I see a lot of lists cropping up this time of year. I’ve been known to jot down a list or two myself, but typically I’ve avoided doing year-end summaries or resolutions for the new year. Partially because – let’s be honest – I hadn’t done anything all that list-worthy in the previous year, and I didn’t really believe I’d accomplish much in the year ahead.
A bit glum, I realize, but I’m being honest.
But this year, fuck it. I’m making a list. This year has been one of the best and most difficult of my entire life, and it seemed appropriate to close the year by sharing with you (and reminding myself) what one can accomplish.
It’s easy for me to remember what happened during a particular year, as my birthday is on December 31st. Each year starts off with a clean slate. A new year of my life begins, right along with the rest of the Gregorian calendar.
On the first day of 2011 I was wandering through the freshly fallen snow on the streets of Tahoma in Tahoe, not completely sure I actually knew where I was staying, let alone how to find my way back. Yet, I was completely fine with being lost. I needed to get lost. The road I’d been struggling down was leading nowhere, and I knew it. Something had to give. I just didn’t know what, or how.
Looking back on this year, I’m surprised with how telling that first day of the year actually was. I had been searching for deeper meaning in my life for several years, but hadn’t made the requisite changes and sacrifices to make any real difference. I just continued to wander down the same path, hoping by some magical coincidence, my life would change.
I spent much of the year frustrated, depressed and filled with an ever increasing sense of desperation for something to change.
I was unhappy in my job, and intellectually uninspired. I thought about trying something new, but always arrived at the same conclusion – I’d been in one industry for over 13 years and had long since passed the point of no return. I was stuck.
This belief resulted in the overall dulling of my senses, and had convinced me that I was never going to do anything else, and essentially my life would never get any better. All those lists I had made in years past were meaningless.
Each day at work became more and more painful, the hours dragging on for what seemed like eternity. Then, something changed.
I’d had several interviews for other jobs early in the year, all of them with reputable firms that would have paid me well, and surely would’ve improved my quality of life. Yet, I felt no excitement for these interviews, and found myself dragging my feet at every step. I winged every conversation, not fully realizing why. It wasn’t until I heard myself telling an interviewer:
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, but I’m not sure I’m the right fit for this role. Good luck on your search though!
I hung up the phone, trying to understand what I’d just done. Based on my resume, I was a perfect fit for the role, so why would I torpedo the interview? It all made perfect sense. My resume reflected where I worked, but not who I was. Deep down, I didn’t want my life to be best described via my resume. I wanted something more. Of course, I had no idea what that was. Yet.
It took a good friend challenging me to take responsibility for my situation and unhappiness to snap me out of my dullness and take action.
That was on May 30, 2011. Here’s what has happened between then and now:
1. I re-discovered my love for writing
2. I started my first blog so I could get over my fear of sharing my work with others
3. I quit my job (or I tried to anyway, more on that later)
4. I was asked to write my first ever guest post/article
5. I started my second blog, FearLess Jenn (you are here)
6. I gave my first interview
7. I took risks with my writing, and shared things I would’ve never dreamed of revealing only a few months earlier
8. I made my first ever pitch for a series of articles, and ended up with my own column for online magazine, The Daily Muse
9. I saw my name in the byline for the first time
10. I started to try writing fiction (I’ve always wanted to write fiction)
11. An author who’s work I really like followed me on G+ and Twitter (seriously, that was a big deal to me)
11. Two of my articles for The Daily Muse were re-published by Forbes (here and here), and one by The Huffington Post
12. I have my first interview for a part-time writing job – tomorrow!!
These things may mean something to you or maybe they don’t. The beauty of it though, is that they mean everything to me.
Before writing this post, I dug out my bucket list. I knew I had set a deadline of my 35th birthday which will be here in just a few days, and knew I hadn’t achieved everything on that list. But, what I didn’t realize until reviewing this past year, was that my old bucket list didn’t really reflect who I was. Rather, it was more of a representation of all the things I thought I “should” do by a certain age.
Most of the items on my list are still things I’d like to do, but none of them had anything to do with my fulfillment on a more personal level. What I found even more interesting, was the fact that writing was nowhere on my list. Isn’t that strange? The one thing in many years that has truly challenged me and makes me happy, is something I’d never even considered a part of what my life would look like.
I was a little surprised that I’d been so detached in making that list – buy a house, go to Italy, go to grad school – all perfectly wonderful goals for someone else, but on my deathbed, I sincerely doubt I’ll be regretting not going to grad school, or feel accomplished because I bought a home. These were not the types of things I’d truly regret not having done, but I chalked it up to my being young when I made the list. Still, I was disappointed I’d never revised my goals in all these years.
Then, for some reason I thought to turn the page over – which didn’t make much sense given I’d titled the list “10 Things To Do Before I’m 35” and the last item on the list was clearly marked #10. But something told me there was more and sure enough, there it was – three additional items tacked on, and quite possibly the only real bucket items I needed.
11. Love myself
12. Let love find me
13. Be confident in life
I don’t remember adding these, or what inspired me to do so, but I think it’s no small coincidence that once I actually started to achieve these three things, the universe seemed to be on my side. All of the wonderful milestones I’ve had in the past seven months, big or small, were a direct result of me letting go of the idea of who I “should” be, and paying attention to who I really am.
According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, which also happens to be same sign under which I was born.
I find astrology interesting and fun, but never really felt they applied to me. Then I read this description of a Dragon personality:
Dragons are the free spirits of the Zodiac. Conformation is a Dragon’s curse. Rules and regulations are made for other people. Restrictions blow out the creative spark that is ready to flame into life. Dragons must be free and uninhibited.
I couldn’t agree more, and I have a feeling 2012 is just the year to let my inner dragon spread its wings.
© 2011 – 2012, FearLess Jenn. All rights reserved.