I'm writing along with Sarah & Kim for #reverb15. I'm still catching up because life, but I plan to keep responding as I can. Creature of habit or lover of change? This year were you a creature of habit? Or did you seek change? Or a combination of both?

As a kid who moved every few years, change was part of my life. I didn't mind not staying in one place or not having the same friends since grade school. My reality wasn't better or worse than that, just different. I spent a lot of time at other people's houses, lived summers with relatives, and later, a job where I spent the summer in the Alabama forest working as a camp counselor. Homesickness was foreign to me; being a nomad was its own kind of comfort, not feeling tied to anyone or anything, the knowledge you could always leave. Even in college, I thought the restlessness that would come over me was something everyone felt.

My very nature resists structure while the anxious side of me craves a bit of routine, of doing things by muscle memory, a kind of thoughts switched off, body on type progression. It's why I like working out, to be honest. When I'm pushing myself  to do more physically, my mind can't interrupt me with annoying thoughts and incessant worry.  On one hand, I crave new experiences and on the other I try to have a contingency plan for everything. Sometimes I feel like these facets of me war with one another, and it's exhausting.

I chose "explore" as my word for the year with the intention that I would consciously seek out new experiences. (And tell those anxiety gremlins to shut up). I wanted to invite a sense of adventure, of putting myself out of the familiar, of learning to enjoy the unplanned scenario. I wanted to approach the world with a sense of wonder, to be an explorer every day and take notice of the world around me.

Every month I tried to do something new or say yes to something that would typically scare me or cause me to worry or feel anxious.

Here are a few things I tried:

Zumba, Shockwave and Strength Training classes Tons of new recipes: These Mediterranean Turkey Loaves were a fave Setting an alarm for bedtime (and trying to set a nightly routine) 30/30 challenge (where I did some kind of physical activity for 1 mile a day in May) It was a fantastic experience and really helped to keep me motivated toward fitness. New writing projects Changed up some of my syllabus policies and first day of class routines Asking for advice more frequently New podcasts: Fell in love with Lore and Switched on Pop

I also know that my tendency as a rebel is to resist things I don't want to do, so finding ways to challenge myself while creating new habits in order to stick with it was probably the greatest change of the year. Creating internal motivation is really tough for me and I often have to trick myself in order to do things. I set timers for grading, timers for sitting on the couch, timers for reading, etc. And usually, before the timer went off I was doing whatever needed to be done. Not always, but sometimes.

While much of this year focused on changing habits for me, I do think I tried to stick with some strategies that I knew worked. I know how important comfort is to my psyche and pushing myself out of that zone was problematic at times while other times it was like "yeah, let's do this!" Having "explore" as my word for the year served as a significant motivation for me, and I'm really grateful for the way it helped me frame the year.



Traditions. What traditions did you observe this year? Did you start any new ones? The concept of tradition is really interesting to me. Sometimes, as a culture, we get caught up in the tradition of doing something without questioning why or how it might evolve or change. For some people, traditions are really important, bordering on superstition. Historically, tradition as a concept was about passing on beliefs, objects, values, or customs from one generation to the next. And perhaps it still is, but I'm not sure everyone thinks about it in those terms.

There's a familiarity with traditions; they become embedded in societal rules and expectations, like brides wearing white dresses, which actually didn't become popular until the 19th century when Queen Victoria's wedding portrait of her white lace dress was widely circulated. The color white isn't meant to symbolize virginity or purity in any way, contrary to beliefs otherwise.

There's a pretty big part of me that enjoys bucking tradition. (I had a pirate-themed wedding at a bowling alley for goodness' sake). But I do understand the comfort it brings. I understand feeling as though you're continuing something that people long before you also did but I think there a ways to honor tradition while being yourself. The year my great-grandmother died, I was determined to make her chicken and dumplings for our family's Christmas gathering. Everyone, and especially my father, looked forward to dumplings and I didn't want to disappoint them. I remember in the months before she died, asking her to show me how to make them. She stood with her walker against the counter, shouting out instructions. She smiled at my horror when I was tasked with deboning a chicken. Being a part of the ritual of learning her recipes, of putting them into practice when she was no longer able to, was a sacred experience. So, I understand why meditation and prayer and similar rituals are powerful and comforting.

When I was in middle school, my mom started Christmas morning with Pillsbury orange danishes. Each year, we'd ask her if we could have the danishes for Christmas breakfast. We had them other times, too, but it was particularly part of our Christmas tradition. When my brother was in college and visiting for the holidays, he said something about looking forward to orange danishes. My mother had forgotten about it, so I went to the grocery store on Christmas Eve to get the orange danishes so we'd have them Christmas morning. My brother takes his traditions seriously, and many them seem to revolve around food.

After moving to the Midwest, I used my breaks between semesters to visit my family so there were some Thanksgivings and Christmases that I didn't spend with M. Although lately, we spend Christmas together because the times we didn't made me pretty miserable. But no matter what else is going on, we've always managed to spend July 4th together and watch fireworks. I love fireworks. I love how they make me feel like a little kid. When I worked at Disneyworld there was a firework show every night. And each night, (if I was working) I’d walk outside and stand with my fellow employees and watch the show. Disney fireworks were spectacular explosions of colors, unexpected combinations, designs. There seemed to be a stillness in me as I watched the fireworks. That time in my life was extremely tumultuous and chaotic. But during the firework show things quieted. One of my favorite Disney fireworks experience was during Christmas. The gang of people with whom I lived and worked went to Epcot. Our time together was ending; we were missing our family at the holidays and we had nothing else to do. We had dinner at an Italian place inside Epcot and then stuck around for the fireworks. They were amazing. They spelled Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays in the air. They lit up the night and seemed to fall into the water as they faded. I remember the vibrant colors, shades I never imagined fireworks could be. Deep blues and purples, bright tangerines, greens. I loved the patterns and tried naming each one, starburst, silly swirls, curling wonder, but they came too quickly into the sky and then disappeared.

M and I have watched many fireworks displays throughout the 11 years we've been together. Each year, I look forward to spending that time together, and ultimately no matter what the tradition is, I think the people you share it with are really what makes it.

Holidays seem to give us many traditions. There are Christmas traditions I especially like: watching Charlie Brown's Christmas and drinking hot chocolate, driving around looking at Christmas lights, getting new pajamas, but I've also allowed for holiday traditions (and others) to evolve because when you join someone else's family, you embrace their traditions, too, or create your own.