Reflecting on 2007

As promised, and just in the nick of time, my long and rambling post about 2007:

Wow.

Okay, clearly that’s not all I can say about this year.

When I reflect on everything that’s happened this year, I think about a fancy term that’s thrown around a lot in student development literature: cognitive dissonance. Basically, it refers to the feeling of disorientation we experience when we encounter something that conflicts with our generally accepted notions of life, good and evil, or right and wrong. For example, if you didn’t believe in extraterrestrials, you’re probably likely to experience cognitive dissonance if you discover yourself in a spaceship being probed by aliens.

Needless to say, I wasn’t probed by aliens this year (that I know of). But I did experience an unusually significant amount of cognitive dissonance this year. This is unusual for me, especially because I’m typically very easygoing and even-tempered. Very few things get to me. But this year, I found myself somewhat unraveling at the seams. I don’t know yet if that’s a good or a bad thing. But I can tell you that it’s pushed me to pursue my faith more intentionally and passionately. I think that’s a good thing.

I have about ten thousand things running through my mind grapes, so to organize my thoughts a little bit, I’m going to use headers. Thank you, APA style manual!

Decisions

When you come to the edge of all you know, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: Someone will be there to catch you, or you will learn to fly. – Some random person

A few months ago, I felt like I was on the brink of a “big thing” that I couldn’t identify nor articulate exactly. I think I’ve finally figured out what it is.

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re about to do something really crazy and/or stupid? I’m feeling that right now.

I’ve done something crazy and/or stupid. I’ve made some big life decisions this year that have removed me from my nice, safe cocoon of domestic bliss and thrust me on a path where I don’t even know what the end goal looks like. On one hand, I’m pretty impressed (actually, more surprised) that I had the cajones to actually do something. On the other, I am absolutely terrified because I don’t know what’s ahead. More devastating, I am heartbroken because through this process, I’ve hurt someone I love and care very deeply about.

My situation is hard to explain exactly because it doesn’t make any kind of logical sense. At all. And while I’m not necessarily regretting anything I’ve done this year, it seems so much easier to NOT have done anything at all. But I’ve stepped out in faith and in reckless abandon, hoping that there’s something out there I’m supposed to find.

In any case, God has definitely disturbed me this year, apparently just as I had prayed for. 

Oh, Yeah… School

Earlier this year, I was lamenting my life as a doctoral student as I experienced a serious bout of sophomore slump. However, having successfully passed my qualifying exam this summer and making some good progress on my chapters I and II this fall, I actually feel good about where I am in this project. I’m almost at the end of my coursework (which incidentally means I will have no choice but to eventually produce something) and have a clearer vision of what my dissertation will look like. Of course it won’t be pretty. But hey, as I’ve been reminded over and over again by colleagues and mentors, this isn’t my life’s work.

Or Is It?

If you’re a faithful reader of this blog, you’ll know that of late, I’ve been contemplating an eventual career move out of higher education. I’ve realized, though, that while I have a lot of transferable skills related to program development and organizational management, my content area is pretty narrow. So I’ve been getting an itch to jump into non-profit development work and try to build another area of expertise. Interestingly, my mom’s long and distinguished career in international development (and the fact that I was pretty much raised in that kind of environment) has given me some ideas about avenues I’d like to pursue next. I don’t think I’ll want to do anything until I’m officially minted as “doctor,” though. Stay tuned.

New Things

In January 2006, I resolved to give myself some stretch goals and try new things. It’s what got me started on purging fast food and soda from my diet. (Archie: Now coke-free for two years!)

This year, I shamelessly tried more things:

  • I started taking improv classes at Washington Improv Theater. Best thing since sliced bread. And I love sliced bread.
  • I auditioned for an improv troupe. I generally have averse reactions to auditioning, so this was a pretty big goal for me. (I’m still recovering from a rejection from The Dear Abbeys, an all-male acapella group I tried out for during my freshman year in college.) Obviously, I didn’t make it to the final round of auditions, but I did get a first-round callback. That’s pretty sweet on the first try.
  • More improv-related things: I made an appearance on Arlington public television for my friend Ishu’s directorial project and also hammed it up as part of a WIT “class” for a segment on the Verizon Fios network. My constipated-looking mug is also on WIT’s new marketing materials for their B.L.A.H. campaign. Clearly, I like the attention.
  • I got new glasses that make me look like a certified DC wonk. And for about a week, I wore contacts. I hadn’t worn contacts since 2001. Let’s just say the unequivocal reaction of my friends and co-workers easily helped me decide to go back to glasses.
  • I bought a Mac! I’m now officially a yuppie.
  • I re-picked up doing photography stuff. I only have a point-and-click right now, but a digital SLR is on the list for this upcoming year. Along with a guitar.
  • I started leading worship at church again. I apologize to anyone who has had or will have the opportunity to witness this.
  • In an effort to cut down on calories and save cash, I attempted to downgrade my Starbucks beverages from venti to grande. I failed miserably.
  • I’ve started doing 250 crunches every time I work out. My four-pack is looking pretty good.

And in 2008…

This is a terrible cliché, but I’m hopeful for the new year. Call it blind or foolish faith, but I’m anxiously anticipating the new and exciting things that God has in store for me. The joys and heartaches of this past year have been tremendously character- and faith-building. I’m grateful for those people in my life who have challenged me, supported me, and made me a better man. You know who you are. Thank you.

And while I don’t have any specific resolutions for 2008, my goal this year is to continue trying new things and to live my life as authentically as possible: as a flawed but grateful man in passionate pursuit of Jesus and who happens to enjoy all sorts of random things like higher education issues, improv, pop culture, 30 Rock, and Starbucks

Here’s to an exciting new year!

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