I have not written lately because anxiety is a monster and I could go on a lot of rants about a lot of things and share my thoughts on how the world is burning and I maybe think
a new plague is in order? But instead I’m here with a schmaltzy bit of feel good reflection because, like Hilary Duff once said, “breathe in. breathe out.”
And it is a good time for some self-reflection. Because, yes, it’s the end of the year, but also it’s the end of a full on decade. The first decade where I can honestly remember every year, every moment (with enough reminding and nudging and photographic evidence maybe). Where I was an adult for all ten years of it. Where my glow up isn’t all that stunning because — oh yeah — I’ve been an adult the whole time.
It’s weird to think through 2010 >>> 2019. I started this decade as an eighteen year old finishing up her freshman year of college and now?
I went on a study abroad to London.
I graduated college.
I moved to New York City
Worked in publishing.
Met some of my best friends. Found myself. Absolutely changed my life.
Also met Taylor Swift, NBD.
Got bangs. More than once.
Hugged Nick Offerman. More than once.
Reconnected with a friend from that study abroad I mentioned.
Convinced him to visit me over spring break in NYC.
Started talking about where this dating would go.
Moved to Houston.
Got a dog.
We went to Morocco (me and the husband, not me and the dog).
New in-laws. New babies. New family.
Started a couple podcasts.
Watched probably too many movies.
Took about 17000 pictures to prove ALL of it.
Now, suddenly, I’ve been in Houston longer than I lived in New York. I can say things like “when I was your age” to a whole new generation of literal adults. I got a facebook invite to a ten year high school reunion which I definitely skipped. And nothing triggers me more than the Gen Zers on Twitter who say they’ve never heard of Even Stevens.
But what have I really accomplished in a decade? I could get sad about it, think of the dreams I’ve yet to reach. But I’m actually pretty proud of who I have become. And maybe there are not so many tangible things I can point to, but each year of this decade has taught me something. And that’s what I’ve caught myself thinking about most:
If I had to break down a single lesson from every year, what would it be?
2010 taught me to start owning who I was and let go of everyone else’s expectations. (Easier said than done.)
I spent a lot of my first year at college feeling pretty stressed about fitting in. And I’ve been lucky that my self-esteem has always been ~okay~ for a semi-home-schooled teenager with a stubborn need to keep my hair short and the shirts layered who hosted anti-Twilight parties and once wrote in a letter to her future self that her top literary goal was to read every Shakespeare play ever written.
So I was quirky but confident, determined to always think I was cool, but also strangely paranoid by the idea of people finding out I was some sort of fraud. And one of my strongest memories of college was during my first semester (which technically happened in 2009 but we’re allowing it) I was in a Shakespeare class — because of course I was. We had to perform little monologues in front of the class and afterwards one of my older classmates came up to me and asked if I would step in for a part in a small community play they were doing.
And I said no.
It’s one of those itchy regrets, one that lingers.
Not because I thought I would have been great or become famous or it would have somehow changed the entire course of my future. But I still remember the feeling that instantly followed, as if I had let myself down somehow. And I wish I had leaned into the discomfort instead of away from it, you know? So it was a jump start to a serious lesson on how the only one who loses when you get in your own head is you.
2011 was the definition of growing pains.
It was the realization that life gets harder and you can always get more awkward, but there was fun in accepting a part of that. Slowly but surely. Weirdo fangirl and experimental hair-dyer and sleeper Taylor Swift stan and all.
2012 proved that you can’t wait for adventure to come calling; you have to go find it.
I always wanted to travel and I somehow decided that a study abroad at university would be the easiest way to do it. So I just…did it. And that London Study Abroad was one of the best things I’ve ever done — and not just because I wound up meeting a certain boy while over there; no, it was one of the first times I made a dream happen all on my own. And it was the most thrilling feeling.
Plus, Paris. Oh my word is there anything better than Paris?
2013’s biggest lesson was really just “go for it.”
I have no idea what inspired me to move to NYC except that I was just this suburban girl who wanted to work in publishing and that was where it was. I didn’t want to just settle into a life without trying. I didn’t want to have spent all those years saying I wanted to make it and then not even go for it. But it was still hard. Trusting that self-assuredness that came out of: nowhere.
I remember walking home with a guy friend one afternoon and we were talking about our plans after college and I told him I was moving to NYC. And he was flabbergasted. Like jaw dropped and wagging, eyebrows raised and pointed. “WHAT?” He scoffed, “But you’re not even married yet?”
BYU, ladies and gentlemen.
It was always a funny story to tell, a little party anecdote to roll my eyes over. But it’s become sort of this moment in my life I think back on.
Like, thank heavens I didn’t listen to my own little doubtful whisper saying the same thing.
You’re not married.
You don’t know anyone.
You have no job.
You barely have any money.
What are you going to do out there?
But you know what? I did it and it was hard and the first few months were BRUTAL and I was sure I would have to give up. But it turned out to be THE BEST thing I’ve ever done. So praise heaven for 2013 because that really let me know how strong I was, as if everything before was just life with training wheels.
2014 was all about F・R・I・E・N・D・S
I’ve never been driven to have a lot of friends; I’m much more the type who has a core couple and I’m all set. But New York was just this mecca of great people doing great things, all struggling and stumbling and learning and living.
And finding them, losing them, keeping them — it was such a rich crash course in the diversity of the human spirit. I will always treasure the people I met, whether in passing or in lasting friendships, because they just opened my eyes to so many different ways to live and be happy.
2015? I learned to apologize better.
I think I thought to be a strong, independent woman meant to be always right, always loud, always unflinching. I had some pretty humbling, stupid moments that year that made me realize listening is sometimes so much more important.
But — and this is important — I also learned that you don’t always have to say sorry. Women especially are trained to be apologetic about things they have no business apologizing for. Count the ways each day you say you’re sorry. And then stop. You don’t need to apologize for having an opinion, for taking up space, for having feelings or questions or ideas.
I think back on this year as a moment where I was able to put into words my frustrations with being a woman in this world. Feminism has always been a part of me, but I was finally parsing through 1) what that looked like, 2) how the world and my culture tried to taint that, and 3) how best to combat that.
So I stopped saying sorry for the things that didn’t need it or to the people that didn’t deserve it. Because I am woman, hear me roar.
2016 made me a sappy romantic OKAY
But, really. Falling in love was the wildest thing. Like, I love my family. My friends. My DOGS. But I didn’t ever fully understand how love love would work. And 2016 was just this wild ride of really loving someone — enough to give up New York, move to a new city, wait for him to (finally) propose…and then survive the absolute stress of planning a wedding.
A miracle, I’m telling you.
2017 I really leaned into the
Kardashian mantra “Let Go and Let God.”
I don’t even mean spiritually. Though also….that too. I just mean…letting it go. There were a few things in my life this decade that just *boom* imploded. It was a tough couple years of feeling like my foundation had shattered, I wasn’t sure what would go next, and I was angry and sad and scared and defensive.
Looking back, it was a very anxious year. I should have found a therapist immediately who could have medicated me immediately. But with a little distance now I can recognize how formative that year was. Realizing you can’t control everyone or everything or every thought, action, reaction of others. And then allowing yourself to find joy in spite of the pain or confusion or insecurity. Live and let live, y’all.
2018 was the year of asking for help.
It was rough going from the social structure of my NY years, always knowing everyone, always having someone to talk to, laugh with, rant about, whatever, to struggling to find my people in my new home. I felt guilty, as if marriage was meant to be enough. As if I shouldn’t need friends or feel so lonely when I had someone I loved so much. And it’s something people don’t talk about. But I had to.
So. More honesty. More crying in public. More owning up to how adulting is hard — beyond balancing checkbooks or doing your own laundry. It’s navigating adult relationships when we no longer all share the same built in social structure of school or single life. And I realized I need people. I need a variety of people. Like Chrissy Teigen needs four nannies and a home manager; I realized I needed friends and I couldn’t be ashamed of that.
2019 has been all about doing something.
I’ve become very panicked about stuff (read: everything). Politics. Culture. Religion. Relationships. You name it, I’ve probably had a panic attack about it. Especially the last three years. But I realized I couldn’t just cry about it, I had to do something.
Sometimes I feel like I can’t speak up, like I’m annoying or preachy or self-righteous if I do. But this year (and it’s a continual process) I’ve realized life is much too short to keep quiet — and getting shorter still. Which is why this isn’t just a lesson learned in the past, it’s a call to action. A plea for help. A mild suggestion as we look not only to a new year but a new decade.
We need to do better. And sometimes that means just doing something.
Care about racism and sexism and the layers that affect not just social issues but economical ones. No matter how “good” or how much “better” it’s gotten, there are structures in place that continue to perpetuate inequality today. Read about it. Be uncomfortable with it.
Learn about the food industry. The fashion industry. The corporate structure of America.
Eat less meat. Eat better meat. Eat no meat. But in any case be sure to read about how the meat industry is affecting our food, our politics, our climate.
I’m sorry, did this sentimental post just get too political?
NO. Because <<ONCE AGAIN FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK>> environmental issues are not and should not be a political line for anyone. This is our planet. It is our life source. It doesn’t care if you vote red or blue. And it is desperate. Maybe we are past the point where individuals can make enough of a difference on their own, BUT you can speak to businesses, corporations, your representatives by letting your actions show you want change.
And it call all be such simple changes.
Stop using plastic bags at the grocery store. That produce you’re gathering? You’re just going to wash it at home! It’s okay if it touches your cart or your cashier’s hands. And if you’d rather not, then buy some reusable bags.
Avoid pre-wrapped groceries. Shop bulk. Try to recycle — meaningfully.
Think about garbage. Just think about it. If you had to carry around all the garbage you accumulate in a week, what would that look like? And ask yourself where that winds up. Because landfills are a mess, our trash is often outsourced to developing countries, and every single toothbrush you’ve ever had is still somewhere on this planet today. Every styrofoam takeout box. Every Starbucks cup. Every tinfoil pie pan.
Imagine how that garbage piles up through a single day. And then think about where you can make cuts.
Soap bars instead of shower gel. Portable tupperware for leftovers. Dishes instead of disposables. Homemade beans instead of canned. A reusable water bottle (but maybe don’t collect multiples just cuz they look cute). And NO MORE COFFEE PODS.
Avoid fast fashion. Did you know the average american buys 68 new articles of clothing a YEAR? And they throw out 80 pounds of clothes to make room for it. That 80 pounds, even if it’s donated, inevitably ends up in the garbage somewhere. So listen to Macklemore and go thrifting once in awhile. Ignore Marie Kondo and let something spark joy a little longer than usual. Invest in pieces from companies that are trying to limit their carbon footprint.
In any case, in every instance — racism, environmentalism, socioeconomic issues — it does no good pretending there isn’t a problem. And if you feel like any/all of this doesn’t affect you personally, congrats: ya privileged! And what did every iteration of Spider-Man we got this decade alone remind us? “With great [privilege] comes great responsibility.”
Which is why this year I have become in-your-face about all of it. I need to speak out, act out, change my life, hope that makes other people consider theirs differently.
So, yes, we have a new decade. And more than ever I am thinking about how we never know how much time we have, and we can’t take it with us. So we have a new year to talk about new starts. And maybe instead of the pounds we can lose or the gifts we can collect, we can look outward and start to really care about the people and things and causes outside ourselves.
I’m not perfect. But I’m sick of pretending that’s an excuse to keep my head in the sand, my nose in the air, my hands clean of it all. If this decade has taught me any one, single thing it’s that we are all just drops in the ocean. And it is easy to feel insignificant or even above it all.
But what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?
So let’s try, shall we?
Thanks for reading. And Happy New Decade to you.
Here are some of my favorites that have inspired me / changed my life throughout the decade. For the films, I added where they’re *currently* streaming for ease of reference.
And here are some of my favorite eco-friendly must haves (and I know most of these links are to Amazon) (I’m trying okay)
- Produce / Mesh Bags – love these cuz they’re good for bulk bins too! (Even have the tare weight on the tag if you care)
- Reusable Grocery Bags – LOVE THESE. We get compliments from cashiers all the time because of the reinforced bottoms
- Beeswrap– perfect replacement for plastic wrap storage around food or dishes.
- Insulated Water Bottle – affordable brand, very convenient handle, easily fits ice cubes, works wonderfully well
- Silicone storage bags – so many versions of these but I’ve had these for a couple years now. Great for freezing your own produce.
- Silicone Oven-Safe Lids – for those who use tin foil for baking, this brand is a great alternative
- Collapsible Tupperware – keep these in your car for restaurant leftovers (now this is just turning into my Christmas list…)