“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.”― Mary Jean Irion
This quote is one of my favorites and it comes the closest to how 26 felt. There were so many normal moments that I cherished so dearly knowing how hard fought they were. I’m pausing now to be aware of the gift that was 26. At the same time though, 26 was jam packed full of adventure between a change in my job, a trip to Thailand, the World Cup trip all over France and Germany, my THREE month paid sabbatical from work, countless sunsets, wonderful friend reunions in a variety of cities (Portland, Salt Lake City, Des Moines, Moab, Madison, Durham, Atlanta, Asheville), long lifechats with new friends, and various hiking excursion in stunning nature. I lived deeply. I rested just the same and I think the rest part is what feels so new.
I feel changed looking back on 26. Most birthdays, that change is hard to recognize but I witness it everyday in normal life in the smallest things. Even now, as I sip on a decaf latte, this will be the first birthday in a decade where I wasn’t downing caffeine. I sing the praises of 26. This year was so good to me after 25 had a far share of soul sucking numbness. Let me rephrase: I chose to be good to myself.
For a long time, I felt distant in the wrong ways to the wrong things: distant from community, distant from new ideas, distant from lifechatting, etc. This last year I feel a distance now from the right things (work, people who take advantage of me, etc) and a comfortable closeness to that which makes me feel alive — I don’t cling to those things. Instead, I just am grateful for their existence. I recalibrated and while my life might look the same on the outside, the inside paints a different story. I feel more curious, more optimistic, more rested, more balanced, and like I’m living a more sustainable life. This has all resulted in developing a lovely pause button that’s allowed me to have space and calm in my life.
This year was both filled with so many wonderful, hard fought normal days and unbelievably rare days. Ultimately though, it’s the normal days with new and old friends that I cherish the most knowing they’ll be the ones that’ll carry me into the future. Buttressing those normal days, I began taking care of myself with semi regular trips to the chiropractor, a new therapist, and built in social time with friends each week. I grew kinder to myself this year and found more humor in my flaws. At the same time, I worked hard. Two days after my birthday last year, I started Automattic’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource group and have been so absurdly proud of the work that’s been done over the last year. I continue to write on surrogacy-stories.com in hopes of helping and finding other surrogacy kids. I read more books this past year than I normally do. I established a true meditation practice (surprisingly hard). I cut out meat from more meals (mainly lunch). I set boundaries with bullies and re-learned you still have to protect yourself even as an adult.
This doesn’t mean every day was lovely. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. On the worst of days, I used my “I get to” trick to find my way through. Generally, my lows didn’t feel so low even in really terrible, disorienting moments. Through tears and confusion, I still knew deep within me that I had been through worse and that I would manage.
For many years, I felt I had to emotionally “fake it til you make it”. I knew if I kept doing the hard work day after day that it would eventually pay off. If I forced myself to remain open, to ask the question, to speak out, to apologize, to share, etc., I would eventually find my way back to myself. This year felt like the culmination of so much of that. Even the easy spark I’ve always had upon meeting new people is back when for many years I was left looking for the matches.
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.
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.
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.Quotes from last year’s post.
Good job, 26 year old Anne. You carried the momentum through, you expanded your capacity for all of life, you truly protected yourself, you kept promises to yourself, and you gave back to those around you. I miss you already.
27 feels unknown. I anticipate more change and growth. My foundation feels firm, my center feels known, and my approach to life feels sustainable. I’ll likely be nomading full time once more come May and am excited to have the chance to do things differently. I don’t have a timeframe for how long or short I’ll bop around — I trust myself to find my way and to know what I need.
Gah I feel so lucky to get older. I hear many groans from folks as they age whereas I continually live in disbelief. Perhaps I’ve studied and read too much about life expectancy but it only feels like such a gift to continue to age. I welcome the wrinkles, the grey hairs (mine will likely be white), the aches & pains, etc. You know the feeling when you’re playing a game or on a run and you’re making it further than you ever have before? There’s excitement, readiness, nervousness, and a sense of awe. That’s how birthdays feel for me. Perhaps because I didn’t think I’d make it this far.
To close, I am including questions a dear friend asked me. I love how normal getting questions are in my life now. After spending so many years seeking out those who are curious like me, I never want to take having those people in my life for granted.
I love reflecting on the “last” of an age instead of on the first day of a new one. Are you the same? Do you like birthdays?
YES. I very much love any and every excuse to reflect. In terms of actual birthdays, I’m not a huge celebration person — I’d rather just take myself on a date than doing some sort of gathering. It might be my introverted and sentimental nature just wanting time in my head to reflect.
What’s the most surprising thing you learned about yourself during your 26th year? Why do you think you didn’t figure it out sooner?
I genuinely didn’t know how calm I could be. This aspect of myself was revealed during my sabbatical. Without the pressure to achieve at work or school and with the assurance of a paycheck, I feel as though I got strange insight into a part of myself I have never had the chance to explore. I’ve always been so wound tight ever since I was very young. With the security I’ve given myself as an adult and the chance work gave me to disengage, I feel like I met an alternative universe version of myself that I quickly realized I needed to find a way to integrate into my future.
I didn’t figure it out sooner because I think I lived in a perpetual state of not feeling secure or safe for a variety of reasons. This constant on edge and resulting perpetual to do list never let me truly unwind to pick my head up. I’m learning how to build that back into my life now.
What one—relatively inexpensive—material thing added the most value to your life during your 26th year? (Computer and phone don’t count.)
I’m having a really hard time thinking of anything other than books, food, postcards/cards, and plane tickets that I’ve purchased. I bought another pair of pants (I have two now) but that can’t be the highest value add :D. I recently started using a kindle but it was gifted to me three years ago by a friend. Everything that’s coming to mind, I had before this year.
I’ll go with what I call my “nice” sambas. While I’m a massive minimalist, having a nicer pair of shoes I can wear out has eased some of the anxiety around dressing appropriately. I never want to be disrespectful nor do I really want to stand out. These shoes have oddly helped me navigate the world with just a little bit less stress :).
What would make 17 year-old Anne most surprised about 27 year-old Anne?
That she wasn’t chugging a redbull :D. Kidding aside, whew, I think 17 year old me would recognize the 27 year old version in terms of the values, approach to life, etc. I think she would be baffled by my queerness, my job, and my nomading. More than anything though, I think she would be shocked at my steadiness and ability to take care of myself. At 17, I was still a wreck from PTSD and the world felt so scary. I think she’d take great hope in the me of today and find a lot of answers I was searching for. I wish I could lifechat with her and be her friend. She needed it.
What made you most proud of yourself in the past year? Why is this the thing that stands out in a sea of others?
Starting the LGBTQ+ (we call it Queeromattic) Employee Resource Group (aka ERG) at my job. I was genuinely nervous to do it but it felt like a necessary thing to take on and I’ve enjoyed the work so much. I’m ecstatic about the work being done there and the potential in place for future work. I often do things that a past version of myself would have wanted (part of why I created surrogacy-stories.com too) and this very much feels in line with that.
This stands out mainly because this was the first ERG for Automattic! To be able to pave the way for future ERGs and future queer folks feels so lovely.
What’s one significant “theme”/hope (not goal 😉) you’re taking into your 27th year on the planet?
Sustainability. Last year, I was obsessed with momentum – finding it, riding it out, and doing things to maintain it. This year, I’m applying the lens of sustainability to all that I do. It feels lovely to think about things through this lens. When I do something that is inherently unsustainable, I note it mentally and make it a choice rather than something that creeped up on me.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give based on this latest trip around the sun?
Don’t let others control your energy, passion, and motivation. Have a firm grip on those things and, if you do give it to others, do so intentionally and with your eyes wide open.