December Reflections 11: biggest lesson from 2016


I wrote a little yesterday about how some projects have to be carried over from year to year; they are just too big to be fitted neatly into an arbitrary twelve-month period.

Lessons, in my experience, are like that but even more so. They aren’t like projects. You can’t stick a cover on them and pronounce them done, because it always turns out that there’s more to learn.

There are different levels of learning. There’s understanding the theory. There’s knowing how to carry out the practice. There’s the slogging away without being able to see any change or development. There’s the moment of revelation when you finally get what everyone’s been trying to explain to you all the while you’ve been learning this. There’s the moment of revelation when you finally get it, and understand how much more you have to learn, that everything that you’ve learned up to this point is – not wrong, but incomplete, a sketch map that’s got you this far, but isn’t actually the landscape itself.

I started learning the biggest lesson of 2016 in 2015, if not in 2012. And my goodness, it’s a big one. I haven’t finished learning it yet. In fact, I’ve barely started.

In 2012, I learned what burnout felt like. Full ahead. Hitting the wall.

In 2015, I remembered what burnout felt like. Full ahead. Hitting the wall.

In 2016, I started wondering whether it was possible to get out of the cycle; wondering if there was an alternative to either working full-tilt or being embedded in the wall. Wondering if I could stop a stage or two earlier, before I hit the wall.

Wondering if I’d got things wrong altogether. Wondering if it was really about work after all. Wondering if I was, after all, a decent human being even if I wasn’t knee-deep in some project to change the world.

In 2017, I plan to explore different ways of interacting with work, with activism, with writing, with church, with all the other things that request my time, my involvement, my effort.

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