cheers to 32

I've heard about people asking themselves the same questions every year on their birthday, or around the start of a new year, and it always sounded like something I'd enjoy. So here's a birthday reflection:

What did you do this year that you'd never done before? I pitched a lot of freelance concepts to big-name publications, even if I wasn't entirely sure if I had a good idea or not, and I practiced saying no regularly in a social sense, which was uncomfortable. It felt extremely hard to put myself out there creatively, but the thing is? You really can't predict where or how an idea will be received, so you might as well try. As far as saying no, I mostly had a big case of FOMO - because I really like doing things and meeting people and going places, but I knew I needed to buckle down if I wanted to achieve any of my writing goals. Another interesting result: I was honestly kind of disappointed to realize how many friendships and relationships were based on a massive amount of effort on my end, which was a hard pill to swallow.

Did you keep your new year's resolutions? I think so. I do this exercise every year, and my priority words for 2018 were family, mindfulness, solitude, generosity, humor. I stayed home, focused on quality time with my nearest and dearest loved ones. I worked on cultivating a morning routine involving writing and yoga and meditation. I got super intentional about where I wanted to give back, and how. And I made a genuine effort to laugh every day - something that wasn't too hard with a funny, sweet toddler around.

Did anyone close to you give birth? My cousin had a baby, and I knew tons of acquaintances who had babies. This next year will be more major since I'm having my second and my sister slash BFF is having her first.

Did anyone close to you die? My husband's grandfather, unexpectedly.

Where did you travel? Within the past year, I went to NYC (for the first time, and loved it!!), Santa Monica/LA and Charleston and Raleigh. All wonderful trips with fantastic memories. This year will be light on travel due to a new baby joining the family, so I'm glad I prioritized seeing some new places on my list.

What would you like to have next year that you lacked this year? More confidence. Less interest in complaining just for the sake of complaining. More local mama friends who I spend time with on a regular basis. Less debt.

What was your biggest achievement of the year? Paying off almost 20K in student loans, hands down. I have a complicated relationship with debt, and this was the first year where I really witnessed some movement based on a lot of financial planning and hustling. And it felt damn good. Also, building up my writing portfolio with pieces at BRIDES (first print piece!), SELF.com, Lifehacker and BuzzFeed. 

What was your biggest failure? All the times I was on my phone instead of being present with someone I love. 

What other hardships did you face? A miscarriage. Figuring out how to manage people for the first time. And I wouldn't call this a hardship, but I spent a great deal of time this past year reading, listening and learning about how to face and use my own privilege for good.

What was the best thing you bought? Airplane tickets!

Where did most of your money go? Probably groceries, Amazon Prime or traveling, outside of student loan payments. This is one year where I can't say coffee or drinks, haha, because I spent most of my time working and trying to get pregnant or being pregnant.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? A potential book deal . . . (!!!)

What do you wish you'd done more of? Reading actual books.

What do you wish you'd done less of? Scrolling.

What did you want and get? Health, and a baby on the way.

What did you want and not get? Therapy.

What kept you sane? Yoga, hands down, and my family.

What valuable life lesson did you learn this year? Nobody is going to do it for you - your self-care, your mental health, your career objectives, your growth, your boundaries, your prioritization, etc. - but it's okay to ask for help in any of those spaces.

What is a quote that sums up your year? Here's two. "Take criticism seriously but not personally," by HRC. And, "If you're not a leader on the bench, then don't call yourself a leader on the field; you're either a leader everywhere or nowhere. The fiercest leading I've ever seen has been done between mother and child. Parenting is no bench. It just might be the big game," by Abby Wambach.

What did you do on your birthday? What I intend for today: drink an excellent iced coffee, go to the farmer's market, hug my mama and son, feel the baby kick, get a massage, eat dinner with my husband and sister and brother-in-law, and get a good night's sleep.

{april} what I'm writing and reading

In April, here's what kept me busy:

Writing

I FINALLY switched to an accounting system a little more robust than me creating invoices in Google Docs. It took a little while to catch up but now it's great to just pop in there and see where I'm at with clients, what invoices are outstanding for projects held up in editorial and what has been paid. This will make life so, so, so much easier come tax time next year.

I also met with my friend Laura of XO-LP and we agreed to be more transparent about the creative process, particularly the mundane or unfinished or boring stuff. That conversation really refreshed me, so if you've been feeling like you're in a rut, I highly encourage you to reach out to someone you trust, who inspires you, and just talk about where you're at and where you're trying to go.

Additionally, I finished a couple stories with BuzzFeed to start doing some regular work with them (so exciting!!!) and signed a contributor contract with Forbes (another !!!) I had to decline work for another client I've been with for the past six months in order to make space for these opportunities, but it is absolutely worth it.

Outside of that, I wrote 20 freelance stories. Not all are published yet, as I'm usually working at least a month ahead in terms of editorial calendars for clients, but here are a few recent ones from March-April that I really liked:

Reading

  • I finally finished The Dazzling Heights, book two in The Thousandth Floor series. Obsessed with this YA series.
  • I'm still about halfway through Half of a Yellow Sun, so going to try to dive back in this week to read the rest. For me, this was one of those books where I wasn't invested enough to keep reading, and I kept reading other things instead of carrying on with it. I don't dislike the book (and I really admire Adichie as a writer) but I also don't love the plot.
  • This parenting mentality is something we practice, but I don't hear people talk much about.
  • On that same note, I've been mulling over this story about how to raise sons in 2018 for weeks. Here's an excellent quote from the writer, Will Leitch: "The lessening power of men (straight and white particularly) is an unquestioned societal good. When others rise, we must fall. It will be good not just in a moral sense, but a practical one. As a patriotic American who believes our country is a better place when all have an equal chance, and who believes it is time for the historical ledger to be balanced, this is what I want for the future. The only thing is: There are two little future white men who live in my house, and I love them very much." 
  • Making a list of what I'm going to read on vacation in a couple weeks, which includes about four books I've been meaning to read since Christmas, this newbie, and this magazine.