Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010: The year in review

I've thought about this post for quite some time — how to write it, which details to include and whether I should even write it at all. The memory of this first incident hit me one morning and I realized how far I've come in just a year, both in achievements and attitude. I think I'm proud enough of where I am and who I am today to be able to write about this quite sad, embarrassing time in my life. Maybe it'll help someone who now feels like I felt a year ago. Who knows? Here goes.

On December 31, 2009, I went to a New Year's Eve party with my then-boyfriend, who I'd been dating for about 6 months. The party was at his friend's apartment, and I wanted to have fun, watch the fireworks and ring in the new year right.

For some reason, "ringing in the new year" that night meant mixing myself some really strong drinks and drinking them too quickly. It meant feeling sick and going to lie down while everyone else enjoyed the party. And then it meant feeling really sick and spending the first few hours of 2010 leaning over a toilet, experiencing all the ickiness that comes with drinking too much while also sobbing uncontrollably.

I was that girl. So embarrassing. But wait, it gets worse!

My then-boyfriend later told me that as I sobbed on the bathroom floor of his friend's apartment, I kept repeating something over and over:

"I'm never happy."

I had no recollection of saying that, so I was surprised, and I think I even laughed. "That's so weird," I said. "Of course I'm happy! I might have said that, but I didn't mean it."

I wasn't just saying that; I believed it. But things were rocky in that relationship. My then-boyfriend had a ton of energy, and loved to run, ride his bike and go out with his friends all the time. I was just getting used to my first full-time job, always felt tired and would rather stay in and watch a movie than go out to a bar or theater. He always had events, races and travel plans on the horizon; I did little besides go to work, read and sleep.

We fought about these differences a lot. One time I walked away from him in the middle of an argument because I was too upset to talk through and settle it. He never forgave me for that. He broke up with me the first week of January.

I was heartbroken at the time, but looking back, I can see why he couldn't date me anymore. Who wants to be with someone who just wants to sit at home all the time? Who wants to date someone who confesses through their beer-tears that they're never happy?

In hindsight, I know that I wasn't happy. I wasn't depressed, either, but I was discontent with my life as it was. I had quite a bit going for me, having recently graduated college and landed a good job, but the same thought kept creeping into my mind: "Is this it? Is this what my life will be like until I retire or die — whichever comes first?"

Human-resources-types would say I was missing a work/life balance. Angsty, twenty-something blogger-types would say I was having a quarter-life crisis.

I was always tired. I didn't see my friends very much. I had no hobbies. I didn't exercise. I didn't really watch what I ate. None of these individual elements was particularly alarming to me, but the combination left me in a sort of quiet desperation. For lack of a better way to describe the feeling, I was just kinda bummed about life.

One of the reasons I was bummed was because I thought I wouldn't meet another guy my age anytime soon. I spent the majority of my time commuting on the bus or plugging away at work, and those scenes weren't exactly hopping with eligible young men like college was.

So let's just talk about Match.com for a second. Yup, I was on there for a little bit, at the encouragement of my dear mother. I went out with a few guys, all normal, most nice, but none too extraordinary. Then I met a really, really great guy who I dated for a few months. I don't have a single bad word to say about this guy; I just didn't see it going anywhere and very sadly ended the relationship. That was also the end of my Match.com experience, thankyouverymuch.

I came out of that just wanting to be single for a while. I was in the midst of paying off my debt and wanted to focus on getting the rest of my life together. I wanted to learn how to navigate on my own, since I always had boyfriends in college and wasn't all that familiar with solitude. I always needed someone else's approval to feel OK.

Leave it up to the universe to throw two guys my way that I couldn't ignore. I ended up dating both of them briefly, despite my well-meaning intentions to stay single. Neither experience went very well, and I was back to being single at the end of the summer and wanting to stay that way.

Something changed at that point, and I decided to start living my life the way I wanted to live it instead of waiting for someone else to tell me that I was OK.

I reconnected with my friends, ones that I've been close with for 10 years, and it breathed some life back into me. I started doing a lot of reading and began realizing that life could be about so much more than work. Opportunities that I never thought I'd be able to have suddenly seemed attainable. I paid off all my debt, which had been a huge burden and a large part of why I felt so trapped in the first place.

I started running. I made calculated efforts to become more adventurous, and started saying "yes" to a lot more invitations and activities. I started initiating activities myself. I went skydiving. I registered for my first 5K (very scary). I made an effort to eat healthier and get more sleep.

I posted more on this blog and remembered how much joy I get from writing. I decided to start taking my dreams very seriously. Ayn Rand's quote, "The question is not who is going to let me, it's who is going to stop me," became a big deal to me.

I finally began to stand on my own two feet.

This didn't all happen at once; some of it has happened slowly over the course of this entire year, but I feel like most of it has happened since the beginning of September. That's when I stopped looking for approval from someone else, and instead started becoming a person that I approve of. After all, I'm stuck with me for the rest of my life, so I might as well like myself.

This is not to say that I now have a perfect life or that I'm the greatest person ever, but I've come a long, long way from the girl who sobbed on the floor last New Year's Eve. I can now say, with absolute conviction, that I am happy every day. I'm not necessarily happy all day, and sometimes not even most of the day, but I am happy. Every. Day.

And actually, I can think of several days in the past few months that I have been happy all day. Last Thursday, I was happy all day.

Things could have easily gone the other way (into a depression, perhaps), or just stayed the same. I could still be pretty bummed about life.

But I realized that I couldn't just sit around and wait for something or someone to come along and make me happy; I had to think about the things in life that would bring me joy, then pursue them. I realize that it's not that simple for everyone, but I feel very fortunate that it was for me.

Nothing is ever hopeless. I wish I'd known that a year ago. Also, I wish I'd known that my own attitude was the main thing that was holding me back from enjoying life. Ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes wrote, "If we could just free ourselves from our perceived limitations and tap into our internal fire, the possibilities are endless."

If it seems like I'm super excited about all the things I have planned for 2011, now you know it's because my life is so different than it was a year ago. I didn't have much to look forward to at the end of 2009 because I wasn't interested in much more than getting through each day. Now I struggle to not get too far ahead of myself with all the things I want to do in the next year and beyond. Now I set goals and challenge myself to be better.

This New Year's Eve, I plan to enjoy a glass of champagne at midnight and then get some rest before I run and dive into a 5K/polar bear plunge on January 1, 2011.

It'll be an absolutely fantastic fresh start.

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3 comments:

  1. I am so happy I read this.... You are such a beautiful person Devon... I have to get going for now, but will be back to read more... Such an inspiration to take control of life...

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  2. This is a great post Devon! No wonder you are proud of it. This line really made me smile: 'Last Thursday, I was happy all day.' I hope you'll be writing a review of 2011! :D

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