It’s January. January means many things- the beginning of a new year, the end of a holiday season, a time to reflect on the past, and a time to consider aspirations and ideas for the upcoming 12 months. So far, this week has been a mix of all of those things, but it has also signified another particular event for me this year.
The end of advent calendars.
I’ve always enjoyed advent calendars, but admittedly probably went a little overboard this time around.
All of this “adventing” had me thinking a lot about the concept of advent, but it also got me thinking a lot about my approach to life over the last year.
The word advent has a history in traditions of faith, and comes from the Latin word “coming.” Advent season is traditionally the four weeks before Christmas, and serves as a time of expectancy, watching, and preparing for the arrival of Christmas.
The advent calendar finds its origins in the newsprint industry, where a German newspaper included an advent calendar counting down the days to Christmas with cardboard photos hidden behind little paper doors as a gift to its readers.
I noticed a few things about myself during the month-long advent extravaganza. I tried alot of new things. I didn’t get through every ink, sticker, pencil, and tea- but I certainly tried more new things in December than I had tried all year. Trying something new every day became a sort of daily habit, and there was something refreshing about that habit. I joked one day that should take all the stationery in my collection and make myself a year-long advent calendar. It was a joke at the time, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea. That specific set up would be a little too restricting and time-consuming- but the mindset is something I haven’t stopped thinking about since.
The last year has been an interesting one for me in a lot of ways. Many things from 2018 will surely bleed over into these 2019 Year of Advent posts, but here’s just enough background to give you context.
The scariest thing I did all year: I went way in over my head professionally licensed a pharmacy from the ground up and launched a brand new investigational drug service at my hospital.
The most frustrating part of my year: That major professional project put me way behind on (everything, but especially) another significant goal still stuck to my back like the heaviest of backpacks- my dissertation for my PhD. This year IS the finishing year.
One of my favorite things I did this year: I attended more pen shows than ever from DC to Denver, helping out at the infamous NibSmith at several shows, and traveling to Toronto for the second year in a row. Lisa Anderson even dubbed me a “pen show roadie” so I’m going to call that official. :) There is so much to say about these shows, and I plan to continue to hit the pen show circuit as much as I can in 2019. You can bet that will make it into the advent calendar. For now here are a few photos from this year’s adventures. ❤️🖋
Overall, 2019 was an extreme version of a default pattern I’ve learned about myself. I do a lot of “doing.” I don’t think that’s an uncommon default in today's culture-not by a long shot. Doing isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. But sometimes the overwhelm of busyness keeps me from trying new things and from meaningful progress. And even more ironic, sometimes the more I do, the less growth I feel even within the progress I do make.
In all my thinking about advent and trying new things, I started researching the process of trial and error and experiential learning in general, and the cycle itself was even more revealing.
I realized I spend a majority of my entire life on the left side of this cycle.
Do it. Now what? Do it. Now what?
This applies to many areas of my life; my work habits, my information consumption habits, my social media habits, and even my purchasing habits. It strikes me how little time I have spent reflecting on what I do and attributing meaning to my actions. I think those missing pieces are one of the primary drivers of the dichotomy between doing so much and feeling so little progress.
So here’s to an entire year of advent.
The kind of advent that goes deeper than just doing, and is more than simply trying new things.
The kind of advent that takes time to notice what’s working, and is brave enough to face the things that are not.
The kind of advent that celebrates progress no matter how small, and strategically selects next steps based on that progress.
Re-launching the blog seemed like the perfect place to document the year ahead and dialogue with others about these ideas for two specific reasons.
1) This year of advent will undoubtedly include trying new stationery. However, I also hope this year I can also explore things on a different level, sharing ways I attempt to utilize stationery on a day-to-day basis, and sometimes fail. In particular, I want to think more deeply about when and why I use analog tools versus when and why I use technology and trial and error new ways of doing things across both domains.
2) Stationery will likely also serve a significant role in implementing the “What?” and “So what?” side of the trial and error cycle. Paper has a way of slowing people down. I’m not very good at that. You can expect posts focused on new experiences, reflections, conceptualizations, and experiments. Sometimes stationery will be the end and sometimes stationery will be the means to the end. Sometimes stationery might even lead to a dead end. #PlotTwist
Happy new year everybody!
"Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change - this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress." ~ Bruce Barton