How I Keep Calm: Happy New Year

How have you been keeping calm during the pandemic? Carillon

Inspired by, How I Keep Calm is our new series featuring different ways students are finding peace and contentment during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It’s amazing to think of everything I’ve forgotten since last fall. This year has been full of so many events – the good, the bad, the global traumas, one rapid-fire shift after another. I try to remember the most important moments, the things that terrified me or gave me a sense of profound peace, but there’s always the chance they could slip away. 

After all – around this time last year, what was on my mind? What was I worried about, and hoping for? What did I think might happen in the year ahead? It’s easy to look back and come up with a whole litany of how things turned out, but accurately remembering who you  used to be is no mean feat.

That’s why I’m so glad I do 10Q. 10Q is a neat little exercise that takes place during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (which is decidedly less cool holiday Lag B’Omer, the Jewish archery-and-bonfires holiday, but still pretty awesome), where you can sign up to get a question sent to your inbox every day between the start of Rosh Hashanah and the end of Yom Kippur – ten questions for ten days. Then your answers get sealed away in the digital vault until the next year, where you get to revisit your past self’s state of mind before you start answering the questions all over again. 

And these questions really are designed to get you thinking, from day one’s “describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?” to day five’s “Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? ‘Spiritual’ can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural and so forth.”

When I got the email saying my 2019 answers were available to view, I was incredibly excited to be reminded of what I had written a year ago – and as I read through them, I even learned a few important things about myself and my life.

On day four (“describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?”) in 2019, I wrote about feeling disappointed in myself for not being able to be as present in one of my friend’s projects as I wanted to be. I had all but forgotten that project in the twelve months that had passed, but seeing this answer spurred me to check in with them and commit to being more present going forward. 

10Q also allowed past-me to reach through time and space and metaphorically slap myself in the face with my ridiculous tendency to underestimate myself. This year, for day six (“Describe one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?”), I’ve tried to set a much more ambitious goal, so I maybe won’t leave it in the dust by October. 

And there are some really lovely moments, too. Day ten asks “when [next September] rolls around and you receive your answers to your 10Q questions, how do you think you’ll feel? What do you think/hope might be different about your life and where you’re at as a result about thinking about and answering these questions?”

Here’s what I answered, back in 2019: 

“I think my life will be much more secure (at least, I hope it will be). I think I will look back on this time in my life as exhausting, exhilarating, frightening, precarious, full of guilt and hope and loneliness and love and friends. I’m still asking myself the question my brother asked me, which is “What would this look like if it were easy?” And maybe this time next year, I’ll know.”

And, reader: one year later, I do know.

So as I finish up my last 10Q answers for this year, documenting my joys, fears, memories and aspirations from 2020, I am full of hope for the person who will be here next year to read them. 

Where will she be? What will she be doing? What will her life be like? I don’t know!

But I know, whatever happens, she will have a chance to remember me as I am right now – and doing 10Q, engaging with these questions, is both how I keep a grasp on the ways in which the events of this year are actually impacting me as I live through them, and a reaffirmation that I am worth remembering exactly as I am.

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