In between all of the “I’m fine” and the “You know, as well as can be expected” responses, how are we all truly doing?
I’ll tell you how I am.
I’m lonely. I’m not alone, as I have my husband and very cool two-year-old to hang out with, but I am lonely. I crave seeing my girlfriends for an occasional wine or coffee date. I want a hug from my sister who lives an hour away. I’m even desperate for annoying coworkers, so I have something to talk to my husband about that is not “this thing I saw on the Internet.” I am so very, very lonely.
And my loneliness is what makes me scroll endlessly, looking for community on the Internet, staying up too late to read or watch or comment on just one last thing to make me feel connected. It’s what makes me prod my husband into saying he’s not bored or annoyed with me, even though we spend literally 24/7 together, and I am sometimes annoyed with him, despite the fact that he is the type of person that literally no one has ever called annoying (me, on the other hand…). It’s what makes me talk and talk, hoping for a response from someone, anyone, even though the only someones in my house are my husband and the aforementioned two-year-old, because I just can’t stand to hear myself think about this pandemic and the state of our very isolated world and how long this has been going on anymore. It’s what makes me want to write, but also not write, because maybe I don’t want to put pen to paper and let all of this come out, to admit these things to myself. Instead, I shall admit them to strangers on the Internet, dribbles here, drops there, but never the waterfall that probably needs to flow freely to just get. it. all. out.
You know the fun little icebreaker, where people ask you to say something unexpected about yourself? I usually tell the group something about how I got to sing backup for a favorite mom crooner in college or how I randomly went to Vegas two days before Thanksgiving my junior year of college (I was very straightlaced and my parents were shocked and unhappy!). But one thing I always forget to mention is that once upon a time, I was a cheerleader.
While some might not be super surprised if they met me only at one point or another in my life, friends who have known me for a long time understand why this might make them laugh. But alas, the awkward pictures of 13-year-old me sitting amongst the blue and gold pom poms do exist, so despite the fact that it was a short-lived phase, and I wasn’t all that good at it, there is no escaping that it happened.
I was always an athlete (and I very much consider cheerleaders athletes, this post is no shade to them), but I was more of an individual sports kinda gal. Swimming and track were my chosen athletic pursuits for most of my life, because I got to be by myself and, aside from relays, no one directly relied upon me for their own success. I was a pretty decent swimmer, but still, not having that external pressure was part of why I enjoyed it so much. I also was incredibly shy for most of my adolescence, and talking to new people or being the center of attention made me blush and stutter. While I did end up being a theater/choir kid later in high school, that felt so different – I was either playing someone else or only the center of attention for the length of a solo I had practiced and practiced for.
Now, growing up, I always had friends, but I was never what you might call “popular.” These days, I’m pretty thankful for that, actually, but in middle school, I desperately wanted to be cool. Sixth and seventh grade in particular were tough as friends all around me were growing up at different rates – both physically and emotionally – and it felt like there was a major reshuffling of the social order. Being smart and having niche interests were no longer cool – but being able to do your hair, talk to boys, and make the latest Limited Too fashions fit into our Catholic school dress code were, like, the coolest. So my bespectacled, late-to-the-puberty-party self, who was terrified of the opposite sex but the proud winner of all spelling bees despite my classmates’ rolling eyes, didn’t know where she fit anymore.
In seventh grade, though, I had the chance to become a cheerleader. Blame all of the 90s teen romcoms we all watched, but I thought that this was my chance. I could reinvent myself, get the boys who played football to pay attention to me, and officially become cool. Friends, try to act surprised here, but that was not to be. I was still me, but now I had to wear a short skirt that only emphasized my knobby knees as I was thrown into the air (and dropped a fair amount, if we’re being honest) in our more impressive stunts, which made me even less confident about speaking to aforementioned football players on the sidelines. It was…not what I imagined it would be. I kept it up, since – often to my detriment – I refuse to quit things I hate, but I decided that cool just was not in the cards for me. I settled for simply making a few new friends before high school and continued on my nerdy way outside of cheering, winning spelling bees and showing off in English class.
Sometimes I still think about how I was sure certain things in high school and middle school were going to change my life, or at least my social standing, and I get such horrible secondhand embarrassment for teen me. Like cheerleading, like asking a boy I barely knew to freshman year Sadie Hawkins (he said no), like rolling my eyes at people in my honors classes who I genuinely thought were nice and interesting, just because the rest of our grade deemed them “nerdy.”
I don’t know why I was so convinced I needed to change (and I am really glad my “AP class mean girl” schtick didn’t last long), because I was fine where I was, the way I was. I wasn’t an outcast, but I marched to the beat of my own drum a lot of the time, and it just wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Few actively disliked me, but I was sort of a benign curiosity to folks outside of my friend circle. I was an athlete who was weirdly obsessed with 60s fashion, got good grades, and surprised everyone senior year by trying out for the musical and getting a lead role (“what’s that girl’s name? The one who can sing but I didn’t even know went here?”). In short, there was good, there was bad, but ultimately, it was all just fine. I didn’t have to endure the trauma of being mean-girled but also, sometimes people in my homeroom (that we shared for four years) forgot my name and called me Megan. And I wish I would have known that it was all fine then – that I was just who I was meant to be at the time. That I didn’t need to try so hard and that I could just like the things and people I liked. Maybe if I had known all of that, I wouldn’t have tried out for cheerleading and bruised my tailbone so many times.
I think we were all kind of hoping for a fresh start in 2021. But, uh…that certainly didn’t happen, huh? I think with COVID numbers soaring, unemployment numbers continuing to look pretty bad, and an attempted coup on our government, we’re all feeling a little unmotivated, worried, and ready for a change. Living in DC, especially, I have been anxiety spiraling pretty regularly, so needless to say, not a whole lot of writing has been happening over here. However, I recently connected with a virtual writing group for a little inspiration, and we’re giving each other writing prompts, which has already been extremely helpful. Today’s post is inspired by such a prompt.
When I think of the color red, I think of special occasions. More specifically, I think of getting dressed up. I like fashion and beauty, but I can’t say they’re really driving forces in my life. But for every fancy occasion I can remember, where I can recall exactly what I wore, every event I’ve felt really beautiful, red has been there.
I think my first instance of feeling like red made things extra special was Sadie Hawkins my sophomore year of high school. Off the top of my head, I don’t remember who I went with, but I do remember that I wore a red fringed mini dress with matching red strappy sandals (ah, what 15-year-olds think is appropriate footwear for winter dances in Michigan). I was one of few girls to wear a short dress that year, and I felt like a star – despite the fact that barely anyone outside of my honors block classes knew I even existed. But newly free from my orthodontia, and creeping a little closer toward puberty every day (I was an extremely late bloomer, to say the least), in my little red dress, I was full of sass and confidence.
My love affair with red continued throughout high school, especially as I became obsessed with early 60s glamour and Jackie Kennedy. Senior year homecoming featured a black, tee-length, tulle dress, a couple strings of pearls, and red lipstick to match the fake red rose pinned to the hip of my dress (Macy’s early 2000s fashion, you know?). I was really committed to my chosen esthetic, so despite being annoyed that a junior girl was wearing my same dress (again, Macy’s, not exactly known for exclusivity), I felt every bit the old Hollywood starlet.
And then there was the coat. Toward the end of high school, my friends and I got very into thrifting, and would spend hours going through the racks putting together “looks.” I cringe every time I think of the t-shirt I ripped the sleeves off and paired with torn up jeans and a silver metal belt, the texture of which I can only describe as a cross between chainmail and fish scales. But the coat was different – it was a true diamond in the rough. While searching Goodwill one weekend, I came across a knee-length, bright red, funnel-neck, wool coat for $10. While I did appreciate the price (as a 17-year-old using the rapidly dwindling funds saved from her summer lifeguarding job), I really fell in love with the rich color and the way it made me feel. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was for me. Its clean lines, strong shoulders, and high collar made me feel powerful, and it fit like a glove. From then on, I knew that coat would be my “fancy” coat. And it absolutely was…until I left it at my sorority house one summer in college, and it was thrown out while they remodeled.
I still think about that coat sometimes (OK, literally every winter when I look for a new coat that might come close), but I also think about how it made me feel, and how I want every other important piece of clothing to make me feel. If I’m actually spending money on something for a special occasion, it better make me feel like a more powerful, more self-assured version of myself, who lifts her chin a little higher when she walks into a room. Whether it’s a killer pair of boots, a dress cut just so, or the perfect lipstick, I want it to make me feel the way that coat did, the way red does.
I normally love the holidays. Like, in a really over the top, cliché kind of way. I put up lights and decorations anywhere I can (within reason for a house with a toddler running around), as soon as I can. I will accept any excuse to have a festive bev – warm and wholesome or chilled and boozy, I do not discriminate. I crank up the holiday music as soon as it’s acceptable (Thanksgiving is my stance), and I plan out our month of holiday light tours as soon as festive events in DC are announced. I research recipes and bake as many cookies as I can, starting on December 1. In short, I am the Grinch’s nightmare.
But this year, I’m really struggling to create that holiday magic, as much as I want to, especially for our two-year-old son. I keep making plans to make our house and our holiday season feel festive, but then pushing them off, asking myself, does it really matter? I feel like I’m not alone in this though. For one, there is still a global pandemic raging. Even with a vaccine rolling out, we’re still so far from COVID being gone. And in doing our part to slow it down, we’re missing loved ones, our normal lives, and, depending on your situation, space to ourselves or human connection in any form. Secondly, we have an economy that is in the toilet thanks to said pandemic. While my family is doing OK, and we’re trying to do as much as we can so that others in our community are as well, it’s really hard to feel jolly when you know so many people are suffering. And third, we just came off a really rough election season, and while I am happy with the outcome, along with 80 million+ other folks, I don’t think anyone feels great about the lead up or the aftermath (which also is seemingly unending).
I’ve so rarely had holidays where I just wasn’t in the spirit that this really stands out to me. The only other years I felt like this were when I lived in Chicago and was at my getting-out-of-bed-is-hard lowest point depression wise. I remember commuting home from work on the bus, seeing everyone else full of cheer as the holidays approached, and just feeling nothing. I was so relieved to escape that feeling when I moved to DC (NB: changing cities doesn’t solve all of your problems, but sometimes a change of scenery really can help!) that when this feeling started creeping in this December, it was really noticeable. This year, thankfully, I don’t feel nothing, but I do feel tired, and worn down and disappointed that I feel this way, especially when I really want to make it special for our son (and selfishly, for me!).
I don’t really have a solution or a neat resolution to this blog post, but I figured I’m not the only one feeling this way. Are you struggling this holiday season or are you somehow full of your usual cheer? Are you doing anything to make it special, despite this year being extra weird?
PS- In the spirit of giving it the old college try when it comes to holiday cheer, and not ending on such a bummer note, I’ll leave you with my top seven favorite holiday songs, in no particular order. There are very few holiday songs that I don’t like, but these are the ones I never skip. Happy(ish) Holidays!
“This Christmas”: will listen to pretty much any version
“What Christmas Means To Me”: strong preference for the Stevie Wonder version, but John Legend’s is also acceptable
“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”: Darlene Love is the original and the best, but I also love The Eagles version
“Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy”: this David Bowie and Bing Crosby song just checks all of my holiday song boxes. Also, please watch the entire cheesy skit from the 70s Christmas special to get the full effect.
“O Holy Night”: any version by a powerhouse female vocalist. Partial to Christina Aguilera’s version, even if there are a few unnecessary runs in there.
“Night of Silence/Silent Night”: my Catholic school choir kid is showing with this one, but it’s just so beautiful.
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”: Harry Connick Jr.’s version tops the list for me.
I don’t know about you, but before COVID-19, I was not a huge podcast person. I had a few I listened to if I was out walking or when we took long road trips, but on my commute or when I was relaxing at home, I preferred reading books or listening to music. However, being stuck at home all day, and, now, not having a full-time job, I have leaned into listening to podcasts while I take care of stuff around the house or draw really bad crayon art with my son.
Here are the podcasts that I’ve really enjoyed the past eight (!!!) months:
“What Should I Read Next?”: I am a huge bookworm, and this podcast is the perfect escape during these unprecedented times (do we think that’s going to be called as the phrase of the year?). The host, Anne, has the most soothing voice, never fails to tap into what her guests might like to read, and I finish every episode with at least four new books I want to read (the library has stopped letting me put books on hold).
“Up First”: As a person who lives in the nation’s capital, I am surrounded by news, and I have a hard time really shutting that off. But lately, while I want to stay informed, I can really only handle so much, so earlier this year, I turned to an old favorite. With most episodes clocking in under 15 minutes, NPR’s Up First is the perfect little hit of news every day so I know what’s going on, but don’t spiral over all of the details.
“Be There In Five”: If you like pop-culture deep dives and reminiscing about the 90s and 2000s as only millennials can, then this is the podcast for you. This one-woman show delves into all of our fluffiest interests in the most intellectual way, and I always feel a little smarter after listening, or at least a little more seen, than I did before I started the episode. The episodes are pretty long, so I never had enough time to really get into these eps before, but now, with longer stretches of time in my days, it’s one of the podcasts I look forward to most.
“The Slowdown”: Feeling stressed? Over stimulated? This short podcast is one of my favorite things to turn on when I’m heading out for a quick walk around the block to get some fresh air and clear my head, maybe get my creativity flowing again. Each episode starts with host and Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith, reflecting on life recently, and ends with her reading a related poem. Also, not for nothing, if Tracy K. Smith launched her own meditation app, I would download immediately. Her voice is that calming. This podcast is currently on hiatus, which makes me so sad, but I highly recommend listening to the extensive back catalog.
“Forever35”: One of the first podcasts I really got into, and it never fails. Love the guests, love the friendly banter between Kate and Doree – this podcast just always makes me happy. Even when they’re talking about heavier topics, it feels like candy for my brain, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
“Higher Learning”: I am not a Bachelor/Bachelorette fan, but I watched Rachel Lindsay’s season because I think she seems wonderful. So when I was looking for new podcasts to listen to during the pandemic, I gave this one a listen and have really been enjoying it. She and her cohost Van Lathan get into both current events and pop culture, but in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve just doomscrolled through Instagram and Twitter like you did before the election (oh, just me?). As I’m not a huge pro sports fan, I normally skip ahead on those convos, but I love hearing their takes and their banter on everything else.
New Pod Honorable Mention:
“How Did You End Up There?”: Full disclosure, I was a guest on Jenn’s podcast (more on that later!), but even if I weren’t, I would still love to hear about all of the roads people have taken to get to the careers they’re in now. Quickly becoming a fave over here, especially as I work to sort out my own professional life!
Are you a podcast listener? What are you listening to?
I remember weekend mornings, my mom the first one up. Carrying a mug of coffee from room to room, her hair not quite in place, wearing her terrycloth pink bathrobe over flannel pajamas, almost year round, as we figured out what to do for the day. As we got older, Saturdays and Sundays were more scheduled with swim meets and tennis matches and dashing off to see friends, but the image of these weekend mornings at home is seared into my mind.
Nowadays, since we never leave the house, every day feels like a weekend, and I feel myself slipping more and more into that memory. The other day, my son asked me to play and we sat on the ground with blocks, him with his water cup, me with a mug full of no-longer-hot coffee. We built a train and pretended to race it along an imaginary track, as I breathed my coffee breath his way while we giggled.
The other day, I ordered my second pair of flannel PJs for the holidays, after slipping into the first pair early, in the midst of my election anxiety, and discovering what a comfort they were. I also ordered a plush bathrobe for myself for Christmas (which my husband has agreed to wrap so I can pretend to be surprised and delighted in December), though mine is chenille and gray, because the idea of donning what amounts to a wearable blanket, during these months of endless, dayless days, sounded pretty good. Maybe Mom had the right idea.
As much as I’m looking forward to a return to normal (whatever that will mean), with activities and restaurants and daycare, I’m trying to soak these mornings up, where I feel at least a little like my mom, and wonder if she felt like me, watching her children grow and figure things out as she sipped her coffee before really starting the day.
I don’t know if this is just the circle of life doing its thing, or if I’m turning into my own special iteration of my mom, but I’m holding my lukewarm mug of coffee and these memories close.
I want to be out of my house, in a place – any place – alone.
Specifically, I want to go to a coffee shop, with a book, my journal, and my laptop, and just be. I imagine walking into a bustling cafe, probably Takoma Bev Co, standing in line to order a latte and one of those delicious almond bars. Behind me is Takoma Park’s main drag, full of people sitting on the patio or running errands in downtown Takoma, perhaps walking from the post office to ACE Hardware. At the counter by the window are two strangers reading next to one another, a young woman alternating between her hardcover book and her laptop; an older man, likely retired, mostly looking out at the sunny fall day, intermittently flipping a page in his well-worn paperback.
As I step up to the counter, the twenty-something cashier, who is equal parts cooler and nerdier than I am (we are in DC, so both have more appeal than my mid-30s mom vibe), definitely wearing a knit hat and glasses, asks what I want and hands me a little metal stand for my order number. I wait by the counter for my latte (perhaps I didn’t need the table number after all), while I crinkle a brown wax paper bag, dreaming of the pastry I’m about to savor alone. I take a peek into the always-crowded larger seating area and spot a small table on the far wall. While they’ll do in a pinch, I hate the tables in the middle of the room, where my bag inevitably tips over, and then I’m in everyone’s way in the never-empty dining room. But the tables at the edges of the room let me nestle in and leave me feeling protected under the rotating paintings of local artists hung on the wall.
After I grab my latte, I settle in, getting out my laptop, book, journal, and pen, as if I’ll use them all at once, prepping for a few hours of caffeinated bliss. The espresso machine and milk frother make themselves known every now and again, punctuating conversations while also giving me the ambient background noise I love to write to, both boosting my concentration and mellowing me out.
A few neighborhood moms are sitting on the couches nearby, one idly pushing a stroller a few inches back and forth to keep a child asleep, another nursing her baby, another lamenting the current state of the world for the one hour she has away from her child at home. Other people work nearby, camped out at the long communal table at the front of the room, typing away at manuscripts and PowerPoint decks. An older man, who always takes the family table for six and spreads his belongings out as much as possible, is oblivious to the family who just walked in with two squirming kids looking for a seat.
The server, who wears his matching shirt-and-short set screenprinted with kittens, bustles around picking up dishes and joking with regulars. A couple sits at the table next to mine, cheersing glasses of white wine at noon on a Friday (do they, too, have a small child who happens to be in daycare on their parents’ day out?).
As I observe all of this, I’m satisfied by the click of the keys beneath my fingers, seeing progress on a page. It’s not perfect, but in this setting, I feel free and myself, and I write like the wind, without self-editing or worrying about the time wasted or if the words are even any good. I breathe deep and smell coffee, breakfast sandwiches; I hear chatter and dishes clinking; I see a neighborhood full of quirky and utterly normal people crammed into a little coffee shop.
Of all the places I’ve dreamed of going during the pandemic, the mundane tops the list.
Lately, I find myself wanting to write more and more often, but on the days when I feel not even a spark of inspiration, I look to writing prompts for a little help. The past month, I’ve been working my way through the “Name Your Anchors” series of prompts from author Molly Caro May. Some days, it just gets me to put words on the page, and other days, I dig deep and want to keep writing and writing. The post above is a result of one of those prompts.
What are your favorite creative prompts? What kick starts your writing when you’re in a slump?
Have you ever had a specific memory resurface, from years ago – one that keeps looping over and over – and you can’t figure out why?
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this one specific memory from high school. It’s at the Big 9 Championships (I think?) in Michigan, and I am about to compete in a swimoff to get into the finals (I was at the bottom of the top – high-end mediocre has been my life’s motto since I can remember). It’s me and one other girl from a local high school, and she’s the cousin of one of my good swim team friends, and also someone I’ve swum with on club teams for years. I’m wearing a racing suit that isn’t our team suit, and my gangly self is probably jumping up and down by the blocks to stay warm and amped up for the race. It’s evening, a late fall indoor meet in Michigan, so the pool deck is a little less brightly lit than usual.
After that, I remember being in the water for this 50-yard showdown, kicking and pulling as fast as I can, breathing as few times as possible. And I win. I hit the pad fractions of a second before my competitor. I win. My team is so excited and everyone is jumping up and down, screaming that I had brought us a victory (for the semi-finals at least). The other girl probably calls me a bitch in a friendly way while we commend each other on a good race, and then I get out of the pool to a towel wrapped around me and lots of hugs. And then we all go home, because we’re in high school and we have another meet the next day.
I also remember a picture from this meet that was taken on the pool deck with one of my friends – I couldn’t tell you if it was before or after the race. It was taken on a disposable camera of course, since it was 2001, so no way to tell what it’s going to look like. But my hair was slicked back, I had no makeup on, and I was grinning widely and squeezing my friend like I was having the BEST time. I remember after she gave me a copy of the photo, her telling me how pretty she thought I looked, and I laughed, thinking that this was definitely not the most flattering picture of me. But looking back, I did look pretty! Not because I am a stunner immediately after taking a swim cap off, and not just because I was young and unlined (though, let’s be real, that helps). But because I was really happy and un-self-conscious, and in that moment, I was just glad to have a team and friends who came to watch our notoriously boring swim meets.
For some reason, as I’ve been listening to and watching a lot of media nostalgic for the early 2000s, this is the memory (and the associated picture) that keeps coming back to me. Not prom or graduation, not heartbreak or excitement about a crush, not even the much bigger state swim meet I went to. This memory of a regional meet, in which I had to re-race someone to get to the next day is the one I keep circling back to. Do I miss this level of competition in my life? Am I wishing for a simpler time, when all I had to do was swim my heart out and study hard? Perhaps it was the unabashed joy I felt at winning and seeing friends and the lack of concern about running around a pool deck in a literal Speedo. Or maybe I just randomly remembered this memory and now my anxiety won’t let it stop looping in my brain, won’t let me stop swimming laps in my mind.
I had hoped writing it out would bring about this moment of clarity, that I would be struck with some sort of wisdom I could share. But…it didn’t and I wasn’t. I have nothing to share with you except this memory I’ll probably keep trying to dissect. Thanks for coming along?
The cliche thing to do here would be 35 things I’ve learned about myself by 35, right? But let’s be honest – no one wants to read through a list of 35 things unless it’s a “35 Ways You Know You’re a Millennial” on Buzzfeed (dunkaroos, dial-up, and Delia’s). Plus, it would probably get a little repetitive. So here is a non-exhaustive list of things I have come to know about myself at the age of 35 (and some change)
1. I am not funny
Sure, I say a funny thing or two occasionally. I have brief flashes of wittiness. And I can be very goofy and downright weird, which might elicit a laugh here or there (however uncomfortable). But I’m not generally funny, and I am OK with that. I don’t think that not being funny makes me any less intelligent or fun to be around – you just won’t bust a gut laughing when we hang out. I think timing and the ability to not completely overthink things are key to being funny, and I don’t have either, at least never at the same time. So you can be the funny one, entertaining the group. I’ll just be over here having unnecessarily serious conversations with one person at a time.
2. I like flexibility but need routine
Having done a little freelance work in the past, and now trying to start that back up, I will say that I love not having a full day of meetings and immediate client needs. I really enjoy being able to do things when the mood strikes or when they make sense to me. Working out at 2pm? Sure! My son is napping. Am I struggling with the motivation to write in the afternoon? No problem, I’ll just shift my day around a bit and write before bed when I’m feeling really inspired.
However, I still need a routine, and by this I mean, I still need to know I am going to do something every day or a set number of times per week in order to keep up any sort of momentum. When I was on maternity leave last year, I started a few simple habits in order to give my days some sort of structure. I told myself that all I had to do was do 10 squats, 10 pushups, and write a half-page in my journal every single day. In total, these habits probably took 10 minutes out of my day, but they made me feel like I had accomplished something. But I found that if I missed more than a day, I was totally thrown and would feel a little less in control. When I got back on track, I was much calmer, thanks to the consistency, no matter when I did those things during the day. (Side note: I also tracked these habits, and still do, thanks to my friend Rachel’s book “Dot Journaling—A Practical Guide: How to Start and Keep the Planner, To-Do List, and Diary That’ll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together. Highly recommend.)
3. I’m an introvert
In college, I would have told you that I was tooootally an extrovert. I loved going out and meeting new people, I lived in a house with 72 other women, and was in no less than four extracurriculars at a time. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that this is not the case and that I need downtime by myself. Even when we have guests whom we love staying with us, I need a little time to sit by myself with a book or go for a walk alone. And I do love meeting new people and having conversations, but it’s usually one-on-one, and rarely two days in a row.
For a while, I thought that perhaps my personality had changed since college and high school, but looking back, I think the early 2000s were just an era of extroversion – being a loud party girl was a sought after “personality,” so that’s what I tried to claim as my own. But in all honesty, while I did love parties and making new friends, I tended to gravitate toward one or two people and hang with them for most of the night. And if my ode to sitting alone in coffee shops didn’t make it clear, I’ll say this: I really, truly hated studying in groups, whether it was at the library or in a cafe. Even when friends would stop by to say hello at one of my regular study haunts, I felt like my private space – my sanctuary! – was being invaded. How did I miss this very obvious aspect of my personality?
4. I will likely never be early
Look, this isn’t one I’m super proud of, but I’m also not terribly ashamed either. I used to be VERY late to everything, and I came from a family of folks who were chronically late. It was never malicious or an intentional disregard for others’ time; rather it was a very skewed sense of time borne out of optimism. For most of my life, I always thought things would take me wayyy less time than they actually did, and that I could get far more done in an hour than I really could. So then, I would be racing toward the predetermined hour, either just getting out of the shower or frantically attempting to finish the time-intensive project I had started.
Over time, I’ve gotten a lot better about this. Having lived in two large cities where I relied on public transit, I’ve learned that all travel needs a buffer. And as the years have gone by, I’ve increased those buffers, both on the travel and getting ready side. Whereas before, I would leave exactly 25 minutes before I needed to be there because that’s what Google Maps said, these days I give myself at least 30 extra minutes in order to account for getting lost, Metro mishaps, and parking snafus. (I would also be remiss if I didn’t give my husband, a very punctual person, a little bit of credit here, but I really was working on this on my own before we met and he kind of sped up the process.) I probably will never be the person who gets places 10 or 15 minutes early, but now I am generally on time for most things I attend.
5. I will never be satisfied
This is not a Hamilton thing, nor a commentary on how driven I am. Really, it’s just understanding that I will always want for something. A little more time to perfect something I’ve written. Another piece of cake. A chance to go back in time and do more traveling, taking advantage of the fact that in my 20s, I had friends who briefly lived abroad and a back that could handle broken down pull-out couch mattresses.
But me never being satisfied doesn’t mean I can’t be happy with the life I have. It just means I have to be OK with sending things I’ve created out into the world before I’m 100% ready, accept that most times one dessert is plenty, and acknowledge that traveling in your 30s when you have a little more disposable income and/or work pays for it is way better anyway (helloooo, business class seat to Madrid for a medical meeting).
So some stuff I wish I had learned sooner, and some things that I’m continuing to learn about myself. I’m pretty happy with my level of self-awareness these days, but I know there’s no end to the learning about oneself. Maybe in five years, I’ll have a list of 40?