Best Year of My Life

It’s been a long, weird year. Lots of tears, lots of change. But I think that I can say now, on the eve of my 29th birthday, that in a very strange way it has been the best year so far because it’s been a year of control and positive change.

I acknowledged that there was a problem

This is where I was a year ago. We went to Sea Ranch on my birthday in order to celebrate mine and my mom’s (the 3rd). While we were up there, I confessed to my family that I felt stuck and ready for a new challenge. I wasn’t sure what it would be yet, but I knew I wasn’t learning anything anymore and didn’t feel my work was as meaningful as it could be. I would eventually figure out why and identify what aspects did make me happy. But so much of the struggle was feeling that there wasn’t anything wrong with my life other than that I wasn’t happy in it. I was working with smart, creative people doing work that mattered. But it still wasn’t enough.

For years, I had taken for granted that I would go to business school after a few years of working. 3 years quickly became 5+ years and something was holding me back from applying. I finally realized it just didn’t feel right. That’s the first step, though. Just acknowledging that something isn’t working.

I asked for help

As soon as I understood that I needed a change and didn’t have a clear idea what it should be, I knew I needed to see a career counselor. I found mine through a few searches that kept taking me to the same place – the Bay Area Career Center. They are lovely people and I am so glad things worked out as they did. Initially, I emailed asking if I could sign up for a one-day workshop one of the counselors, Hilary, was doing on getting unstuck in your job. Thankfully, the workshop didn’t have enough takers and instead I saw Hilary 1:1. She gave me a few exercises to do before we met and from then on things accelerated. She listened and she empathized. She calmed my tears of frustration with logic and more guided inquiry. Together, we made a plan.

I gave myself permission to be selfish and refused to settle

Since the hope was that by going through this process I would find my path for life, I promised myself I would refuse to settle. That meant looking for something that not only felt right for the moment, but that ticked the boxes on my larger list. I wasn’t going to go all the way into dreamspace – becoming a professional dancer or an astronaut – but there had to be an element of dreaming to what I would do next to sustain me over the years.

By going through this process of identifying what’s important to me and putting that first, I made a realization I wasn’t ready for and needed time to process and grow into. My relationship wasn’t working. The signs had all been there, but up until then I wasn’t willing to acknowledge them.

By being selfish, I came to realize, I was also doing the best thing for others. For my colleagues, who needed more than I could give them, and for the man I thought was the love of my life. If I could already see we wouldn’t make ideal life partners, the right thing to do was to cause us both pain now that would allow us to move on and improve our lives apart.

I took things one at a time

As a general personality trait, I tend to get overwhelmed by change. But this time I dealt with things one at a time, which allowed me to handle the momentous changes individually. I set dates in advance, which allowed me to plan and prepare. First, I told my sister, then my parents, what my new plan was for my life and got their feedback and approval. Knowing they were on my side made everything else easier. Then I decided to leave my job earlier than I had initially planned. I was going to work through the summer, but I decided I would never get another chance like this, one to travel without obligations and responsibilities at home, and to process the change without other things on my mind. Then I broke things off with Casey, then I worried about moving. “One thing at a time,” has become a real mantra this year. I think it’s a useful point of view to keep in school as well.

I found out who my real friends are

You don’t need very many, but it’s good to know who you can count on in a crisis. Some people were really, really there for me, especially when I didn’t ask. And that is a debt you can never fully repay. But it makes everything a little brighter for a long time afterwards.

I became a better friend

Certainly related to the point above. Especially once you see what people are willing to do for you, it’s easier to give that kind of attention when you recognize their need from your own experience.

It started with a friend going through a tough period and my taking just a little bit of my time to see that she was ok. It seemed so basic to me, but it meant the world to her. And I think that little bit of effort on my part gained me one of the best friends I’ve made in adulthood.

I traveled

Since I knew I wasn’t going to have the time or money again for a while, I made it a priority to see friends and family abroad/far away. Those memories will have to sustain me through this journey.

I had one wish and made it come true

The freakout last year came at a natural time. As I considered it through last fall, I understood that I was feeling the need to really become an adult. The “Oh my God I’m gonna be 30 soon! What am I doing with my life!?” freakout. I decided that before I turned 29 I would figure out and be on my new path.

Mission accomplished. For now. And now comes the hard (but also the fun) part. Happy birthday to me!

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