As of yesterday, I'm 31. Feels okay. It's funny how 30 felt so old to me, because 31 feels young. It's funny that a number can "feel" anything, but it does.
A friend asked me yesterday what I learned this past year (she phrased it better than that though because everything that ever comes out of her mouth is careful and eloquent) and I stared at her and didn't answer right away (because nothing that ever comes out of my mouth is careful or eloquent; my spoken words just kind of barge out like a middle-aged lady at Costco on a Saturday afternoon).
(There's a thing that I've tried to learn this past year, to be more careful and eloquent with my speech. But I'm pretty far from being able to say that it's a learned thing rather than a learning thing.)
I thought about that question on the drive home. What did I learn this past year? An easier question would be, what changed in your life this past year? or what did you accomplish this past year? or what new wrinkles or recurring physical pains or attitude glitches have you acquired this past year? What things do you wish you'd learned this year or what things did you work on this year or what was your favorite color this year or where did you live this year or how old are you, Suzy? Do you like spaghetti? Sorry for making you think so deeply; would you like to take a nap?
I just kept thinking of that old Albert Einstein quote: "The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know." Because I feel like this year, I just learned that I don't know very much, or that I have a lot of things I need to learn.
I'm sure there's some kind of peripheral wisdom you gain when you learn that you don't know something. And surely sometimes you learn the thing you've learned you didn't know—sometimes that's how you learn you didn't know it before. But sometimes you just learn that you don't know something and then you go on trying to figure out that thing. And you think, "Man, there must be a lot of things I don't know, if I don't know this."
Growing up is a blast.
But, okay, now I'm going to actually try to answer the question instead of annoyingly talking around it:
One thing I've learned is that envy and jealousy are not the same thing(!!). Jealous is vigilant (the dragon jealously guards its treasure) and envy is covetous (the adventurer is envious of the dragon's treasure). I learned this on Twitter, courtesy of someone named 'chillmage.' Fascinating.
I've learned other things about envy and jealousy too, less to do with their definitions and more to do with their impact on my life and relationships.
I've learned patience, in many areas, because I've done a lot of waiting this year, on a lot of things and people and situations.
I've learned a thing or two about empathy, about what it really means to care about someone enough to feel their pain and to let that effect the way that you treat them and think about them.
I've learned a bit about friendship. About how it comes and how it goes and how to deal with it when it goes. Oh, and the importance of the friends that stay year after year. It's harder to be a good friend when you're an adult, when your kids aren't sleeping well or you're in different life stages from each other or when you both have super busy schedules. One of the things I'm still trying to learn is how to be a good friend.
I've learned to say no. It's been an overwhelming year—maybe the most overwhelming year of my life, to be honest—and I've felt guilty at times about how little of myself I have to give to people outside of the few big things we've had going on around here. But I'm doing what I can do, taking care of the things on my list in the right order (I hope), and cutting the list off when I've reached my full capacity. I've learned that I have a smaller capacity than some of the people around me, and that that's okay too.
Okay, so maybe that's not such a hard question after all, because now that I've started I feel like I could keep going. But also, I have work to do and places to go. So this will have to be an introspective activity from here on—which is okay and probably even better.