Before we all start planning who we’ll be in 2019—what we’ll change, what we’ll focus on, what we’ll be sure to appreciate more—I’m curious: who were you this year? Who was I?
I tend to think in sense memory. In story. In words you can write down or say out loud.
So—inspired by writing work my friend and extraordinary playwright Howard Craft does with teachers—I created a step-by-step way for you to write your own story from 2018.
You might actually write it down—and if you do, I’d love to read it. If you’re scrolling through this on your phone in the bathroom extending your alone time just a few more minutes, and you might just let the questions simmer for you.
I did both (simmered for a couple of days, and then wrote it all down this morning), and both ways helped me consider the new year in a way I never have before. Here’s how to do it. And you can see my story—my Who I Was In 2018—under that.
Who You Were in 2018: A Step-by-Step Guide
Write down the following ten times, and leave space to complete the sentences: “I am a woman/man/person who . . . “
Now finish each line with the answers to these questions.
Line 1: How did you show up in the world, on the outside? Were you dependable or hopeful or hiding like a freaked out kitty cat?
Line 2: How did you feel much of the time, on the inside? Were you cynical or full of love or mostly happy even in crisis?
Line 3: Who did you show up for in a big way?
Line 4: And who saved your ass more times than you can count?
Line 5: What do you wish you had done less of?
Line 6: And what are you so glad you spent your time doing?
Line 7: What was your worst time?
Line 8: What was your best time?
Line 9: What are you doing these last few days of the year?
Line 10: What will you have done or been 365 days from now?
Read. Consider. Edit at will. Let things bubble up. Send to me, if you’re willing.
And here’s mine:
Who I Was in 2018
I am the woman who smiled a lot because she likes smiling, who was able to handle things I’ve-got-this-I-can-do-that-don’t-worry-but-it-will-almost-definitely-be-at-the-last-minute, who had a hard stop because I always had somewhere to be any minute.
I am the woman who was both confident and scared out of my ever-loving mind, who was full of love and tired in the deepest way.
I am the woman who researched, reached out, scheduled doctor’s appointments, went to doctor’s appointments, planned for acupuncture and massage and herbs, kept my mom in the hospital, kept my husband out of the hospital, made special food, said go to bed, sat there when there was nothing else for it but to sit there.
I am the woman who was saved by my colleagues who stepped in/stepped up, my students with their curiosity, my mother-in-law helping tote those trashcans down the steps in the cold and dark, my friends gathered at Neomonde gathered in Wilmington gathered at a campsite saying yes-we’ll-have-your-kid-over, that guy at the DMV, my husband asking the right questions at the right times, my aunts on the other end of the phone, the five people on the other end of my letters, my kid telling it like it is. And my mother. Sweet mercy what did I do to get this mother?
I am the woman who could have looked at her phone less. Far, far, far less.
I am the woman who wrote a lot and read a lot and worked on stories—her own and other people’s. Who loved the time I spent one-on-one and with small groups of excellent people, who loves people, who would do those over and over and over again.
I am the woman who would not want to repeat December 1 or December 11.
But I would happily repeat December 12 or October 20 or September 1 or June 1 or May 3 or April 28 or January 27 or lots of other days.
I am the woman who is spending the last few days of this year trying to buy glasses before the year changes on my vision insurance, trying to replace our car, trying to buy a few more Christmas presents. But also making a gingerbread house (finally), seeing a movie, reaching out to people I love.
I am the woman who, at this time next year, will have an almost-8-year-old child, will have given help and asked for help many times, will have handwritten 52 new pieces based on real people’s stories and mailed them in 2,704 letters (give or take). I will know what that was like.