Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

This Has Been... : reflections on a year

I'd forgotten, in the easy slide of Saturday morning, that today is for writing. On inspiration from Erzhe, I set my work aside and instead gaze backward at the last 365 days.

Last year, January 2, I wrote: "Being present in every day means wondering always how to be better, loving and understanding more, constantly questioning but also giving thanks for what has been given. If this act doesn't lead to resolutions, perhaps nothing will." In a year, I lost that gift. I scrabble at the days, wishing they would slow. I feel the burden of things-to-do, and I sink under the weight of it. Resolutions are just another box to complete in a checklist day.

This has been a year of risks, of taking the first steps to overcome what Sheryl Sandberg described as the internalization of self-doubt and fear as self-defense against the risk of failure. 

I went to China this summer, experienced the ultimate satisfaction of working in my dream internship that I'd created. Some days brought the heavy sensation of wasted time, that somehow my days were not being used to their utmost. I watched our French intern make friends with many locals through sheer audacity, and was not able to mimic him. We got our data, often through sheer force of will and case-worthy examples of great teamwork. And yet I couldn't shake the feeling that if only I was bolder, I could have gotten important information that was refused to me. If, if if.. so many things that could have been different from what they were.

The shadow of that sensation, of not being enough, has clung to me since the moment I walked past the immigration counter and back into my life as an American. Is it fear and self-doubt that still dogs me, or humility?

This has also been a year of mentorship. I've looked into the eyes of those rising after and with me at the Clinton Global Initiative University, in my students at UNC, at the Doris Duke Conservation Fellows gathering, and during my everyday interactions with my classmates and friends. I have offered what I know.

More experienced, thoughtful individuals have spoken their wisdom at conferences, through lectures, in the classroom and over coffee, and even at the family dinner table. I have tried to do the same, when called to it. And yet, ever the words of Plato echo in my ears as I do, "Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something." The trick is in knowing when wisdom is needed.

Lastly, this has been a year of committing to big dreams. Living and dancing in New York is, at last, less than a year away from me. I have beside me the skeleton of a business plan that may change me beyond imagining. Now comes the realization of my decade-long desire as a mentor and coach, to help others find opportunity. The possibility of a summer with lions in Africa hovers. These are the things I have "always wanted to do," that I now set my eyes and fingertips upon. 

So then, no New Year's Resolutions. I know now that it is not enough to be present every day. One can be present in a classroom all year and learn nothing. A dear friend once wrote to me, "Who are you? ...You are not to live by muddling along." I should know better. To carry the weight of such dreams is to stumble, exhausted, after mere minutes. To dance with it, to be present and also constantly moving, adjusting and loving - that is my future. That, is how I will love.

Happy New Year.
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