Finding Hope in a New Year

It’s strange, I don’t feel anything.  I’m numb. I’m not quite sure what to think about it.  Every New Years that I can remember has been a happy memory.  There has always been a sliver of excitement as I think about what the new year will bring and what I want to accomplish.  This new year is different. There is no excitement.  There are no thoughts of what I want to achieve, nor goals set.  I just feel emptiness.

2020 was such an odd year.  It was a difficult year.  Imagine living in a beautiful country for the first time and being stuck at home, every day, most of the year.  When I first moved to Germany, it was like a fantasy land, almost like a fairy tale coming to life.  I saw medieval villages, spectacular castles, and traveled through the birthplace place of Grimm’s fairy tales, the Black Forest.  My first year and half was spent traveling throughout France, Austria, and Belgium.  It was why I decided to move to Germany for a few years in the first place.  I felt like my dreams were literally coming true.  Well, some of my dreams were coming true anyways. 😊

Now I feel stuck and the fairy tale has faded.  Maybe it’s the dark clouds that fill the sky 90% of the time during the months of November thru March.  I’m not sure what the cause is of my feeling empty, down, and blah.  I do know that I am not the only person that feels the way I do.  All of our social communities have changed.  We have been forced into separation, secluded to stay in our own homes.    We have been forced to use more of the same thing that has made it difficult for Generation X to sit in a room and have a one-on-one conversation with someone else; more social media and more keystrokes on the www.

I am trying not to be bitter against social media; I see myself as one of the first people to stand up to defend the awesome convenience’s technology has brought to us.  I love being able to talk and see my family in real time even when they are over 3,000 miles away.  I appreciate the ability to have any question I have be instantly answered by Alexa in the comforts of my own home. Humankind has been blessed with technology.  We are lucky to be living in a time of such advancements in science and technology.  There will be even more great discoveries in yours and my lifetime.

But at the same time, I can’t help to think how physical and social restrictions will affect how we relate and communicate together as a community, as a global society.  One year ago, it was typical and expected to greet a person with a smile and handshake.  Shaking someone’s hand was a formality, but it was also personal.  Something like shaking one’s hand can go a long way for a person that is hurting.  Touch has always been a way to console a heartbroken child or a weeping mother.  It’s been about twelve months since we have been “instructed” to not touch each other.  Now we have the elbow bump, which feels so impersonal. The changes we saw in 2020 with how we socialize with each other is not a temporary change it’s going to have a long-term global impact.

Now it’s 2021, where do we go from here?  Where is the hope going to come from?  For me, a glimmer of hope came from receiving the covid vaccine.  I took it, had an allergic reaction to it, and now can’t have the second dose.  So, that hope is gone for me, what else is there?

This is when it gets really personal for me.  In my career I have always sought satisfaction and fulfillment from outside of me.  I have been heavily reliant on praise from my boss and co-workers.  I have strived to excel at projects and provide positive outcomes in the workplace.  You can ask my wife, about every two to three years, I get this itch that I need a change in my life (probably the main reason why we live in Germany right now).  I become dissatisfied with where and what I am doing, so I seek something else.  Again and again relying on my outside experience to bring me satisfaction and happiness.  When I make the change, I’m content for a little while because it’s a new experience and there are new things to learn, but then the work becomes old and monotonous.

Yeah, 2020 was a crazy year for sure, but as I do more reflection on the past year, I realized that I have had a lot of growth.  It’s not been growth observed by other people, but the growth has occurred inside of me.  I have had amazing discoveries of the self. It’s possible the discoveries wouldn’t have occurred if I wasn’t quarantined in my home for weeks at a time.  I have contemplated a lot about the origin of true happiness.  2020 is the year that I fully understood that happiness does not come to a person from any one person or from any one thing, it only comes from within the self.  It’s a journey that starts with the person and stays with the person.

I ask myself again, if I made such a great discovery of where happiness comes from, then why do I not feel excited and happy this New Years?  My best guess is that I have already forgotten what I have learned from months earlier of self-reflection.  I am not doing things daily to remind myself that happiness, peace, and satisfaction comes from within me.  I’ve gotten caught up in the world again, like so many of us do, I’ve been seeking happiness outside of me.  Wow, life is a hard journey.  Just when we think we got some of it figured out, we get caught in old thinking pattern again and end up back where we started a year earlier.

When I first started writing this, my intention was to share some inspiration with you, some hope that 2021 will be better.  I think my writing has morphed into a different purpose.  I can’t tell you that 2021 will be better for you.  Life is unpredictable and it is always changing.  Of course, tragedy will still occur and hardship will continue to mold you.  It’s the small things in your path that will make the biggest difference for you.  Our path may be rocky, falling apart underneath us, or slick as a sheet of ice.  The path itself doesn’t really matter; the destination is also not as essential as how we hold ourselves up along the journey.  Your strength to continue taking one step after another comes from within.  It’s time to refocus on the power that is within and stop letting the outside direct where you go.

It’s continued hope that connects you and me, that connects all of us.  Hope is knowing that even though we are each on different path’s we all have the same source within us that keeps us going. From this hope is where we can start to rebuild ourselves and our community again.

You are never alone.  Find the hope within.