Get yourself a cup of tea because I’ve got stuff to say.
It’s 2022, and for the first time since, I don’t know, 2016, I’m feeling optimistic about the coming year. I’ve been overdue for some mindset shifts, and I think they’re finally reaching me.
I wish I could attribute this change to something specific, but I can’t. Here are some possibilities: I took a week away from worrying about my writing career. That helped. We had a really fun Christmas celebration. That helped, too. I went to the podiatrist and got a diagnosis and a treatment plan for my hurting foot. How could that not help?
On New Year’s Eve, I went to bed around 10:30 PM in 2021 and woke up the next morning around 10:30 AM in 2022. It might’ve been the most restorative new year I’ve ever had.
I didn’t text or email anyone or post on social media about it. I had faith that everyone would make it through their crossover from one year to the next without me cheering them on. I haven’t checked up on everyone, but I’m pretty sure they did.
Over the weekend, I watched a few videos by a youtuber that I’ve been watching off and on for a year or so named Nathaniel Drew.
His year-end video reminds me of the life I lived from my mid-twenties to early thirties. I got to try so many things, including surfing lessons. Actually, the second time Adam and I ever hung out was at a surfing lesson.
I lived in Philadelphia then, which was ideal for a young person wanting to do cool things. A day trip could mean NYC, Washington DC, snowboarding, hiking, cliff jumping, the Jersey shore, white water rafting—the list goes on, but I don’t want to sound like the NE Corridor tourism bureau. It was also a relatively cheap place to live (I don’t know how it is now, probably gentrified), so a young person could afford to do these things. I did something incredible almost every weekend.
Then, I got sick, and I spent years mourning the life that I lost.
Once I finally got over whatever what was ailing me, I felt far too old and used up to ever do anything interesting again.
Near the end of Nathaniel’s year-end video, he talks about decisions. He says that whenever we choose one path, we inherently cut ourselves off from a different path. We limit our possibilities.
Duh. But here’s the important part: He said that he used to hate that about decisions, but now he sees it differently. Now, he believes that committing yourself to a path means you get to fully embrace something, and it’s in that embrace where you get to really live life.
I’ve spent a lot of time regretting the things I’ve missed out on, rather than appreciating the things I’ve embraced. That’s one of my mindset shifts for 2022.
I truly enjoy squeezing every bit of juice out of everything I do. Some examples: Since deciding to be a writer, I’ve gotten to examine stories and writing theory in ways I never would’ve otherwise. Committing myself to ballet has meant that I got to fully explore all of the dance positions. Living in Tokyo (rather than visiting it as a tourist) has allowed me to visit dozens of neighborhoods, and I’m fascinated by how people live and what brings them meaning in life. That’s not something you learn in a vacation.
When I do these things, I feel like I’m living close to the bone—I’m down to the essentials of what makes me most fulfilled. So, why do I detract from my journey by mourning the paths I didn’t take?
Something I’ve noticed this pandemic is that I actually get more freedom out of my limitations. Limitations make me more creative, more tenacious, and more knowledgeable. I’ve been free to fully get into the things I’ve chosen with less distraction.
Also, the opportunity to fully experience isolation (both the good and the bad) has taught me so much about myself and my relationships to other people.
Nathaniel’s video about friendship made me think about how community and connections are far more important than experiences. Doing all of the stuff I did back when I lived in Philadelphia was a huge ego boost. It made me feel like I was winning at life, but the truly valuable thing I got out of it was the people.
So, another other mindset switch. Truly fulfilling experiences always involve deep human connection. The entry point for human connection isn’t the experience itself but staying open and vulnerable while sharing space with someone. It doesn’t have to be cliff jumping. It can be a cup of tea.
I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about the potential downsides of friendships and not nearly enough time savoring the good parts. I have access to people I truly like and admire. I don’t know how many people can say that, maybe most, but I feel lucky and appreciative.
We’re social animals. We have more in common with ants than lions—our power is collective. It seems like the biggest problem we’re facing right now as a species is the false belief that we don’t need each other.
Speaking of getting to the essentials of life and relationships, I made it a goal this vacation to sit down with Adam and ask him to tell me some of stories from his past. You’re probably wondering why. Don’t I know them already? The answer is yes. You don’t spend almost 15 years with someone and not know most of their stories.
Early in our relationship, I was afraid of his past, so his stories made me uncomfortable. He was so wild and different from me, and I was worried that he’d go back to his wild-man ways or maybe see how dull I really was.
After that, I went through a phase where his stories made me jealous. I’ve had a lot of fun in life, but it was always controlled fun. Most of the things I’ve done have included some kind of safety harness (often literally).
There are no safety harnesses in his stories (well, except the ones that involve me). He has the typical wild teenager stories—crazy parties, illegal skinny dipping, etc. of course—but he also has every other kind of story. He’s got an FBI beating on the door in the middle of the night story, a roommate staging a break-in story, an Ivy-league secret society murder story, a frightening Clinton Road story, and more.
The characters he’s known are even better. Half of what makes these stories so interesting are the other people involved.
Now, he’s a mild-mannered professor who cooks in the evenings and does the dishes on the weekends. I’m grateful for that, and I’m also ready to appreciate his stories for what they are—a bounty of really gripping tales.
So, we went to a cafe, I sat down with a notebook and a pen and questioned him like a journalist. We only got through a handful. It helped that I already know the outlines of most of them, so I knew which details to write down.
I got the idea because over our break, we ended up staying up late talking several nights, which always lends itself to reminiscing. He’d tell a story or reference a weird character from his past, and rather than thinking to myself, “Oh, I’ve heard this before,” or, “I don’t want to think about this now,” I found myself thinking, “This is so bizarre and fascinating. I should write this down.”
Well, that is the start of my 2022, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s damn good. If the start of the year is any indication of the rest, I have a lot to look forward to.