The Work

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“The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” — Steven Pressfield

I’ve been traveling a lot lately for work, and though flying isn’t my favorite thing in the world, I have found that I now look forward to taking a flight. I look forward to settling into my seat and strapping in for what may or may not be a bumpy flight because, for those few hours, I am free. Yes, I am trapped on a plane, usually next to someone who hogs the armrest the whole time, but I am free nonetheless.

For those few hours my phone is either turned off or on airplane mode. For those few hours I have no email access, no social media. I could pay for wifi or plug into an on-air flight, or, I could read. So that’s what I do.

I am free to read, uninterrupted, no excuses. There’s nowhere to go, I’m already headed somewhere, there’s nothing to do except sit in a seat and decide how I want to spend the time. I can spend it watching TV, something I don’t have at home and am tempted to binge-watch, or I can read, which I am always saying I don’t have the time to do.

So this last trip, that’s what I did. It was a short flight, from Northern California to Las Vegas, Nevada, but I managed to finish two books, there and back. And though it can be fun to read something fluffy and mindless, I decided to take two books that would make me do a bit of work. Not work-work, but work. The kind of work that no one really wants to admit that they’re doing (and why is that?), but work that is also some of the most important we can do in our lives: work on ourselves. Whatever you want to call it: personal growth. Self help (admittedly not a very good term). Self improvement. Self motivation. Doesn’t really matter, as long as we continually work on becoming better. Both for ourselves and for others.

For the flights to and from Las Vegas I brought The War of Art, by writer Steven Pressfield, and No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Suffering, by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and their words were like an oasis in that crazy desert. Whether Vegas is your favorite city or your least favorite, I think we can all admit that it is a crazy place. Especially for a Northern California girl like me. It’s so crazy that it inspired me to write about my experience after going for the first time last year, which you can read here.

Amidst the flashing lights and overload of sounds and scents, I felt a reprieve when I thought about what I had read. Yes, I was sober in a city where most people were partying and gambling, but I didn’t have to feel uncomfortable. I could think about what I find important, which was bolstered by the words I had read on the plane. Words that had reenergized me in a moment when I needed it.

Both books were meaningful in different but interconnected ways, and I think both warrant their own examination, so I’ve decided to write a little bit about The War of Art today and save Hanh’s work for another post. Pressfield’s book encourages us to “break through the blocks and win [our] inner creative battles.” It’s inspiring for any creative person, which means all of us. All of us are creative in our own ways, and many of us can lose sight of our creativity, or it can take a back-burner when we’re working, parenting, living. But creativity is a part of living, an integral and necessary part, a part we shouldn’t be so quick to minimize or say we’ll get to later.

I know that I have been guilty of placing my creativity in the back of a drawer, saying I’ll get to it later, putting other things first. It can be hard to engage in our creative work, no matter what it may be, when we’re tired or stressed or even when we’re happy and living in the moment. There’s many excuses we can tell ourselves and countless activities we can prioritize over what, as Pressfield says, we were born to do. Our creativity isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

It can seem like a luxury when we’re trying to put food on the table or help others, it can seem like a selfish endeavor when there’s so many chores to do or errands to run, but Pressfield frames creative work in a different way. He deems it as “a gift to the world and every being in it.” To neglect it would be to “cheat us of your contribution.” Pressfield demands: “Give us what you got.” When framed this way, it’s selfish not to focus on what our creativity could build. If what we have inside of us is a gift to the world, it’s detrimental to ignore it.

Pressfield views our creative work as a gift to the world, and also a gift that we have been given by a power greater than ourselves. Though he calls this power God and sees the ever-elusive creative muse as angels, he also takes care to say that no matter who or what we believe in, we have been given this creativity for a reason: to interpret and improve the world around us. When we paint, when we write, when we sing, we articulate what cannot be articulated otherwise. When we create, we: galvanize, inspire, design, organize, revolutionize. We have power.

In these times of upheaval, of change and uncertainty, I don’t know what could be more important than pursuing that which gives us power to create or add to the kind of world we wish to see for ourselves and for others. As one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson, says, “I work to drive the awe away, yet awe impels the work.” This life and this world is indeed brimming with awe, with wonder, yet the only way we can see or experience it is if we engage with it. It’s what we were intended to do when we were born. Whatever calls us, whatever it is that makes us lose track of time and feel a true, deep sense of fulfillment and happiness; that’s what we’re here for:

“In the end, we arrive at a kind of model of the artist’s world, and that model is that there exist other, higher planes of reality, about which we can prove nothing, but from which arise our lives, our work, and our art” (Pressfield, 163).

Not all of Pressfield’s book captured me and spoke to me, but that’s not the point. We take what is useful to us, from any work, and we use it. Whether we believe in angels or energy, we are all creative beings, and it is not only our purpose, but our birthright, to bring forth what we have inside. All we have to do is make the commitment to ourselves to create. We have to make time for it, nurture it. And some of it, as Pressfield acknowledges, will be trash. There will be failures. There will be mistakes. But there will also be moments of genius. Glimmers of truth, of beauty, of hope. But we won’t know if we never pick up the paintbrush or the pen, if we never start that nonprofit or open our mouths to sing.

I wish you a wild, free life.

Outside

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Definitely not a glamorous photo, but perfect in my opinion ❤

Do you ever feel tired of thinking about your own stuff all the time? Like what’s happening in your life, where you may be headed, if things will turn out the way you hope? Constantly thinking about what ails you; stress, work, health, whatever it may be, can get . . . kinda boring, right? Though I think it’s important to take care of yourself, to take stock of where you are, to always seek the best ways to improve, sometimes looking outside of yourself can be a reprieve from the questioning voice that resides within all of us.

This weekend I was presented with an opportunity to get outside of myself, to do something out of the norm, to take action. Action can often be the best thing for us, an invitation to change our perspective, to enable that sometimes-elusive feeling of gratitude, to be in the moment. Yoga often does this for me, encouraging me to move more and think less, to invite clarity where before there was doubt or confusion, but doing yoga most days out of the week can sometimes put me into autopilot mode, rather than granting me a new mode of focusing. So when my sister asked me to join her for Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week 2017, I said yes.

I said yes though I was still a bit fatigued after being sick for what felt like the tenth time since this new year started. I said yes though it meant I would be getting up at 6:30am on one of two days off. I said yes for many reasons, but most of all I said yes for my sister.

You see, my sister and her family will be the recipients of a Habitat home within the next year, a life-changing event that has been months in the making, and volunteering alongside my sister and her husband meant that I would be contributing to their “sweat equity” hours. These few hours out of my Saturday would contribute to my sister’s 500 hours, the amount of hours each Habitat family must complete as part of the conditions for receiving a home. And it was Women Build Week! Habitat for Humanity’s website defines this national event as a “program [that] invites women to devote at least one day to help families build strength, stability and independence through housing. The week is meant to spotlight the homeownership challenges faced by women.” What could possibly be a better way to spend my Saturday?

I will admit that I also said yes for selfish reasons, to have an excuse to forget about my own concerns. I’ve been having concerns about my health as of late; I’m okay overall (other than my health issues that I wrote about in a previous post you can read here), but I used to never get sick, and recently I have gotten really sick — the flu, strep, strep again, bronchitis, a fever with unexplained swelling of my extremities — about once a month. I couldn’t help thinking, Is something wrong?

Which resulted in blood labs and testing, which resulted in: “elevated liver function” and “low potassium levels.” Another way of saying, We don’t know. So though I’m relieved I don’t have lupus, which an insensitive doctor casually mentioned I might have during a rushed visit the other week, it’s frustrating to not have conclusive, actionable results. I’ll hopefully know more when my further test results come in, but in the meantime, I needed an excuse to get out of my head and out into the world.

I believe that helping others is one of the most significant things we as human beings can do in this life, and I continually strive to keep my faith in humanity, to believe in the goodness of others. But these times here in America have been pretty dark lately, what with a certain person in power and many people struggling to simply survive, and it’s been all too easy to lose hope, or to become ambivalent.

But this Saturday reminded me that there are good people in this world, and that even seemingly small actions, actions that could be deemed as just a drop in the bucket, can accomplish more than we think. Taking action is better than doing nothing at all, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, and drops in a bucket, over time, can result in the bucket filling up to the point of overflowing.

I definitely felt an overflowing this weekend. I felt connected to people I didn’t know, felt the strength that emanates from numbers, experienced the joy of contributing to something greater than myself. I got to witness the adorable family who will receive the home when it’s finished, heard inspiring speeches, did landscaping alongside strangers and my family. I hammered nails and shoveled mulch. I felt the sun on my face, got my hands in the dirt. And though anyone who knows me will tell you that I am decidedly not a gardener, as someone who works at a desk most days, nothing could’ve been better.

My sister, her husband, myself, and the other volunteers that day helped to create a home for a family, and soon my sister’s family will receive a home of their own. All I could think was, What a privilege. I was and am so very humbled and grateful to have been able to take part in such an awe-inspiring event. And though selfish it may sound, working to help other people in turn helped me. It helped me to gain some perspective, helped me to be in the moment, helped me to be grateful for all that I have in this life instead of focusing on what I don’t have or what is “wrong.” It may be taboo to admit, that I liked the way this made me feel for myself, but I like to think that if doing a bit of good for someone else does a bit of good for you, why not?

Needless to say, I will be volunteering again. I’m not sure exactly when, as I will be traveling a lot for work in the next few weeks and know that I need to take care of myself and rest as much as a I can, but I will make it a priority when I am able. I’ve said many times here on A Wild, Free Life that taking care of yourself is the only way you can take care of other people, but I also know that sometimes fretting about yourself all the time gets old, and you gotta take some action. You gotta get outside, both figuratively and literally, and get your hands in the dirt.

P.S. I highly recommend taking a look at Habitat for Humanity’s website to find out how you can get involved. Or, if building, painting, or working in their store isn’t your thing, I encourage you to check out a cause that speaks to you to see how you can contribute. Life is short. And no matter what the powers that be may believe, we’re in this life together.

I wish you a wild, free life.

Reminder

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A recent window of perspective
Sometimes we receive a reminder of the lives we used to lead, and usually when we least expect it. Sometimes this reminder can be painful, and sometimes it can also be a bit of a relief. Sometimes both. Reminders usually grant us a bit of perspective, which can be hard to gain otherwise. Because the whole saying, Out of sight, out of mind, can be true to an extent. I try to be aware of what I am feeling, but sometimes we don’t even know what we’re feeling. And then we receive a reminder.

Though it hasn’t been a year yet, I actually forget sometimes how much my life has changed since the beginning of August, how only a short while ago I was leading an entirely different kind of existence. Yes, in my old life of less than a year ago I had already given up booze, but I was still living a different kind of life. When you’re living a new life, you’re in it, living it, and don’t have much time to reflect. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I keep trying to find the balance between reflection and living.

Perhaps I should sit with my feelings a bit more, instead of always charging full speed ahead, but I don’t want to sit around brooding over what I have “lost.” But I also don’t want to pretend that my old life never existed, because it all serves a purpose. This past weekend I received a reminder of my old life, of how things used to be. You see, I saw my ex-boyfriend, out of nowhere, and it threw me for a loop a little bit.

Though I am happy in my new life, though with time and some perspective I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change how anything went down last year, I was thrown when he walked into the restaurant where I used to work. Where I was having dinner with my new boyfriend. The two hadn’t met before. I hadn’t seen my ex since Christmas. Needless to say, my heart dropped. Um, could a more awkward scenario be imagined? I think not. But it was bound to happen sooner or later, in this small town where I live. I guess then was a good a time as any. I just wasn’t prepared, not at all. I guess we never are.

Seeing my ex-boyfriend as I sat beside my new one was something I hadn’t foreseen happening, at least not anytime soon, and it rattled me. How did one behave in such a situation? How do you respect all parties involved? I won’t go into the details out of respect for all parties involved, but I will say that these reminders usually occur when we need to be granted some perspective. To be reminded that things work out as they should, and that if you ask for what you truly need, you will most likely receive it, in one form or another.

I can’t disregard or forget the twelve years I spent, off-and-on, with this other person, nor do I want to, not really. Twelve years is a long time. But I also can’t, and don’t want to, relive old memories all the time. What is the in-between of forgetting and remembering? I don’t really have the answer… maybe feeling? Being present? Being in the moment, taking the time to honor what you’re feeling in that moment, and continuing on. That’s all of us can do, really, is try to be present and to continue living.

My life has changed so much since my past relationship ended, and not just because that time in my life came to an end. I have a new job, new experiences, new people, new life. I know I will always cherish that time, but I also value this new time, this new life. I will attempt to do both, and will try not to live in the past and to not be consumed by the future. To be. But I believe I received a reminder this past weekend for a reason. To continue on, but to also remember. Because that old life happened, just as this new one is happening, and all of it is intertwined, bringing me to where I am, here, now.

I wish you a wild, free life.

Worth

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I mean it.

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” — Toni Morrison

What’s your worth? How do you measure it? Do you quantify your value by how much money you make, how many friends you have, how many followers you have on social media? Do you measure your merit by how you treat others, by how you translate your passions into reality? Do you weigh your significance by how others treat you?

My last post I wrote about loving yourself so that you may love other people, about following your own path and seeking what makes you happy, regardless of where you think you’re supposed to be in life. What I didn’t write about was how others treat you. I didn’t write about what we think we deserve or how we measure up. “Deserve” is a tough concept for me. The idea that someone is deserving of something is tricky, for it can be misconstrued. But what cannot be misconstrued is this: we are all deserving of respect.

Our worth can be measured by so many different things, and it can mean different things to different people, but I believe that our true worth and our opinion of ourselves must grow from this root: we are deserving and worthy of respect. People can treat us in any way they want, we can’t control that, but what we can control is how we react to this treatment. If someone tells you, whether in words or actions, that you are not deserving of respect, it is up to you if you believe them or not. Seems simple, right? But if you’re a human being, you know it’s not that easy.

It’s not easy to be treated poorly and to shake it off, to keep it moving with our heads held high. It hurts when someone we love or respect doesn’t feel the same about us, or if they say they do but their actions say otherwise. But we are the deciders. We don’t have to pretend that we’re not hurt, but we must remember that which is self-evident: we deserve respect, love is our birthright, and we do not have to stay in a situation that tells us we are not deserving.

If we stay, if we accept these falsehoods as truth, we begin to change ourselves. Believing these lies, we begin to alter shape, to lose our forms. We begin to assume these roles that are handed to us: we are weak, we are gullible, we are fragile, we are crazy, whatever. Suddenly, we are victims. It seems that without warning, we are systematically disregarded. How many times have we or someone we known asked, Why does this always happen to me? Why do I always have the worst luck? To some degree, because we allow it.

I know this idea is controversial, but it is because this statement can be misinterpreted. No, I am not giving weight to the awful adage, You/she/he/they were asking for it. No. Rather, I am saying that when we accept mistreatment, when we assume these roles from people who don’t know us, who don’t see us, we lose sight of ourselves. And when we lose sight of ourselves, we allow outside or outmoded beliefs to dictate our lives.

What should dictate our lives, what should dignify our worth, is the idea that we are deserving of respect. We can take on someone else’s opinion of us, which is really a mirror of themselves, or we can say, nope. Nope, I’m not a loser. Nope, I’m not a fragile, gullible victim. I am a person who is worthy of respect. And if you don’t see that, that is not my problem. If you don’t see me, it is because you aren’t capable of seeing yourself. And for that, I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry that you are lost and hurting, so lost and so hurt that all you can do is try and derail or hurt me.

I say this because I have been on either side of the coin. I have been mistreated, I have believed falsehoods as truths, truths that eroded my self-esteem to the point of becoming a perpetrator myself. I became the person who mistreated others, who didn’t deem others as worthy of respect. It was their choice to believe me, just as it was my choice to believe those who disrespected me. You see, it’s a vicious cycle, this cycle of hurt. And it all occurs because we are all damaged. Everyone has been damaged, everyone has issues. So then what?

If we all have issues, if we’re all damaged, what do we do? We go back to the root, to the truth that is self-evident: we are deserving of respect. And if we are deserving of respect, is not each person we meet? Are we not all damaged people walking on this earth together, each shouldering a burden, all seeking love and happiness? If someone treats me without regard, I know that it is because they do not have regard for themselves.

I believe the road back to regard is one that we must mostly walk alone. To truly value what is within us is an inside job, not an outward one. So though it may be tempting to want to help the damaged guy who’s not respecting you, though it may be tempting to want to fix the girl with the issues who doesn’t see you for who you are, I ask you to refrain. You’ve got your own burdens to bear, your own work to do. Focus on fixing yourself, on repairing your own damage. Ask yourself why you permitted someone to hurt you when you are worthy of so much more. Then perhaps they can begin to ask themselves the same.

I wish you a wild, free life. You deserve it. We all do.

Myth

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Do you?

“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” – Rumi

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what being satisfied means, thinking about the stories we tell ourselves and the paths that seem to unwind before us. Without judgement, I’ve been wondering if the people around me who are getting married and having babies are doing so because they want to, or if they feel like they should because it’s the “logical” next step. I wholeheartedly support the endeavor if it’s what someone wants to do, but I also question if a lot of people my age are following the paths that they think they have to follow. How do we know?

To simplify a complicated question, we know the path we are heading down is the one for us if we find that we are happy, that we are walking down a path because we are following our happiness. Our own happiness, not the happiness of whoever else we wish to please. Of course we wish to please the people whom are close to us, but the person who should be closest to us, the person we should most wish to please, is ourselves. At the end of the day, we are all we have.

This life is rich and beautiful because we have the opportunity to forget the aloneness of our existence. We are born alone, we die alone, but while we are here we get to love. This love is valuable, no question, but what enables us to forge these connections with others is when we realize that the love we have for ourselves is the most important relationship we can create. Beyond looking in the mirror and loving what you see, what do you see when you look within?

For a long time, when I looked in the mirror I didn’t like who I saw, let alone love the person who I’d become. I saw a person who didn’t know herself, a person who was afraid, a person who wanted to please others but always seemed to fail. I failed because I didn’t know who I was, let alone love who I was. And looking within? I saw nothing. My vision was clouded, my outline was hazy. I couldn’t figure out why this was. I couldn’t figure out why it was that I loved other people but always seemed to hurt them. The answer, which would seem obvious to someone looking from the outside, was too impossible to comprehend. But eventually, the answer became clear. I needed to get out of my own way to find out who I was, to begin to love what was there.

The only way for me, personally, to get out of my own way, was to stop drinking. I had considered it at different times in my life, times when I was hungover or listless, times when I felt anxious or out of control. But I always felt like this would make me stand out more than I already did, that I would be missing out on moments of fun, that it would make me strange. But as you get older, you (hopefully) get to the point where the idea of standing out, the desire to fit in, and the fear of missing out, become much less important than discovering who you are and what makes you happy. I knew it was time to stop drinking when I realized that drinking wasn’t making me happy, that I wasn’t happy. And that was enough for me.

This life is too short to not be happy. To not actively be cultivating as much joy and love as you possibly can. This life is too short to be afraid of standing out or missing out, to wishing and hoping that you’ll fit in, to actually be missing out on a relationship that could be the greatest of all. This is what’s really scary. Not the fear of being seen as a weirdo because you don’t drink, not the fear of what others will think if you don’t get married, if you don’t really want children, if you’re still a barista when your mom thinks you should be a doctor, whatever. Please, for the love of god, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, just do what makes the person within happy.

And when this person is happy, or you’re working on making this person happy, you will find that that’s when you get the opportunity to make other people happy as well. You’re not going to please everyone, but you’ll be coming from a place that enables you to do your best. And doing our best is all that we can do. As long as we are always aspiring to improve, to get better, be better, that’s when we can finally rest easy. Not resting like taking a nap, but resting like surfers do in between waves, when they’re looking to the horizon with excitement, in anticipation of what’s next. 

I wish you a wild, free life.

Two Years

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Two years!

Man, I really didn’t intend for this much time to elapse since my last post, but hey, life happens. I will admit that I’ve been beating myself up about it, that I haven’t written in so long. I’ve told myself and others that I just don’t have the time, which is mostly true, but I also know that I haven’t prioritized it as I should. I’ve been working a lot, that’s for sure, and I’ve also been spending a lot of time with friends and family, which is paramount, but A Wild, Free Life should be at the top of my list, too.

I’m trying to allow myself this little grace period that’s gone by because a) beating yourself up and feeling guilty gets you nowhere and b) February 20 marked two years since I quit drinking. So though I’ve been feeling guilty for not putting my blog first, I’m also pretty dang proud of myself right now. Two years! I never really thought I’d say that I’ve been without alcohol for that long. But I have, and it’s pretty exciting. I’ve come a long way.

With coming this far, I feel like it’s natural to take stock of the changes I’ve undergone over the past two years, to revisit the reasons I quit drinking, and, if I’m honest, to even ask myself a question everyone who’s ever quit drinking has asked themselves: could I drink again? I’ve asked myself this for the first time in a long time because a few people whom are close to me have asked me this question. Now that I’m in this better place, wouldn’t I be able to drink in a different way?

Well, this is something I’m not intending on finding out. Because although I’ve become much more conscious of my emotions and gained so much clarity on my life and how I behave, this change has only occurred because I quit drinking. Perhaps if I started drinking again I wouldn’t drink like I did in the past, when I used alcohol as an escape from my problems, but then again, maybe I would. Because I know from experience that it’s all too easy to check out. Because I remember how I was, when one drink was simply not enough. This remembrance, this knowing, is what is keeping me on the path that I began to pave for myself two years ago.

I just don’t see the point in giving up what I started, even if I were able to drink in a new way. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, though it can still be hard, I won’t lie. Not hard in the way that I want to pick up a bottle, but hard because so much of our human lives revolve around drinking. Celebrations, hangouts, holidays, bad days — whatever, really — is an excuse to drink. And it can feel weird to participate in a toast at a table full of people drinking wine when you’re the only one drinking water. But I know that I shouldn’t feel weird, that I don’t need to. Because though I might be the solo nondrinker in a room, that doesn’t mean that I’m solo in life. I have myself (not to mention my friends and family). And that’s what really matters to me.

I think perhaps I might be solo in life if I were to drink again, not in the way that people might shun me or I might go crazy and distance everyone from me with my behavior, but that I would lose a part of myself that I’ve worked so hard to gain. But who knows? It’s these questions, it’s the unknown, that makes me know my decision to continue not drinking is right for me. The uncertainty gives me pause, and the delicate balance I’ve created is too precious to me to upend, to test, to poke at. I’m better than I’ve been, maybe ever, and it’s not worth it to me to see what happens if I drink a glass of wine. It’s a glass of wine, not a trip to Fiji.

Two years is a long time to go without something, but it’s also just the blink of an eye. And two years is is nothing and everything when you realize that you haven’t gone without anything at all, that you’ve actually attained more than you could’ve ever imagined. That what has happened within is much more rich and beautiful than what you’ve gone without. So though I’m all about taking chances and taking risks, trying to drink again is simply one that I don’t want to take. And who knows if I’ll feel the same way next year, for none of us can predict the future, but this is how I feel right here, right now. And knowing this, being present in this moment, is the culmination of the past two years.

As I did when I hit the one-year mark, I want to thank my family and my friends for being so supportive and encouraging, for making it relatively easy to “go without” as I go within, for never doubting me even when I doubted myself. And, as I didn’t do at the one-year mark, I’m also going to thank myself. You did it. Keep doing it. It’s working.

I wish you a wild, free life.

This Is Thirty

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This is thirty

So this is it. I’m thirty now. I’m officially an adult, supposedly. People keep asking me how it feels to be thirty and honestly, it doesn’t feel any different. My life is definitely different than it was just a short while ago, but I still feel about the same. Perhaps it’d be different if I hadn’t cleaned up my act, so to speak, almost two years ago. How my life is now has been two years in the making, not a miraculous overnight transition because now I’m an “adult.”

Yes, I do feel more mature, whatever that means, but I also feel pretty dang immature. I’m more grounded and responsible, somewhat, but I also feel much more curious and childlike. I’m definitely not a wise old sage now that I’m thirty, but I’m also not a girl who dances on the bar and gets sassy with anyone who tries to interfere with her good time. I feel a little immature in the way that I’ve been approaching the world, with my naivete about the recent election and the ways of this world, but I’d rather be childlike than a wizened cynic.

Cynicism used to be my forte, my way of maneuvering through life, always a raised eyebrow and a wry smile. It was much easier to be unimpressed than amused, quicker to scoff than to laugh. But then I quit booze and the cynicism I’d maintained for much of my adult life seemed to fall away, an item of clothing suddenly too large to fit into anymore. Though at first this sudden sea change threw me for a loop, I learned along the way to embrace it, to surrender. Much like I have surrendered to being thirty.

Thirty. To say it sounds old, to think it is surreal. But it’s also just a number, an arbitrary figure that supposedly dictates where I should be in life, what I should want, what I should do. The old picture of thirty that’s been ingrained in all of our millennial minds: kids, marriage, career, house. I’ve only been focusing on one of those things, my career, and it’s so new that I’m not quite “set” in it. I have a career now, something that’s rather surreal in itself. I have business cards, a fancy email signature, responsibility. But I feel like a kid at the same time. The idea of having kids? Laughable. Marriage? A house? Not too high up on my totem pole of goals.

I have goals for my thirties, but a lot of them are perhaps the goals of a twenty-year-old. I want to travel. I want to have more fun than I ever have. I want to dance on the regular. I want to go to more concerts and meet new people. If that sounds immature, I’ll take it. Maybe because I went to college in my mid twenties, a time when you’re “supposed to” be done with school, unless you’re going to grad school, is the reason for these goals. A lot of friends my age are getting married, buying houses, having babies. And more power to them! That’s just not where I’m at right now. And that’s okay. More than okay.

I’ve surrendered to my version of thirty looking perhaps wildly different from the version of my counterparts. I’ve embraced the idea of being a little more free than those with mortgages and diaper changes. My version of thirty entails a concern with mostly just me. A concern for expanding my own horizons and having more adventures. Also concern for building and fortifying my fledgling career, of learning more about the industry I work in and making connections in this new world. But mostly a concern for living as wildly and as freely as I can within the constraints of working a 9-5 job. This is all new terrain for me, which can be a little scary because it’s unknown, but the fact that I am thirty is not what’s scary to me.

I say this because there seems to be a fear that surrounds the age of thirty, an idea that once you’re thirty the fun is over and full adulthood sets in. An idea that you have to let your dreams go or that if you haven’t achieved your dreams by now, then you probably never will and you’re a loser. That if you aren’t married with children or well on your way to that life, something is wrong with you. I disagree. The only thing that could be wrong with being thirty is that if your life isn’t what you, truly, as an individual, want your life to be. Or knowing this and succumbing to this idea of the “right” way to live, to either beating yourself up and spinning down a guilt spiral or putting your dreams aside.

The dream of traveling the world doesn’t have to be a pretty idea up on a shelf that you look at wistfully but never take down because it seems too high to reach. The age of thirty doesn’t mean that you have to have a child right now because you’re settled down and it seems like the appropriate time to do it. The age of thirty doesn’t mean that you should own a house by now and that if you don’t, you’re a hopeless mess. The age of thirty means that you are now in a place where you can take stock of your life thus far, see what hasn’t worked for you, see what’s working for you now, and take it from there. Thirty’s when you begin to feel at home in your body, when you begin to lose some of the insecurity and fear, when you begin to become more settled and free simultaneously. At least, that’s my view of thirty.

I feel settled in having a new career, in going after what I want and working hard to get there. I feel more free because the doubt and fear of my teens and twenties is dissipating into the air like mist. I know that I will never be doubt-and-fear-free, I’m human after all, but the worries of what others think, the doubt in my own capacity and character? Going, going, gone. The fear that I will never be good enough? Gone. I will be as good as I can be, which is pretty damn good because I’m trying my best and I quit the thing that was holding me back from doing any good at all. So I feel a settled freeness, a free settledness, and this is what I associate with being thirty. Not a fear of wrinkles and a doubt in myself because I don’t have the house, the car, the marriage, the kids. This is thirty.

I wish you a wild, free life.

 

New

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I don’t know about you, but I was more than ready to say goodbye to 2016. Okay, that sounds pretty dramatic. And I can see (now) that it wasn’t completely horrible, but it definitely was bittersweet. Quite a few chapters ended, many of them unexpectedly, and they closed so quickly it nearly made me dizzy. I barely had a chance to catch my breath; I had to keep going.

I started a new job at the same time that my boyfriend of many years and I parted ways. Not only was I beginning a new career, I was also moving out of my old home and into a new one. As I adjusted to 9-5 life, I also had to readjust to living with roommates. I had to adjust to not having someone waiting for me when I got home, asking me about my day. I had to learn to be alone again. Needless to say, this was a lot.

But I also gained the beautiful experience of living with two other women, of fortifying bonds of friendship, sharing stories and space. I gained an opportunity to rediscover who I am in a new way. This rediscovery began when I gave up drinking nearly two years ago, but I was also in a relationship at the time, a relationship that defined me in many ways. Without the definition of a relationship, my identity once again altered shape. Though painful, it was necessary. I had to find out how to stand on my own two feet.

After such a whirlwind of activity, I was more than ready to start a new year. To welcome whatever was in store for me. But when my New Year’s Eve plans fell through at 11:30pm, leaving everything up in the air, I wasn’t feeling so welcoming. Midnight was a half hour away and suddenly my friend and I were planless; I worried that 2017 was going to be more of the same. But rather than give up, we decided to go and try to see our friend’s band. We knew it was most likely sold out, but we thought we’d give it a try. Sure enough, the venue was sold out. What to do?

It was ten minutes to midnight. We were out of options and didn’t want to spend the countdown to the new year standing outside near a heat lamp. So we headed across the street to the nearby dive bar, the Lucky Star. We’d had some fun nights at Lucky Star, where they host karaoke on Friday nights, but had stopped going when one of our friends was injured by a drunken a-hole. Here went nothing.

We walked into the bar and, once again, everything changed. Suddenly New Year’s Eve went from disappointing to something else entirely. Sometimes things change in the blink of an eye, like my life did last year. Only this time, nothing fell apart. I saw someone when my friend and I walked into the Lucky Star. I saw him and he saw me. Sometimes things happen so fast you don’t know what hit you. Sometimes it’s like you’re meant to walk into a dive bar at five minutes to midnight. Just when you’re least expecting it, everything can change.

You can shy away from this, from the sudden turn that almost leaves you breathless. Or you can quit overanalyzing everything and just lean into it. You can try to ignore the signs and write them off as coincidence. Or you can decide to listen to whatever it is that seems to be telling you something. You can tell yourself that it’s too soon, too fast. Or you can see the signs and attempt to follow them, to find out what’s in store for you, to let the story unfold. To trust that everything happens as it should.

So that’s what I did. I decided to enter 2017, a new year, by following the signs that seemed to have been placed before me, by surrendering to whatever outcome. It could end badly, but who knows? You don’t know unless you try. And if 2016 taught me anything, it’s that no one knows what the future holds.

I wish you a wild, free life.

Lucky

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Looks real, doesn’t it?

You’ve come to know the fortunate and the inauspicious stars, but you don’t know whether you yourself are fortunate or lucky. — Rumi

I’ve been thinking about luck lately. About being lucky or unlucky, rolling the dice, the concept of fate. About looking at life with a sense of good fortune or looking at life and seeing everything that is wrong with it. How much is up to us? How much is out of our hands?

I was in Las Vegas for a long weekend this month, where luck, in one form or another, is on nearly everyone’s minds. Las Vegas, the land of lights and booze, noise and shiny surfaces. Short days and long nights. Jackpots and empty pockets. It was quite the experience, to say the least.

I thought about luck as I walked through the casino and heard the shouts and laughter when someone won. I thought about luck as I walked down the strip at night and saw huddled figures in doorways and on cold, concrete steps. How much of this was luck?

I didn’t know if luck was on our side or not when my friends and I missed our initial flight to Las Vegas. Or when we drove through a pothole late one night on the way home and got a punctured tire and didn’t get back to the hotel until 6:30am. But then I saw people sleeping in the freezing cold, while I got to go back to a warm room.

Vegas unexpectedly shifted my perspective. Of course I had fun, dancing until 4am, seeing what there was to see. But it was all so… empty. The glittering lights looked gaudy in the light of day. The music in the club would eventually stop and the lights would come on and the moment was over. I felt lucky that I got to go home on Sunday, that this was not my life. I felt lucky for the life I do have.

Before Vegas, I wasn’t feeling so lucky. I was looking forward to the trip, to getting out of dodge, to shaking it up and letting loose. I had been working a lot, it’s a busy time in the industry I work in, and I felt burned out. I wasn’t feeling grateful or lucky when I woke up in the morning. I just felt tired. So Vegas, where I’d never been before, was beckoning.

But after the dizzying lights and smoke, the juxtaposition of Teslas and cardboard structures on the strip, I felt lucky to return home, where life feels… full. Real. Overwhelming at times, stressful yes, but real. And I realized that escaping from reality never works. But at least it can serve as a reminder. That we’re lucky.

We’re lucky to live, even if we’re stressed or overwhelmed. And I’m lucky to live in a place that’s more than shiny surfaces and loud noises. Where I look out the window and can see trees, not skyscrapers and billboards. I’m lucky that I’m not sleeping in a doorway in freezing temperatures. I also consider myself lucky that I’m not gambling all my money away on an intangible dream. But what’s luck, anyway? Did I get here because of luck or something else?

That’s what keeps me thinking. Why some of us are sleeping in doorways and others are driving Teslas down Las Vegas Boulevard. Why some of us look out and see trees and others wake up and see trash in the gutter. How much is luck? Bad luck? I don’t know.

But what I do know is that I don’t want to take any of it for granted. And I also know that trying to escape my reality never works for me. Yes, it’s fun to dance all night, and I am a wholehearted advocate of doing so, but eventually the music stops. And then what? Next time I take a vacation, I’m sure I’ll dance, but next time I want to see the stars.

I wish you a wild, free life.

Thankful

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It’s that time of year when we all (hopefully) take a moment to think about all we are grateful for. It’s a time of year when we pause and take stock of what brings a smile to our face, what gives us sustenance in one form or another, what keeps us going. I hope that we all came up with many things to be thankful for. I hope that we not only recognized, but truly appreciated, all that has been bestowed upon us.

I wish that we did this more than once a year, and perhaps some of us do, but I know that I don’t. I do go through spurts of appreciation, moments of gratitude. I try to look on the bright side, to see the silver lining. This isn’t always possible, but I know that it is possible to focus our attention on what matters more than what doesn’t. This long weekend reminded me of this, to focus my attention on the present, to hone in on the brightness and the light.

Though I don’t want kids (which many of you know; or you can read about it here), they are a great reminder to be present, to laugh and play, to just simply stand in wonder. Spending time with my niece and nephew on Thanksgiving reminded me of this, of the simple beauty in this world. These two little people gave me pause, made me stop and think about not only how miraculous they are, but how miraculous life in and of itself is.

It’s miraculous that my one-year-old niece says “Auntie” and “Love you” now. It’s miraculous how funny my three-year-old nephew is. They just say whatever it is that’s on their minds. They are kind, crazy, sweet. I could listen to them all day. They both have so much personality, so much curiosity and wonder for the world. Their wonder revives my own, shifts my perspective, gives me clarity. The simple fact that we are here is wonder enough, not to mention that I get to be an auntie to these little humans, these pockets of giggles and tears.

Not only do I get to be an auntie, but I also get to be a sister and a daughter. As we held hands around the table to give thanks, I looked around me and smiled. My sister, who makes me so very proud, who makes me want to be a better person, was on my left. My brother-in-law, who works so hard to provide for his family, and his son, the class president at his school, to my right. My niece chatting with herself in her highchair beside my sister. Laughter coming from the living room where my mom, who reminds me to pursue my passions, who has always placed value in language and art, was playing with my nephew. I was so grateful.

The wonder of it all continued to strike me after my day with my family. The day after Thanksgiving I did yoga in my living room in the morning light before going out to the coast with a friend. The drive was beautiful, winding wet roads and rolling green hills. Redwood trees and glimmering water. I remarked how amazing it is that we live in a place this gorgeous. After we parked we got coffee and sat outside amid the frigid beauty, the water glinting silver and gray, black birds hopping across the lush wet grass. When it got too cold we went back inside the cafe to find a corner where we could continue talking.

We talked about life and death, friendship and loss, relationships, school, family. I had never spoken with this friend in this way before; we had never really had the opportunity to talk as we did in that moment, just the two of us. It was a moment. A moment where I paused and was grateful. I was grateful for the warmth of the cafe, the coffee I was drinking, the company of this friend I suddenly knew. I felt like she let me know her more than before, and I appreciated it. She reminded me that vulnerability is a kind of strength.

Then yesterday I found myself pausing in another moment of gratitude. I was thankful for a different friend of mine, and not just because she cooked me breakfast and drove us to San Francisco (she’s amazing). I was grateful for her no-nonsense sweetness, how she does not mince words but is still inherently thoughtful. I was thankful for her companionship and our friendship, which has just grown and grown over the years. She’s the kind of friend where you can sit without talking and it’s not awkward. That’s pretty rare. I appreciated how opinionated she is without being rude; she knows who she is and what she likes and doesn’t like and will let you know. She reminded me of the beauty in just being yourself.

There is beauty in just being yourself, in being vulnerable, in being childlike with wonder. Some may see these actions as weak, but I know that these actions make you more resilient. If you are fully yourself, you become your own anchor in a chaotic sea. If you are vulnerable, you create stronger relationships, including with yourself. If you are silly with glee, you make the world a brighter place to live. I am grateful for these actions. And I am even more grateful for the friends and family who remind me of this, of the brightness and the light.

I wish you a wild, free life.