Huzzah, it’s my birthday! The perfect occasion on which to get all introspective. Or at least more so than other days.
I must say, I’m excited to turn 32. I much prefer even-numbered years, for reasons I can’t quite explain, and since 8 is my lucky number, this year should be especially great, since 32 is divisible by 8 four times.
I’m also excited to turn 32 for more “real” reasons, though.
Reason 1: My dissertation is in a good place
I don’t want to say much more than that. One of the things I’ve learned about myself over the years, is that if I expend too much energy talking about the intricacies of what engages me, or the excitement of it, I lose the magic. Sort of like if I let an actual cat out of an actual bag, and the cat turned around and was like, fuck you, man, you put me in a bag!? and then ran off, taking all my motivation and invested time with it.
But it’s…going. And I expect to be Dr. Crawley by the time I turn 33.
Reason 2: My Energists make me happy
I know that there are a zillion more steps between me and publication, but the fact is, I finished my novel and I loved every second of writing it. It was the most cathartic, extraordinary thing I’ve ever done for myself, and I wouldn’t trade that time and effort for anything.
I put my book in the hands of beta readers last fall. I’ve received one copy back so far, with brilliant comments, and I’m waiting with anticipation to collect the others and get my book out into the world. This will be the year that I do a final edit and start shopping around for agents. I might try posting to a serial website like Wattpad (need to check the copyright concerns on that). Or I might just go the traditional route and try to attend a few conferences, do a bit of networking, and send out letters.
Whatever route I take, the point is, I’m taking one. I’m doing this thing. And I’m launching into it this next year.
Reason 3: I’ve found the forest
I am about equal parts emotion and logic. I try to keep them in balance in that I use logic, analysis, and organizational tactics to harness and manage the vast stores of imagination, compassion, and emotion that drive me.
But this past year, I discovered that I am at my strongest and most centered if I give myself a little bit of time each week where I don’t have to submit to my systems and keep a calculated outlook. Where I can just walk around and be entirely, truly, me, even if that means I’m high-fiving trees, or getting all misty-eyed at the sound of birds, or sitting on a log and writing out embarrassingly transparent inner thoughts.
I feel awesome when I give myself this time every week, out in the forest. I’m not going to question it; I’m just going to keep attending to this time.
Reason 4: I’m healthy
In an age where every other discussion is about health care, and whether or not a significant number of us will have ACA coverage in the next year, I am extraordinarily lucky to be without a pre-existing condition, a prescription, or a looming medical concern. I still worry about my ability to pay for health insurance without the tax credit, but I do not have to worry–at this immediate moment–about whether or not I will physically survive.
I honor that privilege by eating healthy meals, running, working out, meditating, and generally maintaining the good luck my genetics have awarded me.
This next year I intend to take this work a step further and pay more attention to my personal level of food waste and sustainability.
Reason 5: I’m more aware
I am somewhat ashamed to say that I spent a the majority of my late-teens and early-twenties with my head in the sand. I didn’t do it maliciously–we’re all a little obsessed with ourselves at that age. But I also failed to understand that actively maintaining unawareness is a sneaky form of cruelty towards anyone who has to be hyper-aware of their situation, their safety, the systems set up against them.
I’m trying to correct that now by seeking out articles and conversations that give me a better understanding of more perspectives. As a result, I’m often angrier than I used to be. But I’m also more likely to be able to help someone, if the need arises. And I’m more able, and more likely to call bullshit when I see someone being treated unfairly, myself included.
Reason 6: I’m reading every day
Even if it’s just an online article or a podcast episode, I am reading every day. As a result, the secrets of good writing are becoming even more clear to me. Things are clicking and unlocking. I’m more able to look at a piece of fiction and figure out what makes it tick, the way I can with scholarly writing. It feels amazing to expand these understandings
It also feels amazing to just engage with words every day–words I didn’t have to write, that I can just enjoy for the sheer sake of enjoyment. I look forward to my half-hour to hour of reading like I look forward to ice cream.
I’m also reading more kinds of things: in addition to the stuff I normally read–fantasy, history, historical fiction–I’m reading op-eds, experimental fiction, urban worlds, true crime, journalism, and even romance.
Reason 7: I’m writing (almost) every day
I already mentioned that my projects are in a good place, and that’s primarily because I’m writing all the time. Sometimes it’s dissertation, sometimes it’s journaling, sometimes its blog posts or bits of short stories or chronologies or personal essays. Whatever it is, it rules.
It makes me calmer, more creative, more aware of my time, more disciplined, and happier. And it’s preparing me to put my opinions and thoughts out into the world.
Reason 8: I’m less afraid
All these things combined, I find I am less afraid.
I mean, I’m still terrified of certain things out of my control: the government’s unpredictability; climate change; death.
But I am less afraid of what’s coming for me, personally, because I am actively investing time in my projects and personhood.
I am less afraid of what people think of me and my interests, because I am increasingly at peace with the idea that I will never make everyone happy. The best I can do is arm myself with self-understanding, information, and increasingly honed opinions, so that when I (usually unintentionally) upset someone, I have a basis for figuring out why, and if it’s worth correcting.
I am less afraid of myself–of all my interlocking, occasionally conflicting, generally non-conformant parts. I’m no longer interested in pushing myself into a ordinary narrative that’s easy for others to digest, or of hiding who I am. Granted, I’m also not interested in being myself at people or flinging my identity around like a weapon. But I’m less anxious about being me than I used to be–more joyful, casual, and curious. I can even see the humor in my quest to know thyself in the big philosophical ways. And it’s making me a much happier person.
Those are some of the reasons 32 is looking pretty grand. My intention is to keep on keeping on, to take change in stride if something needs to change, and to work hard at continuing to expand and shape the possibilities of my future. If all goes well–and I’m going to do my damndest–then I should have exciting things to share throughout this next year and rewarding challenges to overcome.
I’m looking forward to it. : )