Feb 13, 2013

Happy New Year…Again


I believe very strongly that you are what you do, not what you aspire to do. This sounds like a bad self-help book, but let me explain.

If I introduced myself to you as Jesse, a musician, you would probably, politely, ask me what instrument I play. Oh, I don’t really play anything, I’d reply. I’d like to play something. Sometimes I think very hard about how I’d like a guitar. Maybe I’ll even buy one and take lessons one day. I imagine the conversation would get uncomfortable at this point, and we’d start talking talking about the weather.

You are what you make time to do right now. You are what you prioritize. When I was little, I read books every spare minute I could. I was a reader. Do you know what makes me a reader now? That I read books. Not that I did read books 20 years ago. That I read books now.

I’m not trying to make any grand statements about identity and what it means. That’s above my pay grade. There is more to you than what you do, obviously. What I am trying to say is that if I call myself a writer, but spend all my free time organizing my cabinets because I’m too scared or too intimidated to sit down and write, then I’m not a writer, I’m a person with these great gray shelf liners that really pull my mismatched mugs together. (For real. It’s so orderly in there.)

I also don’t mean that it’s wrong to have more than one thing going on, or that it’s wrong to be in a season of life that changes your priorities or moves them out of your control. I do think that you need to be honest with yourself about why your priorities are different and if they’re really out of your control. Of course, when I say “you,” I mean “me.”

Today a friend asked me how often I write. I rounded the number up and then hid under my keyboard.

January was a stupid month. It was supposed to be a blank slate: Roommate moved back home, 2013 began, and I had a fresh start. I was going to get things done. Instead, I watched a lot of StarTrek. I was sick for a good chunk of the month, and for the rest I felt like a failure relationally, emotionally, professionally, spiritually, domestically, financially, automobily. Some things were not my fault (my car needed a new axel!), some things were (I backed into a parked car!).

I’m not totally sure what January being a dumb month has to do with being what you do, but I do know that I’m tired. I feel like a failure and like I can’t handle this stuff on my own. Like this might be what it feels like to learn humility and to depend on Christ and I don’t like it one bit.

I can’t changes my circumstances, but I can change how I respond to them. I can understand my limits. I can learn. Anne Lamott likes to say that you can start a new 24-hour period any time you like. I want to say that I’m going to apply that to my year, but not in a way that means I get a blank slate. Consequences are okay. I need to learn what I’m learning. I can’t do this by myself and I wasn’t made to. What I want is to drive a stake in the ground to mark the time when I stopped hiding and stopped moping. To take this 45 day period for what it was, and keep trudging. To do what I must do. Happy New Year. Carry on.



  • it’s good to see you writing again. this is how we became friends. i also like how your voice comes across both bold and playful and very Jesse. these are all good things.

    • Thanks, Eric. 🙂

  • It’s tough to be what you do when you spend half of the month not doing what you do. If you spent a lot of January being sick and the rest of the time working the day job and dealing with big issues, such as a broken car, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for other things, like cleaning the house and nurturing yourself.

    You’re right: it stinks. My January was terrible, too, and I’m still trying to get back on my feet (maybe by March 1…). All I can think is that God’s timing is perfect.

    Good for you for starting again. Sometimes that’s the hardest part. Keep going!

    • Thanks, Erin. I hope you get yourself back on your feet soon. 🙂

  • I firmly believe you can be a writer and a person with great gray shelf-liners that really pull your mismatched mugs together.

    Also. I love this. The part where it’s the real you and there’s a kick in the pants and also a lot of grace and a lot of honesty. Sometimes we need to kick our own selves in the pants. I think I do it about every third day (which is not as often as I should do).

    I love you the most.

    • Thanks, Sharoney. I know I can have the shelf-liners and the writing, it’s just that I didn’t. So now I’ll work on that. 🙂

      Also, you know what’s hard? Being honest in a blog post.

  • “you can start a new 24-hour period any time you like.” ~ I love this…I, too, didn’t start off this new year as I had hoped. But, all is NOT lost…starting again with my baggage in tow ~ Happy New 24!

  • I’m torn between commenting a “you go, girl” or a “just keep swimming,” so how about a “you go, just keep swimming, girl”?

    A fresh slate doesn’t have to come just because you have to buy a new calendar. It sounds easier that way, but fresh slates really shouldn’t come that easily, right?

    But I think you’re great and I hope you write more because you inadvertently (or not) make me think about things. This post is just great.

  • Excellent post. I think January wears us all down, for some reason. Even this month seems a bit better. Also I should mention that your tweeting kept me cheered up all month, even if you were feeling bad. So thank you.

  • Jesse,
    By the way my daughter’s name is Jessi and she is not a Jessica just Jessi. I laughed out loud when you said “I rounded the number up and then hid under my keyboard.” I’m still laughing. You may not be writing as often as you like but there is no doubt you are a writer! I am trying something this year I have never tried before. I am doing 30 day challenges. In January I drunk 4 bottles of water a day and in February I am drinking a cup of green tea a day trying to develop a taste for it( aint happened yet). You know green tea the super good for all that ails you drink. I am thinking of one month making it a goal to write for 15 minutes a day. Usually when I commit to a small goal I usually end up doing more. Often it is the starting that keeps me stuck in neutral. I wish you well.

  • Mmmm, yes, sounds like a tough month. I’m glad you’re coming out of it so soon. Sometimes those slumps can last for years. (Not that I would know anything about that, aheh heh *shifty eyes*.) But at least you watched a lot of Star Trek. *No one* can hit rock bottom if they’re watching Star Trek! Depending on the series maybe.

    Also I too liked that Anne Lamott quote. I should bump her up on my reading list.

  • I love these thoughts, Jesse. Such a good reminder than any day can be New Year’s Day. Here’s to a year of daily grace!

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