2016 was a weird year. Everyone I know, and a lot of people I only think I know, (thanks Internet), seem to all have extreme views of the year. Which, I think, is an apt description. Extreme.
My own life felt a bit extreme this year. I faced a lot of personal change this year. And, with that change, came growth.
I quit a job I hated. I wrote a book, edited a book and began writing a new one. I began to journal. I began to explore photography. I learned to knit. I dyed my hair pink and then blue and then red and then purple. I made progress on the goal to declutter our house. My husband and I rearranged our entire house. I laughed. I cried. I had massive panic attacks along the way.
I wish I could say that I learned all the lessons and am now a better, more well-rounded individual with all the answers and am full of so much inner peace I have some to spare. Yeah, not so much. I’m fairly certain the reality is far, far from anything resembling sanity.
The biggest lesson I have learned though, is to find what makes you happy and go for it. Which, sounds like fantastic, reasonable, achievable advice. You hear that, and think, I can totally do that! But, with anything good, there always seems to be a catch. In this case, going after what makes you happy often means doing things that make you at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, terrified.
Uncomfortable and terrified are probably the two adjectives that capture how 2016 was for me. I spent so much time with those emotions, that they are now my new best friends. And that’s not a bad thing.
I think I found myself in a pit of unhappiness precisely because I had buried these two emotions. Or, more likely, ran away from them whenever they attempted to surface.
It may seem counterintuitive that being comfortable and unafraid could lead to unhappiness. But, I think that when we find ourselves too comfortable and unafraid, we also stop challenging ourselves. We stop growing.
At least, that has been my analysis and discovery. I know that my unhappiness had many, layered factors and summing it up with two words, two emotions, may seem to over-simplify it. It does, but I could probably write a dissertation on the inner workings of my psyche. Even so, many of those facets and details are tied to being uncomfortable or being afraid. They are the most common threads lurking inside.
I found myself in a job I hated, working for people who didn’t appreciate me because I was too comfortable. A nice paycheck, and the safety of knowing I was competent provided a nice safety net. I found myself struggling to get out of bed, snapping over small things, impatient, exhausted and severely unhappy.
One afternoon, I started writing. On days that I wrote, I found myself a little more content, a little less miserable.
I started doing a thing called ‘bookstagram’. A community on Instagram focused on the beauty of books. Taking pictures of books, talking about books, reading books, writing books, all about books. It was there that I faced quite a few uncomfortable but eye-opening moments. This community awakened that part of me that I had suffocated.
I found the ten-year old who wrote a book. The twelve year old who constantly wrote short stories and thrived in a journalism class. I found the teenager who always carried a notebook full of poems, and stories, and journal entries. I found the woman who wrote on the side, submitted stories to magazines and dreamt of finishing a novel.
I was shocked to find all these pieces of myself. I didn’t even realize they had been missing.
My writing progressed and I found myself with a draft of a book. Some days, I think it’s okay. Some days I feel like deleting the entire damn thing.
Fear and discomfort have been my steadiest companions on all the days. I am afraid I’m too old to start a new career. I’m afraid of people hating what I write. I’m afraid of people loving what I write. I’m afraid. I’m uncomfortable asking people to read what I write. Uncomfortable asking for feedback and help. Uncomfortable putting myself in a spotlight. Uncomfortable that I feel so far behind, so new, so late. Afraid. Uncomfortable.
But I’m learning. It doesn’t matter if everyone reads it, or no one reads it. If I am successful or not. If they love it or hate it. Because the words I write are for me. And that’s true whether I write this, or a novel, or a grocery list.
This blog is part of facing the discomfort and fear. If anything, it will be a sort of weird online journal, of sorts. I don’t want to commit to a theme, or promise consistency. Rather, I’d like to simply open myself up and see where this leads.
If 2016 was a year of extremes, I hope 2017 is a year of, well, hope. I don’t ever think fear and discomfort will go away, but I hope I continue to get more acquainted with them. I hope I continue to push myself. I hope the world gets kinder, that more people follow their dreams and get to know their own fear and discomfort.
Above all, I hope I continue to get stronger, braver, and most of all, happier.