This year’s main challenge for me has been trying to carry shifting priorities… without losing any of them. Please join me for my 2022 in review.
Well, here we are. Another year is about to roll on through. This has been a truly tumultuous year for the whole world with a lot of great and terrible things happening across our planet. It’s always a bit of a shock to realise that in a short period of time, we’ll already be having to stop ending our dates in 22 and talking about what we want to do this year, and already shift focus for the new year.
If you haven’t read any of my previous Years in Review (like for 2021 or 2020), I like to take a big sweeping look at things that happened in the news, in entertainment, in my life and then take a super reflective zoom in at the matters of the heart and the themes the year has held for me. So, come with me and have a bit of fun reflecting on the large and the small of the year called 2022 – a year of shifting priorities, and trying my best not to lose any of them.
So much has happened this year. I think one of the happiest aspects of 2022 for most people (unless you’re in China), that COVID-19 is finally staying a bit more in 19. We didn’t have to say 1.5 every 3 seconds, we didn’t have to cut the parties short, we didn’t have to get completely accurate RSVPs to every freaking event because person 21 out of 20 would make the restaurant not accept the booking anymore. And it’s been really great. I’ve loved being able to meet up with so many people and essentially have life as it was again.
Don’t get me wrong, the virus and its ever evolving strains are still around, but it feels like it has been relegated to the same section as all the other viruses we have going around. I learnt a while ago that the human body is actually made up of trillions of viruses including 8% of our DNA, so there you go. A reason to be joyful for so many with travel, parties, meetups, dating, and life in general going much back to the way it was, for better or worse.
There were a *lot* of regime changes this year shifting memory to world events. We lost Queen Elizabeth this year (can you believe that was this year?) and saw a new Prime Minister in my country of Australia. Then the world decided to go crazy and we saw complete political changes everywhere – Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Mali, and attempted coups in other places like Germany. It’s almost like a spiritual sort of thing given the upheaval that took place all around seemingly the same time. Some good news was that the civil war in Yemen that’s been raging for most of the previous decade saw a ceasefire brokered by the UN giving a reprieve to all the civilians in the Saudi vs. Iran proxy war, unfortunately only for it to then be broken some time later.
It’s really hard to look at world events without highlighting one of the most significant events of our time – the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The biggest invasion force since Adolf himself in any conflict, and a death count exceeding most wars we’ve had in recent memory. This war continues to cause widespread chaos to Ukranian and Russian lives, and the world at large with its profound impact on the global economy. I know that since the war started I have been pretty much been reading Western, Ukranian, Russian, Belarussian… everyone’s news almost daily to keep across it. It may or may not have been the “Hitler invaded Poland” of the great war that may have already started. In my opinion, Slava Ukraine. Putin’s regime is like an abusive ex who won’t leave his old girlfriend(s) alone in her new life, and every achievement the Ukranians have made in retaking their territory and sovereignty back I have been super happy about.
On a lighter note, it’s been a great year for entertainment. I’ve definitely been falling back on more games this year as a bit of daddy recovery time once kiddo has gone to bed, or to help calm down after dealing with a big tantrum. To my own surprise I actually got on the bandwagon with everyone else on what’s just been announced as the game of the year, Elden Ring. I wrote a review about it and then proceeded to replay it over and over with different combinations of weapons and abilities more than any other game I’ve ever owned it seems. A miracle also happened this year – they released a remake of my favourite game of all time, Chrono Cross. I couldn’t even believe this happened. What a time to be alive.
This year marked a lot of great things for me personally. I began a new role in the first part of the year and have had the opportunity to work with a lot of brilliantly smart people who I’ve been able to learn from and continue to develop in my career. I could also tell that COVID had died back as the recruitment market has been absolutely psycho this year. Compared to how desperate it felt when all the jobs dried up in 2020, it’s a welcome change. We also got to have a wonderful Toowoomba holiday before I started the role after it had been raining for what seemed like weeks, and so our little Australian getaway felt completely English, complete with deep greenery and misty morning walks through beautiful parks. Love it.
Seems a bit silly but I was stoked to find and receive a great leather jacket look for Father’s Day. Always wanted to pull that look off for whatever reason, and finally felt really good in it this year. Maybe since I’ve been a nerd all my life I’ll turn into one of those cool dads?… Maybe not, but was stoked with this present and personal milestone at least I guess.
It was another year of getting to be involved in serving our church community in running what we call a life group every fortnight, and also serving on our new people team on Sunday nights. I feel very fortunate to be able to get to do life with so many wonderful people and I can remember so many great nights and moments from church life as people find purpose and meaning in whatever season they’re in. Plus what a support to us it continues to be.
I got to MC another wedding reception this year for some good friends of ours and it was an absolutely wonderful time. This now brings me up to 10 and I consider it a true badge of honour. So, if you’re a friend of mine and looking to make it official with someone, you know where I’ll be. I still love weddings and I still believe marriage is one of God’s answers for so many of the problems in our world. Of course the catch is you’ve got to do it right, and aren’t all of us endeavouring to be better at loving the ones we love.
I posted a while ago about it but what a huge milestone for Walking The Shoreline happened this year – over 1 million visitors. I am very honoured to think so many people have found something I’ve written about or thought about provoking or challenging, and hopefully ultimately helpful, for their own season in life. No plans on stopping any time soon!
Probably the biggest change, joy, and challenge this year, and the subject of the deep dive part of this year’s review, is the change from infant to toddler as Kiddo is growing up. For anyone who’s a parent or works with young children or has had them – which is a lot of people – you realise that pre-toddler to toddler transition is a big shift. Hence the topic of shifting priorities without losing them, or at least trying not to.
I feel like once your kid is over one, life changes dramatically for most people. I know a lot of my friends I started seeing a lot less once their first one turned one, and also that a lot of people in general pull back from a number of their previous commitments as the season changes – they stop volunteering, they stay in a lot more, their energy levels for a lot of things are quite different. You never know if you’re going to get a full nights sleep or if you’ll be up for 3-4 hours of it because it’s either teething time, hungry-but-I-didn’t-want-to-eat-anything-but-I-am-hungry-at-2am-now time, or I’m-having-fun-and-don’t-want-to-go-back-to-sleep time.
And I’d be lying if I said I can’t measure these shifting priorities in my own life, especially this year. Now I’m the parent friend who hangs out with people a bit less than I used to, now I’m the one with differing time commitments. I know I definitely posted to the website a lot less this year as my primary energy and focus outside of work was into my parenting and husbanding. Coping with tantrums, trying to work out all these new changes to dinner time, finding energy and strength and resources to deal with things in healthy ways that result in you still staying married and employed and involved in the lives of others – I can definitely see it.
And part of me, and I think many people, has struggled with the rebalancing of the schedule and energy. There have been people going through things this year that I just haven’t been able to be as available to help with, there have been improvements I would have loved to have seen made to our involvement with young adults that I just can’t say I’ve had reliable time for, there have been a lot of adjustments I’ve need to make as a husband as well to make sure my wife still gets the love and attention and kindness from me that she deserves, all the while we’re dealing with how the mind and life of a toddler affects the wider family.
In marriage, your spouse is your friend, your lover, your co-project manager on Project House, the one you go to all the events with, the one you dream with, the one you walk with, and as the kid or kids get older, you have to add and manage the shifting parenting dynamic across all the different seasons your children follow. It’s a lot to put on one person, and a lot to be yourself, but I’ve also been reminded of what a solemn honour it is to be entrusted with the heart of the one you love. They chose you, and still do, to be the one who walks with them and they take the gamble every day on you that you’ll still love them and faithfully look after every aspect of who they are. Even moreso once kids are involved.
And in the struggle, I am happy to say there is absolutely great joy. I’m so proud of how Kiddo has been hitting and exceeding all the milestones, I’m so grateful for the support of people around us in loving her and giving her good examples (and a billion toys and clothes at any given time of the year), and although the lows are lower, the joys are also so much higher.
And so the shifting priorities of life continue to shift. As they will for the rest of our lives. Without a doubt, something that continues to be at the forefront of my mind is that we need to negotiate shifting priorities without losing them, or at least the big ones.
One I’ve given my best effort to maintain is my calling. I believe I am called to help serve those around me in the areas of relationships, of purpose, of leadership and of not finding themselves victims of Western poverty. And I’ve seen so, so many people once they become parents just stop getting involved. Truth be told, a lot of people just pull out of everything once they get married. Or engaged. Or start dating. Or buy a new house. Or take on a new job.
The sad thing is though that these things they took on to increase their happiness end up becoming considered somewhat of a curse to them because they stop doing all the things that were a part of who they were meant to be. They become unfulfilled, bored, permanently exhausted. And even worse, once the kids are all grown up and the kids leave the nest, you find the only thing that was keeping the couple together was the kids because they have completely lost their own sense of identity and calling. Which is a real shame because that is very hard to instil in your own children if you’re feeling passionless and directionless yourself. Empty nest syndrome is almost an epidemic, and its true antidote relies in maintaining yourself through the season of serving the young ones as well.
I have been fortunate to have so many great examples of parents who, yes, they had to adjust the schedule a bit. They can’t run the group every week any more, they might have to be home by 9 instead of 10 or 11 now, they may only be able to stay for the 2 or 3 hours that they can in that volunteer commitment once or twice a week, the form of their involvement may even change shape completely.
But they’re still there, being who they’re called to be. They turn up. They’re present. They’re involved. And one day their kids want to be as well.
I really loved the encouragement and example of Dr Justin Coulson in his book 21 Days To A Happier Family, where he highlights the importance of having a family mission, and of also doing things together. Many of the great faith authors I have followed through my life – Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell, TD Jakes, and so many others – echo the sentiment that there is a reason that we are all here on this earth. That applies to us at an individual level, but also there has got to be a reason for our family to exist as well. Yes we get to support each other through life, and what a great privilege that is, but all of us together have gifts and abilities that we are called to use to serve our greater world as well.
As much as I love all the games and movies and shows and fun things that I’ve already mentioned and have been able to enjoy this year, I know that my life is about so much more than those things. And I don’t want to become a family that shrinks back from being involved in the lives of others because it’s a bit hard and requires more planning, effort, and breathing room in other areas to achieve.
Our lives are more than just the games we’re playing. The movies. The shows. The Instagram or Facebook or Twitter scrolling without purpose. The sporting teams we follow. The adventures we have around the place. They’re about the people God has put in our lives and the gifts that we’ve been given to share with this world and make it a brighter place.
Truth be told, the greatest cause of the suffering in our world today is people withholding their gifts. And I hope you are challenged like I have been this year not to consider how we can drop everything and stop being involved, but rather, through parenting or whatever season, marriage, dating, big career, small career, income changes, all the rest – we are called to make a difference, and we will.
The apostle Paul challenged his fellow believers not to get in the habit of shrinking back from the lives of others, but to press forward. And I’m right there with you parents – it’s hard. It’s a lot of work. It is a true team effort that even one of you makes it to that event or catches up with that person or takes a long phone call or speaks life into that person’s world. And what a privilege to be able to fulfil those things together.
And I will absolutely 100% shout from the mountaintop that any win for me is a win for my wife and kid. And vice versa. The success belongs to the family because the work to make it all happen belonged to the family.
So yes, shifting priorities are the reality, and this year has definitely been a dramatic upheaval in many ways. But happy to say in reviewing this year I think I’m finding more and more the balance that means I don’t neglect any of the important things – my marriage, my parenting, my service to others.
And I wonder how you’ve felt about the shifting priorities in your own life? The main reason I am so candid about my struggles and journeys is that I think we’re all very much the same in a lot of ways, and hopefully in reviewing this year with me you’ve found something useful for or about your own life.
And so, 2023 is almost here. Who are you going to be when the clock ticks over? And who are you going to be every day going forward from there? The one who shrinks back and drops everything, or the one who shifts the sails, changes the investments to a maintainable level, and is faithful with what they’ve been given to serve the world around them?
Happy new year, and may the new year bring you the fulfilment of the things long since waited for.