Life Lessons Learned in 2014
Since I was a child I’ve looked to and tried to absorb the wisdom and experience of others as of way of navigating my many questions about how to live a full life. Many of you know that travel is my greatest teacher, but that living well at home is equally important to me.
My commitment since I’ve begun writing has been to do less consuming, and more creating. I’ve also learned that what I create has no impact on others unless I’m willing to share it. It’s an ever-ongoing journey — one that I’m still on…but I believe it’s important to pause and reflect every so often.
So, here goes.
I moved to my “soul city.” I feel about San Francisco the way I hope to feel about a significant other someday, and that is: “when you know, you just know.” I have been lucky enough to live in some beautiful places over the years, but there’s something about this city that just fits with me. I’m not even sure it would have fit me so well at other stages of my life, but there’s something about who I am now that makes this place feel like…home. Perhaps it’s the culture, architecture, attitudes, people. I’m closer in proximity to my family. All I know is, with all the inevitable uncertainties of life, it feels nice to have finally found a place I feel is supporting the life and lifestyle I desire for myself.
Don’t settle. Find a place that makes you come alive.
In 2013, I quit my day job. In 2014, I quit my search for a day job. Now my job is day, night, weekends, holidays. The line between what I love and what I do is constantly blurred. I’ve had to create a new set of boundaries for myself as a result, but having work and play be indistinguishable even just some of the time is something I still pinch myself about. It didn’t come without sleepless nights, anxiety fueled breakdowns, or dips into my savings account…but know this: when it comes to your work, you do not have to settle. It is true that if you have the courage to pursue what you’re truly passionate about, success will follow at some point.
If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.
I stopped driving and started walking. For awhile I believed the biggest benefit of walking as a transportation mode was the excuse to eat more Bob’s Donuts. As someone who drove hours upon hours each day in my previous home and career, and who relied solely on walking and/or public transportation while traveling, it feels nice to be able to get out from behind the wheel and get out into the world. In fact, it was certainly a factor in my decision to move to San Francisco. While for many having a car seems to grant additional freedom, I feel much freer not having one. Public transportation even heightens my awareness of the world outside of myself, whereas being in a car feels isolating. Finally, walking SF hills is, quite simply, good for the tush. Not to mention some of my best thoughts and ideas occur during my walks!
Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.
I formed a seriously fantastic core group of friends. I’ve written before about how I felt something was missing in the last place I called home. And while I know I’d love San Francisco even if I didn’t know a soul here, it helps that I’ve been able to reconnect and connect with “my people.” You know, the ones you can both be yourself around and aspire to be more like? It seemed as if people from all the corners of my life descended upon San Francisco just as I was deciding to. And with the diversity and quality of people living in this city, it has seemed near effortless to form new friendships this year that I hold dear. I haven’t had a consistent “group” of friends since college, and like most I struggled to make real ones outside of that collegiate environment that is so conducive to forming bonds. I said once that things aren’t so important — people are. It was nice to rediscover that community feeling.
You are truly home only when you find your tribe.
I started regularly practicing yoga and meditation. Even though I tried to convince myself out of committing to a yoga studio (and its price tag,) and though I struggle to stick to a regular ten minute morning meditation practice, they’re still the aspect of my life contributing most to balance — which is what this blog is all about. My goal with either pursuit is stillness, but often it’s yoga and meditation that gets me up and moving. Both help me move towards that sweet spot between effort and surrender (the secret to life, if you ask me.)
You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.
I became a professional writer. I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading about finding your purpose and quarter-life crises. I spent even more hours searching for a career that truly excited me last year, and refused to settle. So, I created my own! People pay me to write. (Yes!!!) It turns out the best advice is often the simplest:
Follow your bliss and release your fears. Doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.
I learned the value (and challenges) of working for yourself. Money isn’t everything. Choosing when, where, and how I spend my time has taken precedence over increasing the number of zeroes in my bank account. I used to take my allotted vacation, clock out at five, and receive my steady salary every two weeks. It can be tough as a freelancer not to adopt the mentality that every minute you’re not working, you’re not earning money. (Especially when you live in a city as expensive as San Francisco.) Yet the truth is that while some nights I stay up working until midnight, other mornings I don’t begin until ten or I take two hours in the middle of the the day to go exploring. And even though I don’t often enough, I could pack my bags and be on a flight somewhere tomorrow. Like everything, there will always be costs and benefits. At the end of the day, it’s still a job — the difference is I am reaping the benefits while choosing to accept the costs.
You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.
I struggled with distractions. This was one of the biggest challenges for me, being my own boss this year. It doesn’t go away just because you love your work. There is always something you could be doing instead of what you should be doing. Procrastination is perhaps my personal worst enemy, but it comes down to this: choices. And while we can’t make the right ones all day every day, we should recognize that that is what is boils down to (and isn’t that why you got into this, after all? The ability to make more choices for yourself?) Still, perspective: problems are relative…
There are people who would love to have your bad days.
I focused more on home than on travel. Like the yin to my year of travel yang, I focused less on getting away and more on setting up my new home. More than just finding an apartment, I set out to establish roots in a place — which to me means a community. Fortunately it wasn’t hard to find like-minded individuals, from the past and present, in SF. After all, it’s the people that make a place home…and I’ve found being on the road constantly is the single biggest deterrent to developing and maintaining those personal relationships that are so crucial to my well-being. So, I chose Sunday brunches, coffee chats, wine dates, and my home office over plane tickets (for the most part.) This won’t be the case as much in 2015 (big plans in the works!) but balance is still the goal.
I realized I don’t hate networking. When I arrived in San Francisco, I started job searching, dating, and forming a group of friends all of once. Do you know how much putting yourself out there that is? While at first I dreaded the idea of “networking” and all the sleaze that can potentially come with it, I quickly learned to paint it with a different outlook. Really, networking is just seeking authentic human connection — just sometimes it wears different outfits.
I changed my reception of rejection. With all the putting of oneself out there, rejection is not only possible — it’s likely. I now gauge how hard I’m working by how much I’m being rejected (fitting for a writer) but the truth is, far more good has come to me as a result than bad. Embarrassment or insecurity is fleeting compared to the potential for success gained simply by overcoming a fear of putting yourself out there. And, it helps to have watched this materialize:
Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good
I accepted that ups and downs are inevitable — it’s life’s way of finding balance. The good news is — when you’re down, you’ll eventually be back up. The good news is, life is also bound to keep us humble with downs…so fully enjoy the ups, would you?
So, I learned to stop comparing myself so much to others. You never know if they’re up while you’re down or vice versa. Someone’s ‘up’ may seem miles ahead of yours, but after all, problems are relative. Be happy for people when they appear (key word: appear) to be up, because life isn’t fair but it does balance itself out.
Trust the timing of your life.
I embraced the fact that while I know myself, I’m still evolving. I always thought by this age (who’re you calling 28?!) I’d have reached certain life milestones. Some days it is hard for me to accept that the younger me would likely call me “old.” (Yes, I know that’s not really ‘old.’) Seeing social media fill up with weddings/dogs/babies and preferring to hold a map or a book at night can make you question your path. I’m sure this will continue, but I’m learning to be better at appreciating the exact moment I find myself in — without wishing, hoping, or questioning the future. After all, the 25 year old (or oh, the 20 year old!) me could never have guessed I’d end up where I am now (and I like that.)
I saw the beauty in saying “yes” to new adventures. Say yes!
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”
I found that this to be true:
Leap — and the net will appear.
Do you hear that? It’s the sound of my applause if you made it all the way through this post.
I’ve decided that since I now write for a living (and because sometimes the last thing I want to do after a day of writing professionally is write more, even here) that I’m going to have a lot more fun and freedom with this blog (which basically means I’m going to stop taking myself so seriously.)
Here’s to the lessons and adventures of the year to come!