It’s New Year’s Eve. A year ago today, I took action on something I’d been working on in the wings for several months—finally took action, if I’m being honest.
I’d labored over the idea of stepping into a storm I could easily have avoided for the remainder of my life. Some have argued that my life would be “easier” for remaining outside the fracas.
They may not be wrong.
Better? Not by a long shot.
This disturbance in the atmosphere had nothing to do with me; I had no direct connection to it beyond its existence on the periphery of my work and social framework. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t affecting me.
With increasing frequency, I found myself enthralled in conversations about it, my thoughts returned to it constantly, and I had begun researching and jotting down ideas hoping to make sense of it all. But, unfortunately, I couldn’t make the pieces fit no matter how hard I tried. Then it started to keep me up at night.
Every journalist, every writer, every storyteller has that one story that gets under their skin and refuses to be ignored. It’s like a splinter slowly festering, demanding attention. Ignore it, and it only gets worse. With stories like these, there comes a tipping point from which you must either wholly engage or walk away forever.
My tipping came a year ago today.
Following another fitful night’s sleep and too much consideration, I sent an email. I had no agenda, no preconceived notion of who was on the “right side” of this story—I just needed to try and make the pieces fit.
In doing so, I waded into the roiling expanse knowing full well that whatever happened, I would no longer be an anonymous voice in the scrimmage.
Almost overnight, I was adding to the close to six months of research I had already gathered. Suddenly, I was digging into the most intimate aspects of two men’s lives—neither of whom I knew, both of whom I respected and appreciated as professionals. Within weeks, I was speaking with friends and acquaintances, old lovers, ex-employers, and heard from countless admirers and detractors on both sides.
Some welcomed my inquiry and the chance to speak their mind; others raged against the very existence of my questions. I was simultaneously called the “bravest voice” in contemporary media and the “worst human being alive.”
And my life was threatened by those who did not want a light shining on thirty-five-year-old shadows.
New Year’s Eve: An Unusual Anniversary
Anniversaries are peculiar events and this New Year’s Eve is no different.
These little markers in time allow us the opportunity to consider where we were then and where we are now. And what we experienced on our journey between these two points.
2021 was more than just the year of rolling up my sleeves for a great story. I got sick.
Getting sick is expensive. We had to sell our house and move to a smaller home in a less expensive part of the country. I had to walk away from work for a while–unsure if I’d be able to return to it.
I stayed indoors for almost six months with no one but my dogs and my husband for company. Sound harsh? Maybe, but in many ways, it’s been the very best thing imaginable.
I had no choice but to slow down, which allowed me to focus on what I considered important. I suddenly realized I had the rare privilege of carefully creating the life I wanted.
And I am.
I’m cultivating the relationships I value, creating the work I love, writing the stories I always promised myself I’d find time for “one day.”
Will my novels be bestsellers? Will my short stories win awards? It’s doesn’t actually matter. My goal isn’t a #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List (though it’s very welcome!). As one of my teachers shared with me, “write to let your genius flow through you.” We all have a genius within us, and I believe it’s our job to let that flow freely (and allow others to flow their genius freely, as well).
I look in the mirror now, and I do not see the woman who began this year. The face that stares back at me today is, of course, a year older and (hopefully) wiser, but she has expanded into being more than she was—perhaps more than she realized she could be.
She was never one to back down from a challenge, but today that subtle shifting of her foundation makes her fearless, unbreakable. She laughs more, having experienced some of the best that humanity can offer. And she rests easy at night, knowing she will spend the remainder of her years on this big blue dot unpacking what she learned about herself these past twelve months. She’s not in a hurry anymore, either. She knows she’ll never get it all done, that the journey (and the people) really are the best part.
Life isn’t about achievements or so-called “failures” to achieve; it’s not about money or fame, or even the number of years we’re on this earth. It’s about moving toward—not away—from something and embracing every step we take. It’s about finding the joy in each moment—and there really is joy in every moment if we look for it.
The storms pass. The delights pass. It all, eventually, passes.
All we have is now
Would I do it all again if this year was restarting rather than starting anew?
Absolutely! Without a moment’s hesitation.
I might soften some of the corners, but I wouldn’t change anything. Every bump and jostle was a connecting step on my path to this moment. And it’s a cracking good time and place to be alive.
I am eager to discover the deliciousness the calendar has hidden amongst her days for me. I wonder what decisions I will make—and what email I’ll send—which will joyously and irrevocably change my life this year.
On this New Year’s Eve, I have no idea what to expect from 2022, but I’m excited. I hope you’ll spend a little of the year ahead with me.
Come along for the ride.
I promise it’s going to be fantastic.
And I’ve got some great stories to tell, to help us pass the time.