2015 was harder and more tiring than I ever could have imagined. I feel almost guilty saying those words. I have, by most standards, nothing to complain about. I have my family, my health, my future. I have a home, a job, and yes, the silliest cat in the world.
What I realized over the last year though is that happiness – true, unsullied happiness – requires a sense of fulfillment that I’ve yet to discover. I didn’t admit this to myself until recently, and I hope to pursue it relentlessly in 2016. Here’s how.
1. Consider that opportunities have options.
The first years out of school – particularly as a young professional aspiring to turn a love of writing into a lucrative career – you tend to jump on every opportunity that comes your way. At first, the opportunities are unpaid, but that’s okay; it’s all in the name of building a sparkling portfolio. You scrounge for clips both big and small, no matter how far from the realm of interesting the article may be.
At some point, all of these side projects pay off. You get a full-time job writing, even if the salary is small. You move up the ladder. You see your name in print. You think you’ve made it, until you realize that barely covering rent, well, isn’t exactly enough.
It was in taking a leap of faith, cranking out content on the cheap, and exploring less-traveled roads that I discovered the start-up world. It was the start-up world that led me to agency life. And it was agency life that led me to this fledgling field of “content strategy” – a sort of hybrid career path that’s both creative and analytical, with a knack for writing at its core.
I never would have predicted that this is the direction in which my career would go; I’d been aspiring to be the next Anna Wintour since the age of 15. And while I’ve found satisfaction in the technical skills I’ve acquired and the connections I’ve made, I’m still not sure I’ve found true fulfillment in where those technical skills have led me. Does success equate with happiness? This is the question I’m trying to figure out.
Too many people continue moving forward without any sort of introspective analysis of how they got there. I know it’s something I need to explore, consider, and if possible answer. Do I like what I do? Am I contributing to the world in a meaningful way? Am I satisfied with where I’ve come from?
2. Embrace PTO.
Maybe it’s because the last year-and-a-half has been the most professionally challenging and exhausting of my life, but for the first time, I get it. Productivity, perspective, and motivation demand rest. Without it, I’m doomed.
3. Find new creative outlets.
My current job is incredibly writing intensive, and by the time I get home at night, there’s nothing I want less than to open my computer and string together words. It’s why I’ve been such an absent blogger. I tried – really, I did – to maintain a regular schedule, but I wound up resenting the glitter. It was a double whammy, too. Because I was writing in a personal manner less frequently, it also made me resent my job.
Part of this is that I need to be realistic. I started this blog so many years ago as a creative outlet – a way to connect with likeminded runners in New York who share a passion for prose. But as long as I’m burning the midnight oil, educating myself in tech-speak, and producing 30-page guides on the reg, I simply can’t beat myself up over the lack of attention I’ve paid to this blog. That doesn’t mean I can’t find other creative outlets though.
Of course, running is a godsend. I know a lot of people won’t understand how running ignites any sense of creativity at all, but I can assure you that for me, it most certainly does. Running, however, has been a constant for more than seven years of my life now. There needs to be something different to look forward to. It doesn’t need to be overly ambitious, but there needs to be something different. Something new. Something more.
In 2016, here’s what’s on my stop-whining-and-be-more-creative wish list:
• Blog consistently, even if it’s not as often as I’d like it to be. Choose a blogging cadence, and stick to it.
• Buy an adult coloring book and make pretty things.
• Find a photography class. Sign up and learn how to (finally) use the amazing camera Noah (my hubs) bought me years ago.
4. Visit my niece and nephews more.
Since moving to Philadelphia, Noah and I have made a pretty solid effort to go back to New York whenever it’s feasible to visit my niece and nephews. On my side of the family, we have four – Becker, Remy, Dustin and Zavier. They’re all incredibly cute, well behaved, and energetic, and they’re all growing incredibly fast.
It’s one of the few things I get homesick over – seeing a picture of the twins doing something ridiculously adorable; a video of Zavier (the youngest) saying his first few words; Becker (the oldest) decorating a gingerbread house, looking like a real, grown-up boy. New York isn’t far from Philadelphia, and when it’s possible, I need to make it up there more.
5. Try new recipes.
My husband would agree that I make a kickass salad – but that, you know, we eat a lot of salad. When you try to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle most nights of the week, it’s the easiest thing to conjure. But it’s also a bit of a bore.
For Chanukah this year, my brother-in-law gifted me the most thoughtful cookbook in the world, and I’m already in love. Called The Forest Feast, it’s written by an ex-New Yorker who now lives in a cabin outside of San Francisco blogging, taking pictures, making watercolor paintings and eating kale (#girlcrush).
Upon opening this cookbook, I immediately felt that Erin was my spirit animal. All of the recipes are simple and packed with natural ingredients that, if you eat like I tend to, you’d more or less keep around the house anyway. I’m slowly making my way through it, and I’ve loved every recipe more than the last. This is one I made recently for cauliflower “cheesesteak”.
6. Give a few less f*cks.
For me, this is a relative statement. A self-proclaimed perfectionist in nearly everything other than baking, I tend to put 150% into everything I do – which explains why I’m a shitty baker. But while being a Type-A person has its benefits, at times, it comes at a cost. I’m learning that, in certain circumstances, there is beauty in imperfection – and that imperfections can produce interesting quirks.
A few final thoughts …
I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, so I’m hesitant to label any of the above ramblings as such. It’s funny though. The one thing that’s missing, really, from any of the things on my … to do list … is anything related to running. Given the subject matter of this blog, I guess it’s a little bit strange.
Here’s the thing though. I’ve made resolutions related to running before. Sign up for a half marathon. Run with companions. Stop imparting the joys of running on all of my friends. I’ve probably achieved them once or twice over, too.
At this point though, running is simply a constant. It’s the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I prepare to do before I go to bed. It’s the thing I feel best after doing, even on mornings when all I want is to stay a little while longer under the covers. So in 2016, I’ll embrace this natural sense of appreciation I have for something most people struggle to put on their list. Here’s to my list and yours.
What’s on your “to do”list for 2016? Do any of your wishes overlap with mine?