Friday, September 18, 2015

Notes from a year named Kindness: The last of 33

This is the last night of being 33; it passes quietly, after having finished running errands, getting supplies, and preparing to host some friends tomorrow.

Oh, 33. They do not lie when they tell you it's a year of trials. It's a year that demands you be brave and you grow. I got to it first, but I wasn't alone. Everyone I know who turned 33 this past year is being tested and having to stretch in different—and often very personal—ways.

For me, I had to learn how to be a person and how to live with other people. It was the first time in a long while that I had the space and emotional capacity to figure out what I wanted instead of relentlessly moving towards what it felt like everyone else wanted for me.

It was a year of learning that I could leave things. Stop doing them. Let them be someone else's responsibility. (I spent my time being 32 as not a lot more than the work I got paid to do.) After six years of customer service, of being the one who solved everyone else's problems, that kind of freedom can be bewildering.

It starts to feel counterintuitive to hold back and trust people will come to you if they need something. To remember it's no longer your job to be proactive for everyone else. It wasn't about learning how not to give a damn entirely, but how to conserve my damns—because they're a finite resource—and apply them in the best way for me and my needs. (It had been a long time since I got to use that power to do the things everyone else thought impossible for myself.)

I wanted to write, and I did. I wrote over 100,000 words spread between two projects. Some of those words are great; some of them aren't. What matters is I wrote them. I wanted to apply for literary grants, and I did. Not on the timeline I expected, but on the one that was best. I made an effort to blog more, and to not care whether anyone read it or not.

I went to two great concerts. I found new bands and read great books. I signed my best friend's marriage license. Showed up to help my other best friend with her newborn. Did my own taxes. And I got by—by wit, by sheer determination—without a fulltime job while I mastered learning how to look for and apply for new ones.

I spent a lot of this year telling people no, and I learned that it didn't end the world. I quit a terrible job three days in. I withdrew applications for others, because they weren't right for me. I unfollowed people I didn't want to see. I blocked others whom I didn't want to share my life or my content with.

I stopped being nice, because I stopped having to be angry all the time. I didn't have to rely on the bright, cheery niceness to keep my sword in my sheath. Instead, I got to be kind and to have full agency over who received that kindness. Which is not to say that I didn't get angry or that this year was without crisis or hardship. It was a struggle, but I made it through.

This past week has been its own challenge, because there are things I wanted to have accomplished by now and this isn't necessarily what I thought my life would look like on the eve of 34. Honestly, there was a large part of this year that was hijacked by someone else's crisis. Someone else's refusal to be brave and grow.

But it wasn't mine. This is the first birthday in two or three years that I feel like celebrating—and that I have time to celebrate. I feel like I'm gaining a year instead of losing the previous one.

And I already know what I want to do with it. I'm going to get a new job. I'm going to finish a writing project. I'm going to travel outside of the country before my passport needs renewing. I'm going to learn how to make tortillas and be unstoppable.

I'm going to be brave. And I'm going to grow. And I'm going to keep conserving my damns for myself and the people who deserve them.

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