He has removed my brothers far from me,
And my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.
My relatives have failed,
And my intimate friends have forgotten me.
Dear Everyone I’ve Neglected Over The Past Year,
This letter is for you.
I’m sorry that I’ve neglected and ignored you, not returned your emails and said “Let’s get together,” without ever following up.
I’m sorry I didn’t call or write you letters like I used to.
I’m sorry I didn’t spontaneously email.
I’m sorry I didn’t try to keep in touch with what happened in your life, what you’re worried about and what you’re excited about.
I’m sorry all I wanted to talk about was bikes, routes, miles, and hills.
I’m sorry I never invited you over to our apartment for dinner and games and hanging out.
I’m sorry I didn’t come to your place to spend time with you.
I’m sorry that all I cared about in 2008 was me.
Now I realize, as I sit here alone in our apartment on a frigid Saturday morning, that I’m truly alone. I have isolated myself from people who cared about me and I have nobody to call when my heart breaks, or even for just a good chat. I haven’t pursued new friendships with coworkers or people at church or other people in my life. As college friends moved away I let relationships with them slide away, too. My high school friendships have become faded memories of times when I had a dozen people to invite over.
Now I have none. I couldn’t have a party with my friends if I wanted to.
So what did I do with myself last year that was worth more than maintaining and building relationships? At the time it seemed so important – training for my three long rides, recovering from training rides, and then, when they finished up, starting to hunt for jobs in Seattle. But looking back at 2008, I realize that although I did ride a century, an MS 150, and the 200-mile STP, I didn’t find lasting pleasure in those accomplishments.
Afterwards I started looking for jobs in the Northwest, and watched with dismay as the economy crashed down around our ears. “Not the best time to find a new job,” I heard people saying; “Just be glad you have a job,” I’ve heard all too often, too. Searching for jobs via the Internet may be relatively easy, but it doesn’t really work, either. Three months of searching in vain brought a few phone interviews and one serious possibility, which ended in gut-wrenching disaster. The echo of “If only you were here in Washington” echoed from every person we talked to; it became agonizingly clear that only a megacorp like Microsoft would even consider flying out low-level peons like ourselves for an interview. Yet we even received news of Microsoft tightening its belt, cutting back on hiring, and buckling down to weather the economic crisis. That can’t bode well, we thought to ourselves, for our chances of finding jobs at smaller, more human-sized companies, especially while we’re out of state.
By the late fall, we let our hope of returning to Seattle imminently slip miserably away in favor of holding the high cards we have: Two good-paying, stable jobs at companies that aren’t about to go belly-up.
About then I realized that I’d spent the last year telling myself, “You won’t be in New England much longer; why even try to keep up with New England people? Soon you’ll be making all new friends in the Northwest.” I let so many things slide because “we’ll just be leaving soon.” What I didn’t realize was that people matter so much more than location; that relationships – not jobs, not athletic activities, not personal entertainment – make life worth living. That being the case, then I’d just disemboweled my own reason for living.
For me, reflecting on 2008 is an exercise in emptiness. Knowing that, I know what I don’t want 2009 to look like when I think back on it in the future. This year could easily leave the same awful taste in my mouth, the taste of complacency and self-pleasing that’s so delicious in the moment but that fades into bitterness afterwards. I refuse to let 2009 become the failure that I see in 2008; in the coming year, yes, I plan on riding many miles training for the STP. But I’m also going to try to reach out to those of you I’ve neglected for the last year or year and a half; expect letters, emails, and phone calls. If you’re in New England – so few of you are – expect invitations to our apartment for dinner, games, movies, and hang-out time. I refuse to continue in the self-serving path I started blazing this past year. Help hold me to this, dear friends. God made us to love Him and love one another, to relate, to love, to care.
God willing, this year will be one in which I learn to love others more than myself.
Edit to add: Please don’t get the impression I’m depressed or wallowing in my failures of the past year. I’m content with where we are now, have accepted life as God has given it to us for the present, and am focusing on living fully in the moment and not repeating my mistakes. This post is reflective, trying to verbalize what I didn’t like about last year and what I want to focus on in the future. Today I went for a chilly 25-mile ride that felt purifying, like a new start, being baptized and beginning all over again. It’s called grace, living in grace, and God pours it out like cleansing water on those of us who need it.