I can only describe 2019 in one way: a shit show. Talking to friends, family, coworkers, and even people I’ve just met, I think this feeling is shared amongst many of us. Do you feel this way? What was your 2019 like? If it was a bumpy one, know you are not alone.
As the year comes to a close, I invite you to take personal inventory of the highs and lows, triumphs and failures. Look at your year and be honest– what worked and what did not work? A new decade is just around the corner, and I am here to tell you that it can be your best one yet. You have the power to shape your future, though you will have to be brave and be honest.
I turned twenty-seven this year. 27 is my favorite number. I saw this as a positive sign and hoped it would be a good year. Now it’s the end of December and I can definitely say that the year did not turn out as hoped or planned, but that’s okay. Maybe it is, in fact, the best possible outcome. You see, we don’t always consciously know what we need. Our subconscious usually does– that’s where our instinctive nature lies. But our rational minds are not always up to speed with our deeper selves. If there is one thing I wish for all of us in the upcoming decade, it is that we get in touch with our deeper selves. That is where the true magic happens.
In many ways this has been the most challenging year of my life. I have been pushed to grow in ways I did not feel ready for. Then again, who is ever really ready for transformation? Transformation requires change, and change is painful for us humans. We are attached to keeping things the same, because then we know what to expect. Even if our reality is less than fulfilling, we will choose this stasis over the unknown.
I went through a breakup in February that broke me apart and upended my life. Now I can see that this was much needed, but at the time I was terrified. On an otherwise ordinary Saturday evening, my ex and I got in what was probably our thousandth fight. This fight was really no different and no worse than the rest. But this time, something inside me shifted. Rather than feeling the anger and resentment, followed by anxiety and despair, that I usually felt after we had a blow up, I had the distinct feeling that I cannot go on like this anymore.
And then I got around to saying it– the thought that had been lurking in the back of my mind for almost as long as our relationship had existed, the thought I had not been willing to admit because if I did admit it and I did not take action then it would be my fault that I did not feel happy or fulfilled. I stopped in the middle of the cosmetics aisle of Safeway, where I was taking refuge after our fight, and whispered out loud, I want a different life than this.
As soon as I uttered those words, I knew they were the truest and bravest words I had ever spoken. I did want a different life than the one I was living. I wanted a life in which I felt hopeful for the future and joyful about my present and loved and appreciated by my partner. In that moment of acknowledging the raw and messy truth, my whole life began to change.
If you have had this thought too– that you want a different life than the one you are living– I encourage you to listen to it and do some deep soul-searching. This does not mean you have to make a dramatic change. It simply means that the thought is there for a reason and the longer you put off paying attention to it, the longer you are ignoring what you will eventually know to be true– that something is not working. At some point you are going to have to acknowledge this thought and figure out what it means for you and for your life. I recommend having this conversation with yourself sooner rather than later. It will take time and a whole lot of courage to figure out what it is that you need, and there may be growing pains along the way. I can promise you that your life will get better once you are honest with yourself and begin to take steps to build the vision you have for yourself.
After being honest with myself in the fluorescent aisles of Safeway, I made some big changes. The first involved moving out of the apartment I had shared with my now ex-boyfriend. The second involved reconnecting with the people and pastimes that fill me up with goodness and also trying new things that I thought I might like. I slowly began to feel like my life was not hopeless, in fact I began to feel hopeful. I realized I had been living a small vision of my life, one where I suppressed my desires and my potential. I decided I wanted to live a bigger vision, one where I took risks and was bold and embraced new experiences. And that is what I am doing– being bold, living the bigger vision, and exploring what that all means for myself. I took a trip to Australia this summer and went to Banff this winter. I have been reading more and going to concerts alone (I remember now that I like spending time alone). I found a therapist that I connect with and have begun the journey into self. I am writing often and signed up for my first ever writing workshop. Through these experiences, I feel that I am circling closer to my version of a meaningful and joy-filled life.
We all have different versions of joy. What do you love doing? What makes you feel fulfilled? Where do you find meaning? What is your vision for yourself? If you could live any life, what would it look like? What steps can you take to get yourself that life?
And here it is, the heart of what I have been trying to get at: We all have the power to start over. You can begin again at any time. If you are unhappy with your life and have been for some time, it is time to make a change. This doesn’t mean you have to quit your job or leave your spouse or lose twenty pounds or move to a new city. It means that you have to face the truth of what is not working and then begin to do something about it. It can be as simple as signing up for an art class or beginning to exercise or deleting your numerous dating apps and being alone for a while or asking your partner to go to couple’s counseling or taking space from your relationship to focus on yourself. Even the smallest of changes will have a rippling effect and your life will begin to transform in ways you didn’t even know were possible.
There you have it– the antithesis of doing nothing. Now go out and do something.