9/28, 11:30 P.M.
So, over the past few weeks the intensity of which I live my life has ramped up quite a bit. And that’s normal for September, I suppose. I’ve written before that I often enter my birthday season feeling spent, and this year seems to be no exception.
The main different, however, is that I’m a bit more of a writer-for-hire this year (I really want to say, “hired gun,” but I googled the actual history of the term and realize that, no, I am not doing anything illegal for anyone). Before, anything that floated across my mind ended up here or in previous tumblrs, completely for myself. Now, much of my time is spent writing for other people– which I love. I am immensely grateful that EdWeek or Sevenzo, among others, care about my words.
Still, it means that the majority of my written-self ends up focused on other topics or other people. So, I’m trying to implement a little space to myself tonight. Yes, it means putting another piece on hold, but I think it’s important.
I’m turning 29 in about a week. Normally, I spend my birthday trying to think about what I want to accomplish in the next year, how I can grow and change as a human, I reflect on what I need to do better.
This year, I’m sitting looking at the blank screen, and I got nothing.
Not that I don’t think I have things I need to do better in, just that the fact that I made it here in one piece is still so baffling that moving beyond that hasn’t even crossed my mind. When I try to divine what’s in the future, it’s a misty haze of exhaustion, a to-do list, and the ever-present wondering if I’ve eaten today or not.
Last year around my birthday, I clicked a link on Faceboook to read my horoscope. I don’t particularly follow horoscopes– I find them amusing as the next girl and do feel like I embody the general qualities of a Libra. For 2016, it talked about “major life changes.”
Excellent! I thought. I was so sure I knew exactly what that meant. While I was trying to “read the waves” and “go with the flow” last year, I had a clear trajectory for what my life would look like for at least the next few years. I didn’t just have an idea, I knew it. I saw the life I would live over the next few years, and all the salient details– the who and where, the things we would build and create– were there.
And now, I got nothing.
No, I jest for the sake of narrative rhythm. What I mean is that, instead of the life plan, a few months later, I walked away. I looked at the map I had made for myself and realized it wasn’t going where I wanted it to. So, I set it down and started to make a new one.
And now I’m entering 29 and I no longer have that same life plan. While there are elements of stability in my life, I don’t have clear cut answers to questions like, “Are you staying in Hawaii forever?” or “So, what’s next for you?”
I. have. no idea.
And, frankly, I’m so caught up jumping from one project to the next that I haven’t even had time to be upset about that, which is probably okay.
Here’s the thing I realized while running the Kauai marathon earlier this month: everything ends. The hill you are struggling to climb over eventually ends. The pain you feel when we grieve for what was lost eventually ends.
That said, even most good things come to an end. My high school English teacher once reminded us (with a cynical but loving gleam in his eye– he loved antagonizing my ‘Pollyana-esque’ optimism) that even every relationship you are ever in but one (theoretically) will eventually end. We will have to leave jobs we love. We lose people.
In some ways, that used to freak me out. It wasn’t simply the fact that every ended, but the fact that I didn’t know when it would end. The end would hit me like a ton of bricks, and I wouldn’t be ready. I tried to course-correct by doing everything I could do figure out my end, to try and tell the story myself so that I could craft the exact correct ending at exactly the right time.
That’s not how the world works, though. We don’t get executive producer credits or final edits on our life’s script. All we can do is handle each page we’re given with grace and work through it the best we can.
The thing is, there’s something beautiful about that. Once you surrender to the fact that you cannot control the outcome, you are free to relish what you have now. The end will come, you know it will come, you know it might hurt– but what is there to do about it? You can either worry about the end or enjoy the present moment for what it is.
There is also something to be said about making space for new things. I wrote last year:
…My exhaustion, my emptiness, isn’t a sign of lacking. This year, and hopefully from now on, it is a sign of preparation for the new. We cannot fill a cup that is already full.
I come to a new year of life completely spent: I have tried to give my words, my voice, my work to my classroom and loved ones. I have tried to ensure that I don’t refuse new lessons because I am so full of old ones that may no longer serve me. Instead of feeling full and satisfied, I quite like the idea of coming into a new year on earth empty and open: there is a hunger in my belly that is still not satisfied. I am excited to spend another year filling it again.
Things are no different this year. It’s a terrifying thought sometimes, but I now see that this concept may begin to apply to my life plans too.
Recently, my father made an exciting new life decision. When he was on the fence about it, he mused, “You know, it was a bold move for your grandparents to move from the Philippines and Mexico to here. It was a bold move for them to come to LA, and a bold move when we brought you guys to Orange County.” He smiled, “It was a bold move when you came to Hawai‘i.” He was thoughtful for a moment, before saying, “We’re a family of bold moves. Maybe it’s time for another one.”
I smiled, because I was so proud of my dad for having the bravery and strength to change his plans and adapt. I was inspired, too. Yes, it’s great to plan for life goals, and I never want to stop doing that. But I never want to be so married to the plan that I don’t make space for bold, exciting moves in my life. I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that it is never too late to scrap the map and do it better than you ever dreamed.
So, as 29 looms near (which I’m sure I’ll write more about), I’m excited to watch as my twenties come to an end. Is it a little scary? Sure. But it’s exhilarating that accept that the end will come no matter what, so my only job is to enjoy it while I can before making the next big, bold move.