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My 2021 Questions

Well, we’ve made it. A year ago, so many of us were looking forward to the year ahead, myself included. But beginning in March, all of that changed. Instead of working toward our hopeful aspirations, our lives became about the health, safety, and survival ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. I remember thinking that all of this, as scary as it was, would subside in a matter of weeks, or maybe a couple of months. And yet, here we are, sitting with the loss of so many beautiful people, and the intense sickness that continues to impact our lives each and every day.

Reflecting upon all of the tragedy of the last year, I feel grateful to be here. I feel fortunate that although COVID-19 changed my life in a number of ways, in so many ways I was able to continue on in my journey: I got engaged to the most incredible woman, I was able to start rabbinical school (online), and we even got a dog! So as I think about this new year, a year with much to be desired yet so much more to reflect upon, I’m entering 2021 with questions to guide me along the way. For the past few years, I’ve created some resolutions and intentions for myself (you can read my blogs for 2020, 2019, and 2018). But this year just feels so, so different. And although Judaism has a long tradition of asking and wrestling with questions, I’m appreciative to Krista Tippett and The On Being Project (one of my favorite podcasts) for a series they created called “Living the Questions” which inspired me to make this my framework for this year. So here are my questions for 2021, with the hope that they support and challenge me (and maybe you, too) toward a meaningful, healthy year in the middle of a chaotic, scary time in the world.

Am I really, truly present?
I’ve always been interested in time and how we experience it in our lives. But in the last year and a half, since I had the opportunity to go on a silent meditation retreat, I’ve been trying to focus much more intently on the present moment, trying to not see everything through the prisms of the past or future, but of the now. It’s not easy for me at all, but those moments where I am present, completely present, are some of the most rewarding. This short, jolting question will hopefully help me slow down, breathe, and approach each moment with the attention and emotion it deserves.

Who am I serving and loving?
This is ultimately a question about priorities in my life. Each day, I make choices that can be in service of myself, but also my loved ones, communities I’m part of, and the broader world. As someone prone to saying yes way too often, I found myself making commitments to other people or communities that weren’t equally serving myself or my values. This strain on my time and energy was just draining. It also limited my ability to be fully present and loving to the people who do bring me joy and connection. So this year, I’m hoping this question will focus my attention toward loving and serving myself, as well as the people and communities that I most love and care about in the world.

How am I learning and growing?
Although much of my time this year will be consumed with a ton of great learning from rabbinical school, I’m hoping this question will help me think more holistically about learning and growth. Some of these pieces will be pretty straight forward as a lover of books (I have 20+ sitting on the shelf right now), podcasts, documentaries, and keeping up with the news. But some will be deeper internal work, including continuing with therapy once a week, growing my meditation practice, and taking more time to journal and reflect. Each day is an opportunity for learning and growth, and I want to be more intentional about it this year.

What’s my truth?
My final question feels like a compilation of the others. It’s a question about myself and how I want to show up in the world, and one that is not ever going to be fully complete. As I keep learning and growing, as the world keeps changing, my truth will also continue to evolve. But without really thinking about and focusing on my truth, on the pieces of the world that I know to be true for me, I won’t be able to focus on the right things – for me. It’s a question about living the most authentic life. And in identifying my truth, I can more confidently speak it, so that I can do everything in my power to change my communities and the world for good.

These are my questions for the year ahead. In past iterations of this blog, I’ve also shared some of the more concrete goals for the coming year. And while I definitely have some for 2021, I’m really trying to focus as much energy as possible into these questions – feeling them, thinking on them, living them. With last year behind us, my hope is that each and every one of us experiences the hope, happiness, and health that we need to thrive this year. Bring it on, 2021.

P.S. The picture above is from one of my many, many walks through Rock Creek Park this year, a place that is just beautiful and calming.

Evan Traylor is a rabbinical student and Jewish community builder, educator, activist, and writer. Through Judaism, he strives to bring more love, justice, truth, and peace into communities around the world.

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