This essay originally appeared on Medium.
I’ve never been set to have a year like this and I can’t wait.
Today’s my birthday and life is good.
I’ve never been this productive. I’ve never been this involved. I’ve never been this proactive. I’ve never been this grounded. I’ve never been this mindful. I’ve never been this earnest. I’ve never been this open. I’ve never been this healthy. I’ve literally never worked on my upper body until now.
A Recap of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I’ve had a tremendously fun existence: Once: 100 Moments of a Dunce’s Life.
It eventually got weird and I realized I could do better, so I changed things up: I’m Trying to Not Be an Out of Control Mess This Year — and It’s Working.
The whole brain/life rework has been going extremely well:5 Things I Learned Once I Got Proactive About My Mental Health and General Existence.
And I’m ready to be my(best)self for good: The Perfect Person Project.
This is Going to Be My Year — Really, Truly, Finally
It’s curious, I suppose. This year, I’ve made more existential changes than ever before, but I feel I have less to report — mostly because I’m no longer periodically checking in but full on cultivating in a continuum these days.
My birthday essays — for reference, here be 33 Things I Believe Are True — have long been annual ruminations on where I am in life, what I’m working on, how I’m improving, and what I’d like to see happen. But it’s always been me adjusting details, not rebuilding the entire foundation. You can only doso much if you believe you’re onlycapable of thatmuch — and, as of January this year, I’ve renounced that way of thinking. Fuck that! I’m all things at once now!
On Saturday, I had my first shift as a volunteer docent at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. On Tuesday, I had a two-hour interview for a youth mentorship program. On Wednesday, I paid off all my credit card debt. Every other Thursday, I’ve been at ACLU workshops. Tomorrow, I work my first food drive with Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. Two weeks from now, I’m doing a poetry reading at a festival. A month from now, I’m going skydiving. FUCK MY OLD LIFE LIKE WHOA BASICALLY.
I’m done with not doing. I’m done with procrastination. I’m done with hesitation. I’m done with stagnation. I’m done with obsession. I’m done with mania. I’m done with worry. I’m done with ennui. I’m done with someday. I’m done with another time. I’m done with being answerless. I’m done with self-service over self-care. I’m done with the same-old-same-old as dogma. I’m not done with delirium and self-deprecation, but I’ve noticed them curiously dissipate. [I don’t think those two are inherently bad; there’s just a noticeable difference between you being in control of them and them being in control of you.]
Simply put, I’m done not fully valuing my time and my presence, just as I’m done not realizing the potential of how both could ultimately be utilized.
To be clear, there’s still a process in place. I have to be realistic. I can’t just politely yet boldly announce, “I am hereby sane — forthwith!” I’m continuing to examine and piece together how I operate like a conspiracy theorist with maps, pictures, and strings of yarn tacked to the wall. I just mean I’m done with my brain being a haunted house. I’m renovating the mansion like hell and giving them ghosts the boot. Once the interior’s done up proper, I’ll move onto the garden — revive the core, make it pretty, and keep up the good work.
The weirdest thing in all of this is that I’m adding components to my life and it feels like I have more time than ever. Mindfulness and mostly-sobriety revamped my existence to feel like a new planet with notable time dilation.
Of course, this has, in turn, revealed how much time I previously wasted. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had an absurdamount of fun over the years and I have done a lot in that tme, but I could’ve done more and/or been better. I’m not dwelling on it because I’ve also abandoned the whole notion of wishing I could change the past. However, I recognize that, at times, I didn’t need to be thatdistracted, that hungover, thatlethargic, thatmanic, thatencapsulated in fear, and so on.
Meanwhile, managing my time, budgeting my resources, and making good decisions has never been easier. I’m no longer reacting to what’s immediately available; instead I’m all about what really, truly could be done and setting myself up to live a life that’s as fun as it is rewarding. Honestly, I’ve never been more here for existence.
It’s pretty strange, to live wild and good and then discover there’s substantial new territory to explore. I used to wishthings were different and wantstuff to change because evolution of such magnitude inherently read insurmountable to me. These days, the decision-making process has leveled out like the goddamn earth shifted. What used to seem like a vertical hike feels like a stroll in the park now.
That doesn’t mean each undertaking has been a breeze or I’m where I’d ultimately like to be. The difference has been the decision to do the work, to put time and effort into serious growth and expansion. It’s exciting to feel this empowered and encouraging to see results, but I still catch moments of absent-mindedness and odd reactions. Yet, these instances are now followed by a sense of pragmatism, some observation or inspection that has me calling up the pattern that got me there. It’s choosing to avoid repeats instead of hoping there aren’t repeats. What’s heartening is that these are for sure exceptions now and not the rule.
What I’ve done has worked for me and it has worked well. No solution is universal because no problem is omnipresent. This has been a set of substantial changes in my life and each step of the way I’ve had to ask myself if I’m overcorrecting. I got here because I was both static and crashing, which I suppose is akin to setting cruise control while drag racing. What I don’t want to do is go from charging full speed from one direction only to charge full speed in another. I believe this new life is rich and rewarding, but I need to recognize that my mind, body, and spirit are not infinite. I have inherent boundaries of health and pushing past my mental, emotional, and physical limitations does nothing for me but rack up damage.
So I’m (back) at the drawing board in a way I’ve never been before. I’m restarting existence from scratch — or at least as much as humanly possible at this age. From a book-buying spree for perspective — breezily existing almost wholly uninterrupted as a straight white man surely contributed to the nosedive and I need revitalized source material for “human” as well as new angles on straightness, whiteness, and maleness moving forward — to pursuing with great purpose what I’ve long found discouraging, intimidating, overwhelming, or uncomfortable, I’m in this new self for the long haul and— no wishing, no wanting, no hoping — I willonly level up from here on out.
I’m 34 and I’ve never been a better version of myself. I woke up today knowing that to my core and it felt pretty fucking grand.
Things are rad. Things are getting radder.