2016 is here and I am not riddled with anxiety.
This is a big deal, for me.
I’ve resigned myself to my anxiety and fully expect it around milestones. I had panic attacks when I was 10 years old and again at 20, because suddenly the remainder of my life was so cleanly quantifiable. 2016 is the year that I will turn 25, so you’d think I would be a walking mess, but I’m somehow not? I don’t know whether to attribute this to a warmer clime, a steady regimen of vitamin D pills, the happy light I’ve brought into the office, or if it’s because, finally, I feel like instead of reacting to things in my life, I’m making moves.
I’ve cut away things that I’m not invested in. I’ve decided/realized that I’m probably never going to like writing short stories (SORRY NOT SORRY) and I’ve (re)started writing novels. I’ve decided that I want to make goals that are short-term, adaptable, and anti-fragile enough that I can shrug them off in a few months if it turns out they aren’t working for me. In short, I’ve removed the sense that if I don’t measure up to arbitrary goals set at the beginning of some project or some point in time, I’ve failed.
I’ve let go of the idea that failure is toxic and all-consuming. I’ve failed a bunch. I’ve moved past failure multiple times. Failure has no hold on me, anymore.
I’ve found a magical area of study that could possibly meld all of my most favorite disciplines together into a wonderland of learning. How? How did I do that? Who knows? Anyway, I pulled some hectic maneuvering off this past fall and ended up applying to a bunch of graduate schools. I feel like this choice has opened up a world of stability – a strange and elusive thing, for me. I’ve mentioned, before, that I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager, and always assumed that would mean scraping by (admittedly more because of my pride than anything else), but there are other possibilities, now.
I’m sure plenty of this security has to do with the fact that 2015, while hard, was solid. I didn’t have to move in 2015. I kept my job, and I’m good at it. No late-breaking disasters managed to upend my life, because when late-breaking disasters did occur, I handled them like a competent (???) adult (???). And I have a supportive and very even-keeled partner. We complement each other.
And maybe part of this is because the past several years have been hard. I moved multiple times, flirted with deeper wells of anxiety than probably I even realized at the time. And, of course, those were the years where the previously mentioned failures kept cropping up.
Somehow, though, I’ve ended up here: firmly okay, happy, and excited for the future.
I’m reminded of something my mom once said, when I was less happy, more frightened: “Once you’ve conquered this, you’ll never be scared again.”*
My anxiety has always come when I feel myself grow smaller; it emerges when the borders of my life contract. But now I am experimenting with optimism. I feel like the borders are spiraling away, and I’m not scared.
*Yes, my mom really does talk this way.