It says something that I only post here when I'm going through a major life shift.
In the year that just passed, I've seen significant change. I left that job that I thought was going to be so amazing at the end of June. It wasn't the right fit, and there was nothing I could do to improve the situation. This was an especially important milestone - I'm not one to throw in the towel, and I'm usually especially good at self-preservation.
But leave, I did. I spent the summer working on projects, then took a new job in early September. I'll probably be at this one for a while. I like both the people I work with and the work I am doing.
I also noticed that my late December 2013 post about the pain of processing the disappointment of the events of 2012/2013 carried some nuggets for this year - about the dogged, futile pursuit of approval and validation and its role in my ongoing frustration with my life. In the past few weeks I have gained some insight regarding this dynamic. As always, I'm both grateful and resentful for the lesson. But unlike prior epiphanies, this one feels like I've unlocked something - I finally understand where that urge comes from, and I think I have the tools to deal with it and protect myself from being manipulated, and stop myself from projecting. I often think how weird it is to have to divine my feelings and motivations through interactions, but there you have it.
I tend to sum up these posts with aspirations for the coming year. This year, I will be determined.
Last night I started out intending to go to 5 new year's parties and a show at LowBrau. I should have known (and probably did) that such plans were silly. As it was, I was still working when the first party on the roster started. By the time I left the house it was too late to hit the second, so I ended up at the third, where I got to spend about 90 minutes with some of my dearest friends. I showed up to the fourth with the party in full swing around 10pm. I'd planned to hit LowBrau then end at the final soiree for the countdown, but I should have known two things would conspire against me: first - all my former neighbors and half of the peeps of Sacramento that I've known since I moved here were at that party, and second- I always get paranoid about driving anywhere once it gets close to midnight. So, I shut that third party down, and stayed until almost 5 in the morning. Since the party was hosted by a friend who is having a baby soon, I feel like it was time well-spent.
I woke up feeling refreshed and at peace with the world, and it made me reflect on the difference between this year and last. The transition from 2012 into 2013 was superficially fun, but I was still depressed and sad about the outcome of the preceding year. I spent all of 2013 processing the events of the previous two years. I misinterpreted things and did a lot of acting out and not being very nice. I wish I wouldn't have had to go through that and there are plenty of actions and words I wish I could take back, but I feel as if I've come out the other side of all this stronger, happier, and more resilient - I've got a lot less scar tissue in many areas of my life. Being forced to reexamine all of my assumptions about people gave me a window on reality and a way to deal with it, eventually.
I'm really looking forward to this year, in a way I never have before - with hope, but also with confidence in myself. I am filled with equanimity and I wish nothing but the best for everyone. I'm comfortable with the decisions I've made to put renewed effort into some projects and step away from others, and I don't feel guilty about not being able to be all things to all people, nor disappointed that I can't be omnipresent.
It feels as if 2014 is the year I finally start living from a place of authenticity. I wish everyone the same as we embark upon the new year.
It's no secret that aside from the past three months, this past year was pretty painful and frustrating for me. I hadn't really been able to articulate why it was so damn bad, but a conversation I had about a month ago helped me see that what I really wanted was to be heard, and that my narrative wasn't getting through. I was getting a lot of uncomfortable sympathy, and not a lot of genuine empathy. In retrospect, I can see why: I am not easy to be around when I'm hurt. I don't blame anyone for wanting to get out of the way. I've been called a force of nature, and my emotions are a force unto themselves that I'm frequently challenged to control (there's a good reason I equate my life with Neko Case songs). In addition, I learned that there is still nothing more frustrating for me than wanting empathy and being served up a helping of good old-fashioned, avoidant, sympathy, a distinction Brene Brown articulates well in this video.
The good in all of this is that I didn't completely self-destruct; I learned valuable lessons about myself and other people (generally and specifically); I was able to move forward (I moved, I forged new friendships, I got a new job); and I'm ending the year with invaluable insights and feeling something approaching happiness, forgiveness and empathy towards all the players in the movie of my life.
If there's an observation I need to be mindful of, it is this: I continue to seek approval and validation from people only to be confounded quite regularly. Going forward, I'm interested in learning how to meet people where they are, accepting that they aren't necessarily going to be open or have the capacity or time for empathy I wish they would, and also, finding a way to not pursue depth in relationship it when it can't be reciprocated, because that's just upsetting and pointless.
I started to write a lengthy post about the torture and torment of the past year of my life. But then I realized that, in taking stock of the last few months: new job with so much opportunity for me to make whatever of it I want, more meaningful friendships, reconnecting with people I haven't seen, launching my new project, and understanding myself better, that something in my heart is fixed. No more need to ruminate. This is what peace feels like.
It's November. I signed up for a facebook group called "No Excuses November." I listed my goal as being committed to getting organized. I didn't specify, but I think I meant to state that I would do one thing every day this month to get rid of extra stuff and generally reduce my clutter, both in physical possessions but also in terms of the things I spend my time thinking about. I worry so much about being all things to all people, even though I know it's not possible.
I'm giving up on that. This year I'm really noticing a change in my energy levels and my health, unfortunately not for the better. I remember being in a similar place about 5-6 years ago, and the commitment I made to getting healthy again. I thought I could neglect those practices for a while and get a big career boost out of my extra-curriculars, but I am depleted. And so while I gave so much of my life force to things other than myself over the past several years, it is time to retreat and recharge. Giving all my heart and soul to things and people that don't reciprocate is a fool's errand that will only dessicate me in the end. I know that sounds overly melancholic and dramatic, but it's been a dramatic year. One more month and I'll be able to stop comparing milestones and wishing I'd made different choices, which will help with the healing. Now is the time to build the practice and cultivate the discipline.
It's probably greedy to wish I had someone to tell about my first day at my awesome new job, but I do.
I have this giddy feeling, like I did when I first started at PHI, or a few weeks into my fellowship at the Education Trust. I get to work with amazing, brilliant people who care about making the world a more just place for everyone. I get to use all these newly developed skills to get local governments to do the right thing. I get to interact with folks ALL OVER THE STATE.
It's probably no secret that my work is very important to me, and that aligning my work with my personal values, goals, skills, education and interests is fundamental to my sense of well-being, self, and purpose. Folks probably also know that I've been trying to develop the right skills and be open to opportunities as they present themselves to help me find that alignment, and that hasn't always had the desired results. Switching gears from focusing on my job to becoming more civically engaged in my city - from redistricting to volunteering at events to serving on boards to working on a campaign - was a somewhat intentional process that I wanted to result in a kickass job helping to shape the future of Sacramento. Unfortunately, that hasn't really happened, though I have made some pretty substantial contributions to our city as a volunteer and bon vivant, that I'm pleased with.
In his 2005 Stanford university commencement speech, Steve Jobs shared one of his major life lessons: connecting the dots. He noted that this could only be done in retrospect, and that everyone has to trust in something, to have faith that making good choices in the moment will result in opportunities in the future. For a while, I lost sight of that. I have a hard time being patient.
All that patience with divine timing seems more plausible now. After a couple years of casting about, trying to seize opportunities not meant for me, frustrated, stymied, disappointed with the outcomes of my efforts, I can say that I can connect some really awesome dots. It starts with the position I took to fulfill my internship requirement for my master's degree. That gave me the chance to work with local electeds on public health/built environment/general plan/food access issues, in what was then an emerging policy area that only gets more robust and effective and awesome over time. My job died because the feds didn't get it, and I ended up auditing. For almost six years! But during that time, I also joined the Planning and Urban Development (Bowling) League, aka PUDL, where I met a lot of planning, land use, and environmental science professionals. And I also made great friends with my happy hour crew - a bunch of land use/housing/transportation policy and political folks, who I met entirely as a result of this blog. That was 2008-9ish. Fast-forward to 2010 and I'm chilling at the Bike Kitchen and run into someone who was in the league, but about to move to Oakland. We converse, become facebook friends, life goes on in Sactown.
I got really busy with auditing for a while and saved the state $1.5 billion. Greatest accomplishment of my career thus far. Also the apex of my auditing experience, but it afforded me a great friend in my boss at that time. After that, I was encouraged by my mentor to apply to the city's redistricting committee, and got myself appointed. I got to know city issues intimately, became good friends with the person who would become our future city councilman, and met a bunch of other bigwigs. I also had my first taste of working with media - I wrote an op-ed, gave quotes for stories, and used my facebook feed to great effect. Then, I joined some boards, focused on housing (Next Move) and transportation (SABA), and helped found my alumni association chapter (Hornets Policy & Politics). I helped run a successful city council campaign - and learned A TON about politics (including some things I didn't want to know, but really needed to learn). Most recently, my friends and I put on an event on civic technology and civic engagement with cool elected officials. And all the while I toiled at my job and tried to find a good policy job in land use, transportation, housing, or something with nonprofits (cause I love helping to run Women with Good Spirits and love nonprofits in general.)
And then one day, while I was tooling along on facebook from my phone, that friend from the bowling league whom I ran into at the Bike Kitchen posted that her organization (that, incidentally, one of my happy hour friends sits on the steering committee for) was looking for a communications and network director. I clicked on the link, liked what I saw, and applied. The rest of the process fell into place without a lot of drama - just everyone on my reference list texting to say how perfect the job sounds for me.
Today is roughly six weeks from my 36th birthday. I'm taking some time to reflect on my goals for the next year of my life, with an eye toward physical and personal transformation. I am also going to spend the next six weeks setting the right tone for this process and hopefully laying fertile ground for my meditation retreat in late July/early August.
First, physical. The events of the past 2 years have taken their toll, and I've regained most of the weight I'd lost by my 34th birthday. Starting today, I'm getting back to basics - eating better, exercising regularly, and sleeping enough. I give up my attachment to boundless energy and see the frenetic pace at which I've been living my life for what it is: not good for my adrenal glands.
Of equal importance is my personal growth. As I reflect on the last couple years, it sort of blows my mind just how much I've managed to stuff into my life, crowding out meditation, yoga and personal and professional development. Not only that, but I've been so consumed with other people and city policy and politics that I no longer feel like I have anything interesting to say, nor am I able to be chill and fun. I'm lucky that some folks have managed to tolerate me while I went through this fugue, but it stops today.
The nice thing about realizing all of this at this moment is that I have the ability to change it.
I'm about to set up my yoga mat and practice. Namaste!