowing it was the start of something. Or the start of a lot of somethings.

The change actually started last November when I took an enormous leap of faith and quit my job of three and a half years. Unemployment rates were through the roof, and I didn't have anything else lined up or any other income to fall back on except the small (like, VERY small.) stipend my husband made as a student. Some would - and very likely, did - think I was a little insane. It was the scariest thing I've ever done. But it was the beginning of a change in me.

Until the point at which my husband sat me down and begged me to quit my job, claiming he would rather live in a cardboard box than see me doing something I hated, I carried a lot of obligation. I felt a tremendous weight to provide for us while he finished his degree. I was the breadwinner, and I wanted to win us some bread, dammit, even if it killed me. And as it turned out, that's exactly what it was doing. I didn't feel free. I felt tethered to a heavy weight that allowed me no time or head space to pursue what I really loved: writing, photography, design. And it most certainly took its toll. I became a dull, exhausted lump. My husband can attest.

When I made the decision to quit - and by I, I actually mean he, because I was petrified by fear - I felt an odd and incredible peace. And after walking out the door for the last time, I felt on the verge of something great. I couldn't find full-time work, so for two and a half months, I wrote. And got paid for it. I started a business, called MDCreative, and made up nearly half the income we'd lost. My weeks were full, but the time was mine.


These two and a half months of freedom were enough for me to dub 2012 as 'The Year of Why Not?' I vowed to kill the urge in me to almost always question things and decline opportunities to try something new. I was afraid, but I didn't want to be anymore.

The Year of Why Not? has been good to me. We started saying yes to things big and small.

This year, I stared down my heart condition and then kicked it in the shins and took its lunch money. We've hiked, kayaked and rock climbed. In Kauai, we completed half of one of the most difficult trails in the US. There were times I wasn't sure I would make it (as in, I might die), but I finished. If we get back to the island in 5 years like we plan, we will be completing the whole thing.

For a long time, I've allowed my heart to hold me back. I get self-conscious at how winded I am walking up a flight of stairs, much less by the wheezing and light-headedness that happens on a long hike. I hate (HATE.) being the weakest in the group, so before The Year of Why Not?, I shied away from situations in which that might be the case. But I'm done. This is the body I've been given, and I am surrounded by people who love me and are certainly not judging my athletic prowess. I'm learning to not have to be the best, but to just show up and do my best. Up next? A 3-day trek in West Texas with the North Texas Outdoor Pursuit Center in the spring. I'm terrified. But I'm doing it anyway. Why not?



This year, we said why not? when our neighbor invited us to watch him perform in an amateur/semi-pro/pro/whatever-it-was-awesome wrestling match. And we had a BLAST! How sad it would have been to have missed that - and a sweet new friendship with our neighbors - because it was out of our comfort zone.



This year, we danced in public. Several times. I have a pretty serious phobia of looking like a fool in front of strangers and friends and anyone, really, so dancing was never on my list of Things I Enjoy Doing Without an Inappropriate Amount of Alcohol. Now we're signing ourselves up for lessons so we can dance in public more often, because you know what? It's fun. And a dumb thing to be afraid of. Why not?


This year, I took ukulele lessons from a fat Hawaiian man. It was not part of the plan (or budget), but when someone asked our group if anyone wanted to learn to play, I looked up to see my arm waving in the air. My immediate response was, why not? I've learned several songs and hope to be able to call myself a ukulele player by the end of 2013.

This year, we bought a camera that will let me start pursuing my photography. I can't wait to see the stories I can tell and the faces I'll see on the other side of the lens. I hesitate to call myself a photographer, but why not? I can be a photographer if I dang well please.

This year, I took a job that was never in my expected career path. I was terrified to take it because it was a step back from pursuing my dream job. I worried I might look up in 5, 10 or 20 years and realize I never pursued my passion. But I took the job anyway, because no title or task list can tell me what my dreams are or how I will chase them. Choosing something that fits where we are today doesn't mean I've failed. It means I'm taking care of my family. I still feel freedom to dream, and can see this career detour as the huge blessing that it's been. Why not pursue what's best for today?

This year, we started making some pretty ridiculous and exciting plans for the future - our biggest why not? so far. I won't be sharing those plans here yet because it's not the time and will take a while to work out, but I'm not sure I've ever been so excited. Stay tuned in the next year or two for more on this. Note: We're not pregnant. That's not the thing.


I feel like I should say here that I don't advocate for making rash decisions, especially big ones. There is a time and place for being calculated. But this year has shown me the freedom and bliss that comes with not over-thinking. I bums me out to think about the number of experiences and opportunities I've missed out on because I was too afraid to say yes. My year may not sound that life-changing to you, but for me, it was. I'm doing my best to make Yes! my first instinct, not my last, and it has been liberating and exhilarating.

The Year of Why Not? has been so good to me, I've decided to extend it to 2013. Because, WHY NOT?

What changed your life in 2012? Would you consider making 2013 your Year of Why Not? Try not to think too hard about it...

4 comments:

  1. Definitely the start of a lot of somethings! And they are looking spectacular on you, Michelle. :)

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  2. Great blog...2012 for me...

    I finally ended up teaching my dream class. Honors Geology, in collaboration with SDSU I finally (after 13 years) actually taught the stuff I went to school for. I LOVED IT, favorite class EVER (except any class you guys were in of course). Over the summer they pulled the rug out from under me and didn't offer the class this fall, even though student reviews were overwhelmingly positive. Gibbs gets the shaft again! I'll fight the good fight though and get it back...I can be a little persistent :)

    I think the "why not" theme is great...so just to make Becky's statement that "you'll always find something new to work on" come true, I'm onto a new project. I'm working hard to found the Imperial Valley Discovery Zone, an interactive science learning center for kids grades K-80 (really K-6 but I'm a kid too). We're working on fundraising and setup now, I have some folks that are ready to help, just need to push them along.

    That geology class and this science center have been two things I've always wanted to do in my career...so I'm pushing on...

    Miss you guys horribly...hard to believe it's almost been 10 years since I paper toweled your truck in the parking lot :)

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    Replies
    1. Mr G... This is awesome! You've had an exciting year. Even though it didn't last long, I'm so happy you were able to teach your dream class. I will be hoping and praying you bug them so much that they let you do it again.

      And wow... the science center!! What an incredible project. Let me know if I can help you with your marketing needs. :) Good luck and happy pestering! You can do it!!

      M

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    2. I've only just begun to nag! I will DEFINITELY let you know when we roll this thing out and need to do some more marketing!

      You don't EVEN want to see the scathing response to the cancelation of my geology class...I had to write...and rewrite...and rewrite so I cooled down before I sent it, even then it was pretty pointed. But hey I didn't come out and call them idiotocs or anything.

      Hope you guys are doing well, hang in there kiddo.

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