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I think it’s a default response to an oncoming new year to wonder where this one’s gone. “That’s gone so fast,” or “Where has the time gone,” are both right up there in the classic cliché statements for this season.

And as we head toward new year 2019, it’s easy for me to think about how fast this year’s gone, until I actually look back over it and realise how much has actually happened this year. It’s been quite a big year for me, even if it’s been far from the best of years. It’s really been quite the opposite.

But it certainly hasn’t been without its highlights, there was some travel earlier in the year, first to Brisbane in January, which was … an experience, let’s say that much. However, there was one stand-out experience.

Queensland Museum

The last two times I’ve been to Queensland, I’ve found myself here. Back in 2015, it was for the Dinosaur Discovery exhibition, which didn’t disappoint either my inner five-year-old or my current thirty-something self.

Bronze Greaves (shin guards) that were found in Pompeii, and some spearheads. 

In 2018, it was the Gladiators: Heroes of the Colosseum exhibit.

For me, I’ve always been more of a palaeontology buff than archaeology, but that doesn’t mean that I’m completely oblivious to some of the great ancient cultures of human civilisation, particularly Rome and Egypt. Actually having the opportunity to see genuine artefacts from the Gladiator Age of Ancient Rome was incredible.

This isn’t, though, a review of the Queensland Museum, and so we continue…

Vietnam and Thailand

My greatest adventure this year would have to be spending three weeks in South East Asia. Most of this time was spent in the city of Da Nang, along with visits to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and Bangkok in Thailand.

I could easily go on about this for hours, but given I spent most of my time there, I just want to comment on Da Nang as a city. Da Nang is located around (very loosely) halfway between Vietnam’s two major centres in Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi. It’s a lot smaller, far less chaotic, and has some stunning scenery to enjoy.

Da Nang’s Dragon Bridge – with real fire breathing!
Hoi An’s Japanese covered bridge, and a throng of tourists checking it out.

Only a short journey south of Da Nang proper is Hoi An, an historic region that is now exceptionally touristy, but gives some perspectives on the more traditional Vietnamese lifestyle – at least, the shiny, glossy version, anyway. Of an evening, the place lights up with a great atmosphere, with restaurants serving all manner of foods, street merchants selling their wares, and the opportunity for an evening boat ride along the Thu Bon River.

Vietnam was definitely the best part of my year, both as a cultural experience and as an adventure. I was able to meet some great people, including those at Da Nang International Fellowship, experience a very different culture, and gain a much greater understanding of a very important part of our history in that of the Vietnam War.

Personal Growth

The latter half of 2018 was probably a lot more difficult than I expected it to be. I transitioned from Kingborough Family Church into C3 Hobart, which was something I was a long way from expecting to do, both in the sense of leaving Kingborough and also that of going to one of these big-name “brand” churches. In the months since, though, I’ve become confident that it was a move that was led by God and that I’m where He wants me to be for this season of life.

September also took me through some pretty heavy breakthroughs, the details of which would be a long, arduous post that I’m not sure I want to just throw out there in the public world of the Internet. What I will say is that for a very long time I’ve maintained quite a guarded self-presentation. What I mean by that is to say that I’ve kind of kept people at arm’s length, out of this belief that others don’t really want to like me or care about me, that they simply tolerate me out of some kind of compassion or sympathy. With this insecure perspective on other people, it has made it really difficult to build genuine connections, because I haven’t ever believed in the other person’s integrity around the relationship being built. Reflecting on it over the past few months, I’ve been able to see how it’s damaged or completely broken both friendships and relationships in my life.

Which was why it was so important to be confronted with some aspects of my past where exactly the opposite was true, to reconnect with a point in my life where I had actually truly felt loved and cared for, just for who I was there and then. To have this moment of, “Wait, you know what, I am loveable. I am cared for.“

I know there’s probably going to be a whole heap of people for whom this revelation seems obvious, and perhaps for some it is. However, there are a whole heap of other people out there struggling with all sorts of similar thoughts and views on the world, themselves, and the people around them. For those people who also struggle with insecurity and anxiety – the same goes for you, even if you don’t feel like it does right now.

I probably should follow that up with an acknowledgement that you don’t just tear down decades of insecurity and self-preservation overnight. It’s certainly not that I’m suddenly viewing the world as all sunshine and roses now, but it’s a start.

Earlier in December I was having a chat with someone, and their words to me were that they believed 2018 was a year that I had to have. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve reached the end of it in a better place than I started, and better prepared than I was for what’s to come in the future. I started this year under the belief that it would be a year of acceleration, but instead, it became one of realisation. So with the new year 2019 coming up, let’s see what is in store moving forward.


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