New Year

New Year

As we set up my New Year’s party last year—a most beloved holiday tradition—my then-girlfriend and I discussed resolutions. I’ve never made one I haven’t kept. For 2000, it was to read the Bible. 2010: Catch an in-play kickball. 2011: Quit my job. 2014: Leave Minnesota. 2015: Make enough friends in San Diego to throw a New Year’s party. 2016: Date women. I deal in specifics, and I never make a resolution I don’t intend to keep.

But 2017 looked hazy. After the wreckage of the election, I felt unable to see the road ahead. A deep current of change ran through my veins, and I could sense the need for something big, something I couldn’t even imagine in that moment. For the first time in years, I couldn’t articulate what I needed or formulate a plan.

When asked, all I could say was, “Figure out the thing,” which didn’t feel like enough. “And do the thing.” That was as close as I could come.

One year later, my life is more dramatically different than that smiley, glittery-shirt-wearing, undercut-sporting version of me could have foreseen. I lived then in predictable rhythms. Weekdays in the cubicle. Weeknights at open mics. Weekends on hikes, at the farmer’s market, recording the podcast, thrifting, and going on dates. A charmed life full of sunshine and kale. I wanted for nothing.

Now, I’m 23 states (plus D.C.), two foreign countries, five national parks, 6,855 miles (since San Diego), seven roommates, two car break-ins, one nudist colony (I didn’t even tell you about that), 125 days without a period (and counting), four blood tests, one MRI, one or two meniscus tear(s), two conferences, one heartbreak I shouldn’t have felt, two minor breakups I should have felt more, one punch in the face, “millions” of rodent droppings (exterminator’s words), and one dog (future TBD) worse for the wear.

I’ve reduced my life to a few belongings that fit in an astonishingly reliable Ford Escape. It’s still more than many have, and more than I need, but a reduction that felt impossible to a year-ago me. My closet then was bursting, and I loved to adorn myself in bright colors and playful styles—costume jewelry from antique shops, worn or collected by old ladies with unknown histories. Now, I wear the same four or five simple outfits, the same understated jewelry, every day. It’s all I have left, all I need.

I’ve spent time in parts of the country I never understood. I experienced rural life and witnessed poverty that had only existed on paper in my mind. I was invited inside.

I’ve been asked for explanations and accepted as I am. I’ve been a passing stranger and a regular rhythm in others’ lives. I’ve learned more about caring for people—and being cared for—in a single year of motion than in three decades of standing still. I’ve learned who stays and how important they are, the ones who give you strength, who let you travel into darkness and hold the line, ready to pull you back.

I smile less and entertain fewer fantasies. Something flighty in me grew heavy this year, weighted by dustings of disappointment, layered thick on papery wings, which beat now with a dull thud when once they swirled and swooped. I feel solid with this heft, more bound to the earth, less likely to float away. (Others feel sadder about this than I do. They miss a person who made them feel alive, like they might grab my tail and fly with me, like children clapping for a kite, and I don’t miss pumping those people—those men—with hope. I do miss a world that made flight feel possible, one that didn’t trample vulnerable people at every turn, but it existed only in my mind.)

I appear more chaotic, maybe, and hover closer to frightening depths than I did in California. I dip more frequently, thanks, in part, to an underactive thyroid, but I recover more swiftly as well. What once took days now takes hours. I’ve learned to let myself be soothed.

I’ve also learned people want happiness for me, and I want purpose for myself.

Purpose will drive 2018. I feel clarity and certainty when looking to the year ahead, and it’s almost foreign, this sturdiness, these sure feet. After toppling towers in 2017, I’ve cleared ground for something magnificent and powerful, and I’m vibrating with drive to build, create, regenerate. I know what I want from this year, and I see the path forward in vivid detail. I feel ready, almost giddy, to take on 2018.

I can’t say I loved this year or hated it, but I lived it, to borrow a friend’s phrase, really fucking hard. Despite every setback, every tear, every hour spent questioning why, when all is said and done, I don’t regret a thing.

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Shattered

Shattered

Remember how I thought I’d leave Vancouver with a “hump full of happiness” that would carry me to Minneapolis? Well, that turned out to be a Best Laid Plans moment. After a wonderful conference filled with delightful friends—both new and old—I was ricocheted back into chaos when my car was broken into overnight in the fancy neighborhood I was staying in.

Half my wardrobe is gone. All my jewelry is gone. My sense of safety and security in this world is gone.

Twice in as many weeks, I’ve had the foundations of my faith fall from underneath me. People are inherently good, I tell myself. The once-beloved blocks me on another platform. Trust and believe, I say. Strangers smash my window.

I’m feeling robbed not just of memories and irreplaceable gifts—tangible items that tied me to a past I visit with both affection and regret—but of a sense of the belief that people rise to the faith you place in them.

An old therapist liked to ask whether I expect too much of people, and maybe she’s right. Maybe it was too much to expect a close friend to explain before cutting me from their life or for passersby to NOT SMASH MY FUCKING WINDOWS. Maybe I’m a fool, sitting around waiting for the world to be kind and generous and safe. Maybe the naysayers are right, and you should protect yourself; stay closed, locked, out of reach; become a fortress, impenetrable. Maybe I should furl into a tiny corner of myself until I all but disappear.

Maybe I could disappear.

I woke at 3am in a tent on a lakeshore in the middle of Washington, and my chest was in a vice grip. I lay there for hours, wishing I could cease to exist, wishing the sun would stop rising, the birds would stop chorusing, and the world would stop demanding my presence in it. The burden of finding a positive path forward, of renewing any energy, any zeal, any appetite for another step through this wasteland of human garbage, felt too heavy to bear.

A friend told me it’s time for self-care, and he’s right. It’s good advice. The thing is, I usually soothe myself with hiking. I’ll be driving through Idaho and Montana and Wyoming these next few days, surrounded by gorgeous, immense wilderness, and I’m terrified to leave sight of my car. (You best believe it’s in view as I write this.) How do you recover a sense of security when you’re out here alone, when a violation of the tiniest part of the world—a car window—is an invasion of your whole world? How do you leap back into faith and pray, this time, people will prove you right?

I’m carrying a new passenger—fear—and it laughs in my face. You thought you could outrun me. You thought you were free.

I intend to face that asshole today and go for a hike anyway, because if I don’t, the bastards win. Even if I’m terrified, even if my heart races and I can barely enjoy the sights through a thunderous roar of anxiety, the one thing I know about myself is I’m competitive as hell and stubborn, and I don’t let bastards win.

I wanted to write only positive news here, to share my life sunny side up, but the thieves took that from me, too. I’m raw, and there’s no hiding it.