I write this as my body struggles to keep up with my recent surge of intensity and intentionality. I spent the weekend in San Francisco surrounded by queer people in the Castro District at the Lesbians Who Tech Summit. I depleted myself entirely using up every word, every smile, every question that came across my lips. I poured myself out and then scrapped the bottom of the barrel of my soul in case there was more to offer up.
I was so fully alive in such force the last few days of 25. I connected deeply with coworkers turned friends and conference attendees turned lifechat buddies. I spoke for at least an hour with an older lesbian who lived in San Francisco in the 80s during the AIDS crisis. At one point, we cried together reflecting upon the heaviness of the identify we were there to celebrate. We shared coming out stories, we shared tears, we shared laughs, we shared shared shared. Upon returning home, I was exhausted yet so inspired to the point that my body wouldn’t let me sleep in too long.
I’ve ended this year on a high but this past year was hard. That’s the first thought that came to mind when I reflect on 25. Within weeks of my birthday last year, work exploded with my team growing by 60% to 14 people spread across 8 different countries. This all landed weeks into a 3 month long trip to Europe with my mom. My sanity limped along for those months trying to just keep up with the work, the incredible sights, the long conversations with my mom, the immense amount of planning, and the restlessness of not knowing what was to come upon returning from Europe. I have so many highlights from that trip it’s impossible to begin to divulge them all. For context, I created a 43 page book for my mom for Christmas covering our adventures and that was the very heavily condensed version I landed on (you don’t even want to know how long version 1 was)! Many once in a lifetime moments happened on that trip and I hold them so close to my heart.
Upon returning from Europe, I spent a short stint in Portland before snagging my minicooper for a drive straight through to Colorado. I think it’s around this point in my adventures that I pause to marvel at myself. I never know how I manage yet somehow I always do.
I spent the summer marvelously in Colorado hiking, thinking, connecting, and working really hard. I desperately needed nature and an abundance of it at that. There’s a strange mix of familiarity and newness in Colorado that I love. It’s comfortably uncomfortable and always gives me a good platform to extend myself in the right ways. When the basics aren’t hard to do, the next level items come into focus (creating community, learning something new, resolving tough internal troubles, etc). More than anything, when I look back on Colorado my heart fills up as I was lucky to find depth there with some kind souls. Some of the connections I made in Colorado have stuck with me many months later in the form of long texts, hand written letters, and thoughtful messages over Instagram.
I went to two weddings and four national parks (Arches, Grand Teton, Mesa Verde, Canyonlands) over the summer. Love, community, and nature! What more do I need?! As the summer wrapped up, I headed to San Diego to try community and stability on for size. It was towards the end of summer the heaviness hit me suddenly knocking the wind out of me. As if knowing I needed to rapidly make it to the safety of San Diego, I ended up driving 13 hours straight from Arches National Park to San Diego to arrive at a new apartment with friends.
The following months were a blur of depression and slowing down. What started as retreating to the calmness of my hammock at the end of the day to unwind morphed into excessive tiredness and lack of inspiration. There were moments that pierced through the depression but they were just that — a trip to Chicago to see a dear friend, gorgeous time in nature in Portland, a week off work to connect with friends in LA, a mini roadtrip to Joshua Tree & Idyllwild, a New Years road trip to Chapel Hill and instant community.
They pulled me up but they didn’t pull me out of what I was seemingly stuck in. It felt never ending and it finally lifted just about a month ago. Somehow during this timeframe, I learned how to deeply appreciate San Diego and found ways to naturally help heal me on the toughest days (hello, sunset walks). In any case, I’m so incredibly relieved and cautious about protecting this reprieve. I cannot go back to what was.
Tied to all of this over the past year, I’ve been raising my standards in terms of who I let in on “the Full Anne Experience”. A dear friend coined that phrase as a way to reflect back to me how I approach friendships: “You were giving the full Anne experience to like WHOMEVER.” She was calling me out kindly for pouring too much of myself out even when people made it abundantly clear they didn’t deserve it. It made me laugh and sigh all at once.
During the very dark months I experienced this past year, I was faced with more tough truths as I found out that folks who I thought would be there were nowhere to be found. This hurt more than I can put into words. I’ve worked very hard to be a constant for those in my life – the person they can always reach out to no matter what. In the process of being that person, I wasn’t thinking about if they would be that for me one day. As I settled into the darkness, I asked friends to remember to turn the light on for me only to find most had forgotten. To the few who were, I say thank you with everything in me. I cherish the abundance of time I had with you this past year. I doubt you’ll read this but it’s worth putting out into the universe for you to perhaps one day find (wish more people blogged and read for that matter).
Recently, I stumbled on this quote and that accurately captures parts of how I feel these days:
I am not one who lets go and I have had to let go of more people than I wanted to this past year. It’s been a painful process and I know it’s not over. Amidst the tough parts, there were so so so so many good ones too. From finally starting my book on surrogacy to reconnecting with my very first (and only) boyfriend years later to hours spent photographing the world, I explored and lived so deeply. I am truly lucky and I finally feel the beginnings of community around me.
Still… I want to hug 26. I made it to you!!! I’m here. I’m ready. Put me to work. I have capacity for life again and it feels so much more sacred after the many months I went through this past year running on empty. As I close out my last day of 25, I spent time putting together a plan for an Employee Resource Group for LGBTQ+ people at Automattic, the company where I work. It’ll be the first ERG at the company and I can’t freaking wait to “ship it” as we say.
26 feels like an old friend that’s been waiting for me at the airport with my name obnoxiously written on a sign ready to sweep me away. Starting March 16th, I’ll be taking 2 weeks off work to road trip to Utah exploring National Parks along the way with a lovely friend from college. Another World Cup year means I’ll be heading to France for a month to catch the blood, sweat, and tears of the incredible athletes competing. Starting September 18th, I’ll have a paid, 3 month sabbatical from work. I have no clue what I’ll be doing during that time but I relish that it’s a decision I even have to make. I have stable housing in San Diego through to January 2020 (eek!). This year calls to me and feels like a reward after making it to this point. I have so much I’m looking forward to and so much to dive deep into with work that truly excites me.
“While I am thrilled with these wild 25 years of life, I hope 26 year old me doesn’t recognize who I am today.”– From last year’s birthday post
I don’t recognize 25 year old me. For starters, I hadn’t yet chopped my hair off :D. That would come at 8am on my birthday last year. 26 year old me is filled with intentionality and intensity. I’m still the same Anne as I’ve always been though trying to do the best I can with what I have to help those around me as we all hurtle through this world. The difference is that I honor and protect myself now. I recognize myself as my greatest resource that deserves more and that needs to be taken care of to keep doing all the awesome things I can to help in this world.
I love love love 26. This year is going to be about keeping momentum and holding steady even when I might be tempted to lower my standards. I’m here for it all.
A closing thought: I can’t wait to see who I’ll meet this year — what their story will be, what their laugh will sound like, what questions I’ll be lining up to ask them.