Sometime early last month, I was talking about a trip I took to Canada in May. I was reliving some of my favorite moments and thinking about all that has changed since. Then, as it frequently happens this time of year, I found myself shocked at how an event that seemed like a “forever ago” memory was really only a handful of months removed.
But rather than start an internal spiral over the endless passing of time, my inner dialogue smiled and said, ah, I suppose that’s because we’re living a really rich and fulfilling life.
Ever since then, I’ve been sitting with the phrase “rich and fulfilling life.” At first, I was tickled by the idea, and made a sort of “top ten” list in my head of all the exciting things that had happened since that May trip—things like weddings and family trips, a marathon and a baby shower, new friends and new adventures, and lots and lots of vegan baked goods. It was fun to play my year’s highlight reel in my head as I geared up for the end of December (and the season of peak reflection and nostalgia).
But what does rich and fulfilling mean? By the time I was ready to erase the words from my white board, they’d taken an almost permanent spot amongst shorter scribbles of people I need to call or grocery list items. Sure, my year was punctuated by witnessing and celebrating life-changing moments for my loved ones like when friends shared their wedding vows; announced their pregnancies; bought homes; and started new careers. And, of course, I was thrilled to be able to travel and visit with so many people I love over the past 365 days. There were so many big, anticipated trips and activities that one plans for weeks or even months. Certainly, those days make life rich and fulfilling.
But the more I think about what made this year so special is that I loved those in between days. I loved the weeks where I wasn’t doing anything life-changing. I loved the quiet evenings where I sipped tea and read a good book. I loved the early mornings running through my neighborhood before the summer sun scorched the pavement. I reveled in routines as simple as the way each morning I switch my personal and work computers from their spots on the desk versus the shelf and how each evening when I’m done for the day, I repeat the ritual in reverse.
I lived for the way that first gulp of water tastes after I’ve brushed my teeth in the morning and for the subtle shake I feel in my belly as I’m rounding the final seconds of my 2-minute morning plank. I found wonder in the way a whooshing subway train could blow my hair back with cooling air in steamy summer months and in the way that my unusually sticky mailbox key sometimes worked without an extra jiggle.
In retracing the busyness of the year, I realized what stood out to me most wasn’t necessarily the big stuff. It was washing my bedsheets, pajamas, and bath towels on the same day and feeling like I’d achieved peak cleanliness as I burrowed into the covers after a hot shower. It was dropping a grape behind the refrigerator and then, miraculously, retrieving it. It was finding my favorite vegan products on sale at the grocery store. It was seeking joy. And it was everywhere.
I hope you feel optimistic about this new year. I hope you can carry that light with you through the coming months. I hope you have something you are looking forward to or maybe a few somethings. But I’m reminded now that we don’t need “life-changing” to feel as though we are rich and fulfilled.
Tonight, I feel fulfilled by a sink with no dirty dishes and an unread New Yorker on my bed, urging me to finish typing and indulge in it. Tonight, I feel rich because I get to spend the last hours of a fleeting vacation working on something I care about… writing to you. I hope that, with this new year, you are able to lean into what makes you feel rich and fulfilled—and that, on days when that feels impossible, you take solace in knowing you can start again tomorrow.