There’s something both extremely blissful and hella chaotic about sitting in absolute silence writing a slew of words down on a page and then repeatedly wiping them all out somewhere around the third or fourth paragraph.
This is how I know with confidence that I’m now a full-time writer.
Not to discount my work on this blog baby of mine (that I’ve woefully neglected for six months now), but I’ve officially entered the realm of being paid to write words now…which has taken me years to muster the courage to do…and now that I’m doing it…I’ve unlocked a place of fulfillment I’ve never known since taking my first job at sixteen.
All that to say I’ve been extremely busy, happier than I’ve ever been professionally, and struggling like a motherfucker financially because I’m not yet established with organizations that pay well. So there’s that.
To briefly recap the rest of 2022 after “the SCOTUS decision”: I wrote a bunch of stories, made a couple of podcast appearances in acknowledgement of my work, did a lot of cool shit, got a lot of free shit, suffered some brutal losses, and pretty much just kept going as per usual.
Okay, that last part was a lie. Nothing about what I was doing last year was “per usual.” In fact, it’s pretty safe to say everything about last year was the very definition of “blowing shit up” when it came to my already relatively unstable life. And I honestly couldn’t be more grateful for it.
Every “expectation” I went into 2022 with went up in flames fairly quickly. Which is generally what happens when one makes expectations so…LOL.
Instead of a stable job, I made a hard pivot into one of the most uncertain career moves a woman in her late forties could make without blinking. And instead of finding myself in a long-term romantic relationship, I ended a nearly four and a half year abstinence streak via the most beautiful one-night stand experience with a man who taught me more about what I want in a relationship in the eight or so hours we spent together than I’ve learned through any man I’ve actually dated (and even some that I hadn’t).
But the thing that really got left behind was any of the fucks I had left to give when it came to being everything to everyone except my damn self.
Now, I’ve been aware for some time that I had a penchant for being a people-pleaser. I’ve mentioned this before in previous posts. It’s the default setting that comes with abandonment issues. Saying “yes” to things and people when I didn’t want to, to keep things copacetic. Never rocking the boat when my work was dismissed, undervalued, or credited to someone else in the spirit of being a “team player.” Being the ear, shoulder, entertainment, counsel and whatever else for folks who drain me energetically, because my desire to be included and avert loneliness from a past life ironically put me in a position where I’d become the fix for the loneliness of others.
In retrospect, living that way was the most surefire way not to have an authentic, fulfilling life of my own design. Because how could I possibly have my own life when I’m constantly answering the call to fit neatly into everyone else’s lives and plans? When am I being myself if I’m always accommodating other people’s whims and versions of who they want and need me to be for their comfort and pleasure?
But last year…and especially last month around my birthday…something snapped.
While one person in particular was offensively egregious, I realized I’d created a persona and an environment where people felt entitled to my time and attention because in the past I’d willingly given it to them to barter acceptance. It wasn’t until I found myself in the ridiculous position of having to explain why I just wanted to be alone on my birthday that I realized I didn’t owe anyone a fucking explanation.
The thing about setting boundaries is it looks like rejection. And after experiencing a traumatic bout of rejection throughout my formative years, I did everything I could to avoid experiencing it and delivering it to others to avoid hurt feelings in my adult life. Hence the people-pleasing default.
What I didn’t realize is how something that would appear well-intentioned on the surface could also be incredibly manipulative and harmful for relationships. Starting with the one within.
There’s the assumption that if you’re doing something nice for someone…even if they never asked you to do it…that person is somehow obligated to be beholden to you. Whenever I found myself feeling mistreated by a job, a friend, or a lover, I’d do inventory of all the things I’d done for them and harbor resentment with the outcome and plead my case to anyone who paid attention instead of actually communicating with the people I felt affronted by (when in reality I overstepped and didn’t know how to navigate the shame of my actions).
It didn’t matter that I’d never exhibited ambition at that job, had very little in common with that friend or was completely incompatible with that lover. What mattered to me was the dopamine fix I got from the validation of being acknowledged for the occasional spurts of grand gestures I made to stay in their good graces and be likable. Just to have something. Anything.
(If this has struck a nerve, you know there’s work to do.)
And the thing about spending your life avoiding rejection is you limit your ability to learn and grow from an unpleasant experience. To become better at your craft and a better person overall.
I derailed my writing career over two decades ago when I received rejection letters from two editors from two of the top fashion magazines in the world. I was so blinded by the devastation of my submission not being accepted, that I completely glossed over the fact that I’d been sent two hand-signed letters from two heavy-hitters in the fashion world who took time out of their busy schedules to encourage me to keep trying.
My trauma continued to stunt my growth in the many years that followed. Truthfully, it’s only recently occurred to me in the past few years that I could not bring my whole self to anything in this life while I was still broken. And so I needed to become my healer. I’m still doing that work. And I’ll keep doing it until the day I leave this earth because it’s brought me so much peace in a time of utter upheaval.
These days, I understand rejection is just a redirection and embrace it, and have gotten very comfortable with the word “no” being a complete sentence.
Best of all…I’ve gotten most comfortable in the role I was born to play…myself.
It helps that I have an incredible supporting cast who keep me grounded with hard truths and are quick to cancel any pity party I momentarily consider holding when things feel overwhelming, while also understanding and honoring when I need my space to figure my shit out. Something I’ve come to value greatly in my relationships as I get older and have less patience for bullshit.
In spite of it all…I couldn’t have written this chapter of my life any better.