A Birthday Assessment
Last week I turned the big 3-4. So as someone who has now spent a third of a century spinning around on Planet Earth, I feel obligated to bathe you in my infinite wisdom and give unsolicited advice. You can thank me later.
This year, the annual change I intended to make was long overdue, and I wanted it so badly that I began in earnest in the fall. I started working with a nutritionist and quit drinking . I feel physically and mentally good going into a birthday with these positive patterns established, strengthened through the temptation of the holidays, and it is definitely inspiring me to review how the last year went and get clear on where I’m heading.
Thirty-three was really something, twelve months of emotional chaos. A break up, a move — a part of me disintegrated and something new emerged. The process was heartbreaking, painful and soaked in wine, but it gave way to something precious, fresh. I now have a sense that I’m on the other side. Forged in the fire, I am changed. I know I’ll look back on it as a formative year. So I want to share what I learned from the momentous year. Maybe it will help you.
- Live Alone to Get to Know Yourself
I’ve mostly lived in exorbitantly expensive cities as an adult, and I’ve only ever been able to swing living on my own for 6 months when I was 20 in Atlanta. [Oh how times have changed… that apartment was $650/month with a washer/dryer in unit. Ugh! The luxury!]
Living alone in the Bay Area is its own luxury, without question, and not a financially advisable one, but when I made the move last May, I knew I needed to be on my own. I’m so glad I did. Creating and enjoying this personal sanctuary brings me joy every single day. It’s not extravagant, a three story walk up and the water takes 10 minutes to get hot, but it’s clean and bright, has tons of character and is all mine.
This opportunity has allowed me to tune into my inner voice, the quiet one that is easily lost when there’s a lot going on outside. I had nearly stopped trusting that I could possibly know and do what is best for me, but living alone has helped me cultivate that awareness. It turns out there was a lot simmering beneath the surface. Between sobriety and this access to my inner world, life has become rich with insight and clear vision.
2. Don’t Expect Travel to Fix Your Life
I took some amazing trips during 33: the Hudson Valley, NYC, Jersey, Florida, Lake Tahoe, Southern California via Hwy 1, Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonoma, Michigan, Nevada City, Ione, Mt. Diablo, top of the Salesforce tower, Reno, Taylor Mac’s magical world.
I got to see friends and hold new babies, hike over Brooklyn Bridges and around haunted castles, smash plates at a German wedding and even witness an elopement. I craved all that stimulation and newness last year. There was a lot of inner turmoil and traveling was something shiny to look forward to, like new shoes or a Beyoncé concert (blessings to the Queen).
But in hindsight, it was an escape. It just helped me procrastinate dealing with my difficult emotions and darkness. And it was expensive. So expensive. When out of my normal environment, spending impulsively is dangerously easy to do. It ultimately ends up leaving me trailing my financial goals and missing the worn fit of home. So this year, I am leaving impulsive travel behind for better, more thought out purchases.
3. Learn Like You’ll Live Forever
Last October, I took the plunge and signed up for Seth Godin’s altMBA, a month-long online intensive that I hoped would revitalize my creativity at work and help me out of professional overwhelm. It had been nine years since college, and it took me much of that time to recover from the sense that academia was a pointless, anxiety-inducing delusion that kept me from figuring out the “real world” sooner. I did fine but I wouldn’t say I loved school or learning.
This course changed how I look at learning forever and crystallized something major for me — how to manage my thinking. So much of my formal education was others defining knowledge while telling me how important critical thinking is. It was hypocrisy. altMBA was different, a way to prompt innovative thinking, deep thinking, unlimited thinking for a better life and world.
I studied philosophy in college at SUNY New Paltz, and while that was heady and challenging, I graduated with a paralyzing nihilism. What could be done when reality itself is unknowable? altMBA got me energized and moving again, collaborating excitedly with others, enjoying the faculty of my mind, and experimenting with new ways of thinking that might actually allow me to determine my own outcomes.
I didn’t realize how starved I was for stimulating mental engagement and how that was impacting my decisions. This course is a powerful guide for stepping out of the negative cycles of consumerism, addiction, depression, mediocrity; identifying what is possible in our lives, thinking bigger and making shit happen. It was life changing, professionally and beyond.
If I can continue this momentum, 34 is shaping up to be a bellwether year for my future. I can’t remember ever being this delighted to be a year older, but time is a funny thing.
For my birthday present, I’d love for you to share something you learned last year. Nothing is too big or too small, I want to hear it all.
With gratitude for what was and anticipation for what’s to come.