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Did you have a good year?

          Did you have a good year?
          Yes or no?
          Did you have a good year?
          The only honest, accurate answer has to be “Yes.”
          Whether you’re looking at your own life, or whether you’re driving around town with your children on one of these final rainy days of June as they share their reflections on this latest school term…
          Was it a good year?
          “Yes, it was a good year.”
          Now, this isn’t to say there might not have been some events that elicited some of the darker emotions from the Feelings Wheel, but when this question of reflection inevitably pops up in the next few weeks, you can always frame the conversation and walk away truly recognizing the year was good.
          A lot of it depends on the criteria.  Is “good” only based on an academic score, whether or not a skill or piece of content knowledge was mastered?  Is “good” only based on whether or not you’re the best at an individual sport or activity?  Or do you or your children suffer from a bit of recency bias?  Are they only looking at that test that just happened, or that not-so-nice comment that was just received, or that friend that just shared they’ll be leaving at the end of the year?  Do those stuff and things that just happened cloud the whole view of the year that was.
          Because the year was good.
          First, let’s always make sure we don’t forget how much the context has changed.  It wasn’t so long ago that we lived in the midst of the “pandemic that shall not be named.”  But now, we’re back to normal.  Back to having normal problems.  A few weeks back, within fifteen minutes of a morning, a parent came to me upset about a bus seating arrangement, a student was distraught because her two friends no longer wanted to be friends, and a feisty lad was engaged in some behavioral knuckleheadedness in the hallways…I walked away and was happy.  School was back.  The “normal” conflicts were back.
          Life was back to good.
          And along the way there were inevitably a myriad of positive memories that jump out if you ensure the right questions are asked.  What’s a skill you’re better at this year?  Can you now tie your shoes, write a poem, hammer a nail?
          Who’s a new person you met?  What new world or perspective did they open up for you?
          What’s a time when you couldn’t stop laughing?  What forest, mountain, lake, ocean, winding road did you see?  What new song did you sing, new piece of art did you view, new TV show you watched?  What new beautiful friendship did you forge?
          There was so much new this year.
          There inevitably is a list of positive memories that make it quite easy to say the year was “good”.
          But what about all those not-so-good memories?
          What about all those times life got in the way of plans (as it tends to sometimes do)?  Those times when clouds hovered and smothered.  When relationships hit the icky phase.  When you might have had to bounce between being a caregiver and a care receiver.
          It is these not-so-good memories where you actually need to go to truly know that the year was good.
          Because we’re here.  We made it.
          In the movie Inside/Out where a young girl navigates through the challenges of starting over again in a distant city, it’s not the experience of Joy, but the acceptance of Sadness that is the final key to her adjusting, key to her knowing who are her true friends and that she has the inner strength to overcome obstacles.
          In the NBA playoffs, Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo was asked if the year was a failure because his team lost their final game.  His response:
“There’s no failure in sports. You know, there’s good days, bad days. Some days you are able to be successful, some days you’re not. Some days it’s your turn, some days it’s not your turn. And that’s what sports is about. You don’t always win; some other team’s gonna win. And this    year, somebody else is gonna win. Simple as that…Every year you work, you work towards something, towards a goal, right? Which is to get a promotion, be able to take care of your family, to be able to provide the house for them or take care of your parents,” he said. “You work towards a goal. It’s not a failure; it’s steps to success.”
          You took steps.  Your year was good.
          In the overquoted book Grit, Angela Duckworth talks about how the truly successful have the skill of continuing to just “show up.”  When life boils over with complications, just showing up and moving forward is success.  So, yes, you’re here.  You showed up.  Your year was good.
          In the 1980s sitcom Facts of Life, the opening theme song starts with “You take the good/You take the bad/You take them both and there you have the facts of life/The facts of life.”  Only when you take them both is life truly good.  You took them both.
          Sometimes life threw external hurdles at you (it’s what life does…it takes things you cherish, and offers you obstacles to overcome) and you weren’t able to be the best version of yourself, the version you know is possible, but life just got in the way of the uber possible.  In Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor, she talks about how the world needs two types of people – rock stars and superstars.  The rock stars are the sources of stability, the ones who can be counted on to always be there.  The superstars are the ones who stand out and change everything.  The world needs both, and at different times in your life (maybe even different times of the day), you will be both.  This year, you might have been exhausted, and what you could give was only “rock star”.  But at some other time in the not-so-distant future, when the environment is right and things are clicking, you will be the superstar.  But our school, your friends, your family…we/they need you to be both.
          You were good.  Your year was good.  And so was your children’s year.
          So when you take the great accounting of the year that was, give yourself and your children a moment to frame the question the right way…because no matter which way you look at it.
          It was a great year!
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