I'm turning 28 next Wednesday. After the year I've had, I'm feeling very ready for a new age. I like to be able to break things down like that: 25 was a great year, 27 was a hard year, you get the idea. Hopefully this time in 2018 I'll be able to say something about how 28 was my best year yet, but let's not get too far ahead of things.
I don't know how the next 12 months are going to unfold, but there are 10 things I know today that are helping me find stability anyway; 10 things I know right now that make all the infinite things I don't know about the future not so scary; 10 things I can count on today that let me know there has been more than a little bit of good in this past year.
1. I will not be an unemployed 28-year-old. After months, or maybe years (depending on how you look at the situation), I accepted a job offer and am beginning a new full-time role Monday. For a quick recap: July '15 I left my job of 3+ years with a sigh of relief (I was miserable, not sleeping, terribly depressed), an offer I knew I couldn't accept (it was a 40% pay cut for a full-time role, meaning not a livable salary and not enough time to fill in gaps with side work), and a promising interview. August '15 I got placed on a temp role by a creative recruiter and learned I didn't get the "promising interview." October '15 I left the temp role and transitioned it to a remote freelance gig, and picked up a whole bunch of others. By March '16 that anchor position had faded away to less than 10% of my promised work. By June '16 I confronted the "I never wanted to do this full-time freelance thing in the first place, why am I here exactly???" ghost and started looking for real jobs again. September '16 I get a contract role, to find out in October '16 that the recruiter totally misrepresented the length of the contract. November '16 I'm out in the cold again, stringing together an income on a few writing gigs and yoga teaching. By the start of March '17 I had been rejected from a handful of jobs I felt SO good about, and just never brought to the top of the 250+ pile of hundreds of others I applied to. On St. Patrick's Day I accepted an offer with more enthusiasm than I've done anything in months.
2. New York in the spring is almost actual magic. There's something about buds budding in a concrete jungle that makes it feel like magic is taking place before your eyes. Flowers will soon be blooming in Riverside Park and the trees that line my city streets (that you never really think to insert in your mental imaginings of New York) will grow into their green. If these trees can bloom beside the subway station and the flowers can grow beside the cobblestone paths, if the grass in its small patches can become this vibrant, then what isn't possible in New York in the spring? This year I get to witness it every day, and I'm more grateful for that than I ever thought I would be.
3. It's okay to ebb and flow from your own labels. Runner, writer, yogi. Labels I've struggled with to differing degrees over the past 20 months. It seems like sometimes I could only get two out of three to feel deserved, or even just one at some points. But not only do these self-assigned labels not really matter, it's okay if they aren't consistent. No one will die if I don't go running because these days self-care looks more like yoga and hot showers and reading. If my professional title doesn't include the word "writer," I no longer give a shit. (Lots of thoughts on this; maybe full post to come later.) Not one of you or I will fall apart if I don't update the blog. My yoga mat will still be there when I find the time and heart to go back to it after a week off. It's okay.
4. Adjustment periods are necessary to helping us make room for new things and truly appreciate old things.
5. My neighborhood is rich, vibrant, diverse, beautiful, and full of amazing food and sights. There's nothing more I could ask for from the place I live. I share it with a man who is supportive, encouraging, sweet, funny, smart, and patient. There's nothing more I could ask for from my person.
6. If it doesn't open, it's not your door. What's for you will not pass you.
7. I may define myself by my thoughts, but the world and the people in it will define me by my actions. I know what my best intentions are. I know what thought processes lead me to my conclusions or actions. But writing them in my journal or throwing a condensed version of them here on the blog doesn't mean a damn thing. The actions I take, the things they hear me say, and the energy I produce will be what people around me see and assess me based on. And on the one hand, I don't change my behavior specifically to please anyone or any ideal; I follow my true north whenever I see it. But that doesn't mean that the presentation doesn't matter, and it doesn't mean that other peoples' assessment of me won't impact me. I mean, I've been on enough interviews in the past three months alone to understand that. But it matters for family and friends, too. For example, it mattered to me that during my period of unemployment I didn't appear to anyone as a leech, a downer, a fun-sucker, or lazy. I may not have been 100% successful at presenting myself how I intended to 100% of the time, but the effort matters.
8. There's always at least one thing you can do. Whatever situation I'm staring down, or whatever is stressing me out, or whatever challenge I can't seem to get out in front of, there is always at least one thing I can do. A mountain of work? I can start with an outline of one article. Feeling depressed? Take a shower, or do my nails, or go for a walk. Out of shape? Go out and try to just run one mile, more if I can. Feeling stiff? Stretch for five minutes. Body feeling funny? Drink some water or eat a vegetable. Relationships feeling strained? Write an email, send a card, call to say, "I love you." And so on. That one action may not change the whole of the situation, but one of my favorite little nuggets of wisdom I've picked up in the last year is this: "That which is begun is half done." Of course it's not actually accurate, but it sure as hell feels that way to me. I try to remember now that when I'm staring up a mountain, taking the first step onto it suddenly makes me feel as if I've already climbed straight to the middle. It helps.
9. I am a simplicity lover. In Gretchen Rubin's book about habits, Better Than Before, she talks about identifying your Tendency (I am a Questioner) and your Distinctions and how identifying those things can help you create healthy habits and know yourself in a useful way. I am an owl, procrastinator, sometimes sprinter, an opener, a familiarity lover, more interested in promoting than preventing, and a devotee of small steps. But perhaps most importantly, I am a simplicity lover. Occasionally, and usually by influence (intended or not) of social media, bloggers, friends, and the psychological warfare known as advertising, I forget this and temporarily convince myself I need a 10-step morning and evening skincare regimen, eight-pronged approach to a morning routine, diverse and varied wardrobe, seven pages of habit trackers in a bullet journal and a paper planner to boot, or insert-whatever-here. But knowing myself and having the language to frame it—"I am a simplicity lover"—makes it so much easier to shrug off the "YOU NEED TO BE DOING THIS LIKE I AM" sounds that come from Other People and listen to the "No, you don't" sounds that come from myself. There are certain places where I like having options, but as a deep sufferer of analysis paralysis, I don't want to have to make a lot of choices just to get through the day. Getting up, getting dressed, getting out the door are best when refined to simple actions I can repeat on autopilot (I've basically built a capsule wardrobe without noticing it) and I am simply happier when I've uncomplicated as much of my daily processes as possible. Putting a tag on it—"I am a simplicity lover."—makes it easier to shut down the noise and retreat to my simplicity without feeling like I'm missing out on some ritual I should feel pressured to take part in.
10. There's a clearer path before me than I've seen in too long to remember. This alone is enough reason for brilliant optimism and unbridled faith.