With full confidence I can say in 2016 I’ve gravitated towards my life goals, mostly by realizing their depths and realigning my focus. But I did not grow, not really.
The pre/post-NYE-hangover facebook posts about personal growth in the past 12 months are flash flooding my timeline, and I too want to join in celebrating my triumphs and low points in this hellhole of a year. And I want to say yes, of course, graduating college and entering the post-grad life has been the biggest challenge I’ve had to face in 2016, which comes with understandable setbacks. But despite prevailing in the sight of these obstacles, I don’t think I grew much in the vein of mentality, physicality, or spirituality, or emotionality this year. Whomp.
I used to think I talked the Big Talk when I shared pictures that displayed something like “this (picture of a straight line here) is not what growth is – this (picture of a crooked line here) is what growth is!” I’d feel self-satisfied in acknowledging the idea of growth being different for everybody, but then never think about what that feels like in actuality. Looking at a graph and thinking “well, this concept sure is easy enough to grasp” is different than experiencing a low, even a high, and registering in your brain what that graph tries to simplify.
That graph’s biggest flaw is the simplification of its timeline. In the past 12 months, in the context of my lived 22 years and hopeful many future years, my growth has been minimal. What’s one year among decades? What’s the transition from 21 to 22 compared to 17 to 18? If those timelines measure out more than a year, which I think they try to do despite literally just being lines with no defined x- or y-axis, then my growth this year has been minimal compared to what I have done and what I hope to do. And besides that point, I know that I didn’t push myself as much as I wanted these past few months, for various reasons such charts don’t measure.
2016 was my start on a path to integrated wholeness, and I’m satisfied with that. Changes in thinking patterns, focus on spirituality, prioritization of the body after years of neglect for health, reprioritization of personal relationships, decolonization of the mind – these are complex issues that if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t fully understand. How can I measure growth if I can’t articulate my beginning or end point? How can I understand a lowpoint from a highpoint if my marker changes? Where’s my chart that shows a flat line for a while?
I want to be growing; so bad do I want to feel like I’m progressing towards a Definitive Something. But this desire in me to keep growing, to feel like I am advancing, has been grating. I compared my position in life to others, I felt inadequate, I felt silly, I felt isolated. I kept forgetting that growth is not about reaching an endpoint, because reach it you will not.
Growth has been a wild, unfulfilling concept I’ve never been able to fully grasp, which is why I’ve always strived to be challenged. To me, this is a concept that doesn’t account for the passage of time or suggest comparison to other points in your journey. When I say I want to be challenged, I don’t think of my journey or linear connections between points in time, but an understanding of each experience as an opportunity to learn, expand, and overcome.
I don’t want this to be taken as an effort to delegitimize others’ thoughts and feelings on growth – however you define your position at this moment is completely up to you, and I encourage and celebrate your feelings of personal growth and achievement. This is just for me, because I know myself as a list-making, high-expectation-creating being, both frustrated and pleased with her orbit on this blue marble, who needs to stop thinking of charts and more about experience.