thoughts from 23

When I was younger, like two years ago, before I was working a 9-5 job and trying to balance getting dressed in the morning with working out at some point - I prided myself on being reflective. Like spending Sunday’s in church and literally traveling to foreign countries to find spaces, small holes in time, where I could look back at everything that had happened and forward at everything that I wanted to.

I spent a day, silent, in a convent in Belize - and a week living into relationships that were brand new in Jamaica, I went to retreats in the mountains, and wrote in journals. I was in consistent pursuit of ‘thinking’ and ‘remembering’ and in a lot of cases just being.

And then I graduated school and got swept into a new world - where reflection was reserved for therapy and the odd moment I had on the treadmill or in yoga class where I was thinking about something other than how many calories I was going to burn (more on that later).

But now - in an airport - on the eve of my 24th birthday and on the way to Chicago (more on that also, later). I am taking the 45 spare minutes I usually would be spending scrolling through Instagram - to write down a couple of things that happened this year - and a couple of things I learned from them. Really for no other reason than - I think I’ll probably care one day.

First. We have a tendency to believe in ‘right’ choices. There are no right choices. I spent the better part of this year trying to figure out what was ‘right’: like what the right time to quit my job was, and what the right thing to say when I did it was. I tried to create the ‘right’ art that would get my a raise at work or the projects I wanted on the side. I tried to fit into the ‘right’ clothes. I tried to find the right thing to say to someone I knew I loved but had already told the timing wasn’t right, in all the wrong ways. I spent hours stewing over things only to realize that there would never be a good time, and I would never say the right thing. I would say what I said and leave when I did - and it would all be hard. I’d figure it out anyways.

Second. I had a tendency to lean, in a disordered way, into things that I thought would make me healthy. For as long as I can remember, working out had to involve running on the treadmill for no less than 45 minutes and eating healthy was only healthy if the plate was full of kale (which, I’m allergic to) and unseasoned chicken. I spent the first half of this year self-flagellating because of medication that created a hormonal imbalance that caused unwanted weight gain - and the second half of the year, trying, desperately to get ‘healthy’. And only recently I realized that I needed, desperately, to reform the relationship I had to all the things I had told myself were ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ - or actually to just reform my relationship to myself. It’s a lot of work, but it feels worth it.

Third, I learned undoubtedly to read your contract twice. Make sure you’re on the same page with everyone: your clients, your romantic partners, you friends, your parents. It will make things harder up front and easier later. Let yourself decide how things start and end - but just, put it in writing - or at the very least, say it out loud. I guess that also means, just, for the love of god, have a contract in the first place.

Fourth, I watched a lot of people lose things, and lost a couple myself (jobs, friends, passions). I heard a lot of people promising that something better was coming - and I even I, the most cynical of cynics thinks that one day there will be - something better - something right. But I also sat with them as they grew weary of the search, got tired, tapped out or turned things down because they didn’t feel better. I learned that maybe what’s coming won’t be better, but it will be what’s next. And that maybe the point is, if you let yourself you might enjoy the searching.

Fifth, I learned to take protecting my creativity seriously. I signed on to too many projects and stayed at a job that stifled me. Instead of balancing my books to give myself room to write and moodboard and travel - I worked myself to the bone. It was good - it was a year of growth and change, and I needed to hustle to get there. But it was also dramatic and frantic and sometimes boring. It was good - but it wasn’t what I wanted it to be.

Sixth, I edited how I felt more than I should have. And I think I confused the shit out of everyone I cared about. I should have just said I didn’t know how the fuck to figure some things out. I worried so much that someone would get cut on my sharp edges that I refused to have any edges at all. I didn’t set boundaries or clearly set up anything. I just said I couldn’t in a way that probably just sounded like I wouldn’t.

Seventh, I learned to believe who people have shown me to be. I’ve met some new people and loved some old and learned that words would always just be words. I decided to spend time in my relationships watching closely and listening deeply. And I learned a lot about people that way. I only wish I had believed who people had shown me to be and tempered my reactions to what they had to say accordingly.

Eighth, My mom always told me that we become the people we spend time around. I didn’t know that applied even when we don’t spend time around anyone.

Ninth, I left my job. I literally walked out of work at 10 am called my dad and said today is the day I do it. And by 1pm had freed myself of a million burdens that were never mine to carry. I learned that walking away was important - but also that staying was valid. I learned a lot about being scared and making decisions because of it; I learned that sometimes those decisions are necessary and sometimes they eat you alive. Mostly I learned that self - preservation can be a really bullshit excuse.

Tenth, a lot of people I wanted to lean in, leaned away. The only thing that made it feel any better was drinking Juneshine in my best friends backyard or flying to San Francisco to see concert and watch Youtube videos on my friends sofa. Instead of chasing the things that had already said no, I leaned into the places where the answer has always been yes. I know my heart won’t always let me let go that easily (I’m not right now) but a worthy thought to remember anyways.

Eleventh, what I’ve realized now - after stewing on the trip I’m about to take for two weeks - is that time is a funny thing. We try so hard to speed it up and slow it down - to get around it and under it and through it. We want things to happen right now and are desperate to stave off something else (like wrinkles). We think a lot about how awful it is to be this young and lonely and are terrified of being old and in a stable relationship. We tie ourselves, most of the time into catch-22’s that are ways of hiding from the intimacy of things and blaming it on the world. I have nothing profound to say about that, other than I hope this year, will be the year I stop doing that bullshit to myself and the people i love.

And so, twelfth……….here’s to what was 23, and whatever 24 will be.