2018 really wasn’t my year.


My New Years’ celebration was on the quiet side. Normally I’d think that the lack of festivities would feel like a big downer, but I was mostly just excited to turn the page on to a new year.

Last year wasn’t a good one for me, overall. There were some nice moments, but there were also times where it felt like I was being hit by a wave of bad news, and times where I felt completely stuck. Without running up a massive word count to explain how rough it was, I’ll just say that at its worst it made me wonder if my best days were all in the past.

I’m glad I chose to stay hopeful, in spite of all that, but it wasn’t the easiest thing to do. I’m ready for the restart that comes with changing the calendar.

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Picking a theme word for the year doesn’t work for me.

You know that thing people do where they pick a theme word for the new year?

Yeah, that usually doesn’t work for me.

I remember I tried it one year. I think the word I picked was generosity. I tried to practice it, but I don’t think there was anything different about that year that made it more of a “Year of Generosity” than any other.

I learned some other valuable stuff instead. I learned that life can be full, rich, and beautiful, even when difficult and tragic things happen right alongside the good times. I learned to seek fullness and not just happiness.

It was a year of fullness. Generosity? Ehhhh.

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Here’s how I’m framing 2019:

I’ve found it a little more helpful to think about how I’m framing the upcoming year. I want to leave enough room for surprises and unpredictability, but to still approach the year with purpose.

If starting a new year was a bit like starting a new season of a TV show, then what plot points would be the important ones from the get go? What would be the initial motivation of your main character? What themes, settings, or challenges would you tease in the trailer?

Things don’t often go the way you expect them to. The best shows deliberately throw you curveballs. But thinking in trailer-mode helps to get stuff off the ground.

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Starting with a pair of open hands.

This year, I’m trying to keep my hands and my heart a little bit more open, which is part of the reason why I’m approaching my goal-setting and planning a little more loosely.

Overall, I think that intentionality is a good thing, but it’s also possible to start over-planning. Last year, I really struggled with things not going according to expectations, and I know I want some more room for curiosity and wonder.

I love the image of open hands. Holding things loosely. Ready to freely give or to freely receive. 


Receiving, rather than managing, life.

Speaking of receiving, Richard Rohr says that “We tend to manage life more than just live it… we are trained to be managers, to organize life, to make things happen. That is what built our culture. It is not all bad, but if you transfer that to the spiritual life, it is pure heresy.”

“We can’t manage, maneuver or manipulate spiritual energy,” he states. “It is a matter of letting go and receiving what is being given freely.”

Managing gives me a sense of importance that isn’t always good for me. Receiving fills me with wonder. I’m aiming to do more of the latter this year.

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Celebrating a decade of photos every day.

2019 will be my 10th year of taking photos every single day.

It’s crazy to think that my Project 365 will be turning ten years old now. I’ve become a much better photographer over the course of a decade, but that project was never really about the photos.

It was a physical activity that paralleled what happened in my spiritual life at the same time. I decided to fully engage. I surprised myself, that year, by finding out how much wonder and adventure life had to offer. I went from like I was missing out, to feeling like I had an abundance of life.

I still have no idea how long I’ll keep going. The ten year mark might be my most opportune window to end this project in a punctuated way, but we’ll see.

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Getting ready for 30.

As a perk of being born on a ‘zero’ year, the 2010s will always be synonymous with my twenties. When I look back, it’s been a really good decade.

2010 began with a decision to fully commit to my faith and to treat life like a gift. In the years between then and now, I’ve made lifelong friends, I graduated, I studied in Italy and Argentina, and I lived out of a van. Then I spent time living in South Africa and Oregon, visited almost 40 more countries, worked for a bit as a teacher, finished grad school, got married, and moved to San Diego to start my dream job.

That’s a lot, but I still can’t believe the decade is nearly over. I’m hoping to end it well.

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Making this place our home.

One way I would love to end the decade would be to finally feel at home where I live.

I haven’t stayed in the same city for three years at all since I was a teenager. I’ve loved getting a good mix of experiences and meeting people, but in some ways that constant movement has taken its toll. I really miss feeling connected to the people around me and the place where I live. I miss having a rich sense of community, and I haven’t felt like I’ve had that in about five years.

I hoped to do that last year, but I also didn’t make that easy on myself. I think I traveled too much. I’m hoping to do more of something that is out of my comfort zone: staying put a little bit more, especially early in the year.


Balancing home and away.

While I hope to balance being home more with my love for travel, I still hope to take a few trips this year and to have them be good and meaningful ones.

We’ll be doing a family trip to Wyoming in June, to see the Tetons and Jackson Hole. That’s one of three states I haven’t been to yet. I’ll also be headed to Charleston, South Carolina for the High Water Festival. Afterwards, I’m going to look into driving to West Virginia, to get another of those three states.

If that goes well, then I might as well hit state #50 with Alaska!

I’ll likely have one work trip out of the country, and I might hope to see one more new country, since I have a streak of seeing a new country every year for the past nine. But I’ll probably be looking for a cheaper/easier one in the Caribbean or Central America.

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Getting outside more.

I’d hope that any other time I spend away from home is spent outdoors. I realized last year that my love of camping has really been stifled over the past two years. I’d hope to set that straight by going on a few more frequent camping or hiking or outdoor-oriented trips.

I know some friends have me already looking at Lake Tahoe next month and Yosemite later on. I wouldn’t mind rounding those out with some other campsites closer to us. Joshua Tree, the Central Coast, and even the desert sound appealing.


Making meaningful things.

Last year was a good year in terms of creative growth. I put the time into learning some new skills and programs, I figured out how to better integrate my own creative interests with my professional life, and I met a lot of people I look up to who helped me see that I was on a good track. Not every creative pursuit last year worked out the way I liked, but I learned a lot.

I’ve got one creative project in particular for this year that I can’t wait to get started on. I’ll share more about that soon enough!

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Moving forward.

Honestly, the bar is set pretty low in order for this year to be better than last year. Nevertheless, I’m excited for it. For the fresh starts, the second chances, and the new beginnings.

Last year taught me that hope isn’t a good feeling. Hope is a choice.

I’m choosing to invest myself in making a home, putting down roots, living open-handed, loving those around me, celebrating nature, being creative, and living a year that’ll still make me smile a decade from now.

Happy 2019.

Philippe Lazaro