Before I can look forward, I have to look back.
I reread my letters to 2023 and to other years.
My own personal hopes have been fragile, private, vulnerable, tender. And so my letters of the past sound much more outwardly focused than I know I felt. The hopes and fears within them no less genuine, simply the ones I could risk sharing in a public letter.
And they were honest hopes, though still far from fruition. Some, even further away it seems. I come to you with a heart broken over the wars in Ukraine, Gaza, Sudan, and in places I don't even know. I come to you with months of words caught in my throat because for the first time in a long time, my social media feeds are not echo chambers but a cacophony of voices and opinions. There are more words to be said, but not tonight. I pray you contain miracles we cannot even imagine today. May you find us making a step towards peace instead of away from it.
I find myself weary of another election year; of the anxiety they have come to represent. Of the lack of choices even available in the place I call home. I pray democracy will prevail.
...Once again, I am focusing on the problems Out There to avoid thinking about what you hold for me personally.
(Imagine me staring at a blank screen for a few minutes and then opening a computer game to hide this window to understand how fully I want to avoid thinking about this.)
You will bring my 40th birthday. You will mark four years that I have been in search and call.
Four years ago, I made decisions purposely with you in mind. With images of where I wanted to be, what I wanted to be doing, who I wanted to be at this arbitrary deadline. While I don't know what the end of you will hold, you are beginning far from what I imagined.
Three months ago, after one more rejection, I mentally shifted gears. While my parents were visiting, we hung up paintings that had been packed away for the move I have expected to make for far too long. We rearranged my living room and my kitchen. I finally managed to get a full-time job locally. I renewed my lease. I settled.
My settling has felt more like "coming to rest" or "to establish" rather than "making due" with something less than ideal (though that is not untrue). I have settled even as my local community has shrunk in painful ways. I have settled with deep gratitude for the connections and friends here who have sustained me. I have settled with resignation knowing what the housing market anywhere looks like for a single person.
Even still, I hope to be unsettled in time. To find myself called to be somewhere else. To do something else, something more. While I deeply desire for that to be in congregational ministry, I am open to the possibility that ministry means something else for me, at least for a season.
Dear 2024, it is hard for me to name concrete wants and hopes. I fear the disappointment of them going unfulfilled. But as a friend constantly reminds me, not asking for what I want means they will definitely go unmet.
This year I want democracy to survive.
This year I want peace to make gains over war.
This year I want my ministry to find structure. Whether in a congregation, in a ministry job outside the congregation, or in my scattering of freelance ministries becoming more organized.
This year I want to try dating. (Really am saying the scary stuff out loud this year. Oof.)
This year I want to travel to the PNW to see friends.
This year I want to *celebrate* my birthday and not just endure it.
This year I want to keep hoping even when it feels impossible.
This year I want to know when to say yes and when to say no.
This year I want to keep learning how to be fully, truly, wholly me.
Settled and still hanging on to hope,