“You have to write every day. Even when you don’t want to. Even when you don’t have anything to say, or it feels dumb, or you’re too tired. Just keep doing it, and eventually you can’t imagine not doing it.”-My Dumb Ass, Yesterday
At my mother-in-law’s recently, my husband’s 13-year-old nephew plopped down next to me and asked me what I did for a living. My boss asked me that a couple of weeks before that, too, actually. Weird.
I explained my job to him like he was 13 (the nephew, not the boss), and then I added, as an afterthought, that I also wrote on the side. He was way more interested in that, peppering me with questions about what I wrote, when I wrote it, how I knew what to write about, and, finally, what advice I had for him.
That’s when I tossed him the above nuggets of mentoring gold that he would undoubtedly remember for the rest of his life, telling journalists and television hosts for years to come that it was the moment that changed him forever, and easily the launch to his own incredibly successful writing career. /s
He didn’t know, in that moment anyway, that I was absolutely full of shit. This was comforting.
See, I do believe every word I told him. But as I was talking, it was super hard not to admit to myself that I hadn’t written a blog in *checks notes* a long-ass time.
Gutters and Strikes
Part of it was a complete change in my professional life. I had to say goodbye to the job that I thought I would do forever, and the mourning process was intense. I’ve been at my current company for several months now, and I’m only just now adjusting to, and owning my, reality.
Part of it was a deep-dive into figuring out what I wanted to keep in my life, and what I wanted to step away from doing. After nine months of fitness coaching, I realized that my style of connecting with clients wasn’t in alignment with the direction the company was headed, and walking away from that was another adjustment. I accepted that how it started vs how it’s going isn’t always going to be a study in triumph.
All in all, the past
six months two years have felt like anxieties upon anxieties, and after so much of that, I think my body just shut down. But I kept fighting. I asked my doctor for a referral to a therapist. I listened to a lot of podcasts, and motivational speeches, and walk-up music. I watched a lot of TikToks and subscribed to a lot of self-help-style subreddits.
I also picked fights with my husband, binge ate, and ended almost every day sabotaging the vows of perpetually hopeful It’s-A-New-Day Jen.
But the worst thing I did was what I didn’t do…write.
Recently, I went back home to see my mom. It wasn’t a happy occasion, as we attended the funeral of a long-time family friend, at the church I spent a large part of my childhood attending.
Memories So Thick…
My family was a church-going bunch, and my first friendships were born of that community. I grew up saying the prayers every night, going to church on Sundays and church group on Wednesdays. I played tag and hide-and-seek outside the building, was lucky enough to be an acolyte AND play in the hand bell choir. I identified wholly as a devout Methodist.
I’m anything but a devout church-goer now. In fact, I wondered how I would feel walking back into the building after more than a decade of absence. Church has come to mean hypocrisy to me as an adult.
But I was surprised to fall back into the old patterns with the familiar lull of the pastor’s words during the service. The pews were the same. The only change, aside from the paint color, was the addition of three large television screens.
Sometimes you have to go back to move forward. Sitting in that old, familiar church, listening to people lovingly speak, reminded me that adulthood may frequently feel like a sea of uncertainty, but identities formed in childhood are some of the most adamant voices of our adult selves. Your inner child isn’t just a concept or a buzz phrase, it’s a real thing that happens within all of us. It’s up to you to decide how much you allow that voice to define Adult You.
I remembered that childhood was the best time of my life. The self-doubt that springs from puberty and groupthink hadn’t yet taken hold. Child me formed very strong opinions about my likes. I was a reader. My parents were politically active, and I loved rooting for candidates with them. I loved helping my mom with volunteer work. I loved being active.
And I loved to write.
The Past Meets the Present
If you ever should find yourself wondering who you are, or feeling lost in the minutia of just trying to be a fucking adult, with all of the micro responsibilities that entails, take some time away from all of it and sit with yourself. Find a spot that resonated with child you, go back and sit where it began. If not, channel that childhood imagination, close your eyes, and let those memories take over.
Who are you? What jumps out at you? Remember things that remember doing – remember loving. What was an absolute to you, and what dreams did you have for those things that weren’t?
It’s not necessarily convenient, but it can open so many doors in your mind. Unlock those long-dormant parts of your brain and get to know yourself. Take a few minutes. Hug the kid who got you here. (They’re not bad, really.) Getting to know you is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Even when you don’t want to. Even when you tell yourself you’ll try it maybe tomorrow, or this weekend.
You deserve a loving relationship with yourself. Now go back, take your own hand, and let’s see what’s out there. Together.