It has been a very long time since I wrote anything for this blog. The more time passed, the more I’ve struggled with where to even begin again.
I launched the first iteration of the blog the week after Charlottesville in 2017. At the time, much like today, it felt important to share my perspective on wellness as a Black woman as racial violence dominated the news. But more specifically, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about mental health, self care, and resilience for the benefit of others dealing with the grief and trauma associated with that violence.
I wrote this post a few months ago to share a bit about the massive transition I’ve been through over the last year and a half. In some ways it feels banal to talk about a career transition given the state of the world, but it also feels relevant as a lot of us try to figure out what self-care looks like in the face of major, unexpected change. It feels like a good place to start again.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be an adult. It feels very different from what I imagined it to be when I was a kid. Back then it felt like all adults must have things figured out, but I’m beginning to suspect that I assumed incorrectly. I recently had a moment where I looked around and realized that my friends—and I, too—are working adult jobs at reputable companies and I didn’t really feel it happening. I knew at some point we would be adults and become the ones running the world, but I thought it would feel different. Or feel like something at least. Maybe we’d feel our ears pop on the ascent or get a certificate and feel accomplished and ready. We must have crossed over the threshold into adulthood at some point, but I don’t feel like I have arrived. I don’t have things figured out in the way I expected… and yet somehow here I am.
I talked to my two childhood best friends about this recently. We all lost touch around age 10 and led different lives, yet we came to the same realization and stated it in nearly identical terms: literally no one has it figured out. We are all just winging it. Somehow it was comforting that three people who hadn’t talked in so long, who had vastly different experiences of the world had all arrived at the same conclusion. It’s hard to know from looking at the people around me whether they have some secret that I’m missing or if they are just good at pretending.
A Vision Without a Plan
For me, the last year and a half has brought into high relief how much so many of us are pretending. I quit my non-profit job after spending four years working in reproductive rights sort of by mistake. I had gone to school for graphic design, which had been my dream since age 14, but I took an internship in non-profit communications my senior year of college and then stuck around a little too long. So when I quit my job in 2018 two things felt clear: I wanted to do graphic design and something that aligned with my love of fitness. The problem was I had no clear path for how that might happen. I stepped off a cliff with a vision but not a perfect plan—and certainly far less savings than a person should probably have in that situation. I said “fuck it, it’s time to stop putting this off and just try.”
I had a vision of what my life would look like if I followed my passion or whatever it is we are all supposed to be chasing… but I was also flying blind. Freelancing didn’t feel like the #mood you see on productivity Instagram. You know the one where you have a cute pink workspace, feel super productive everyday, make a million dollars, and become a travel influencer because you only need to work part time as a #girlboss. Instead it felt like being constantly worried that I wouldn’t have enough money to cover my bills every week, slowly chipping away at my retirement savings for lack of other income, not getting my hair or nails done for months and months (if you know me, you know this is a big deal!), knowing that my clothes were getting worn out, but not being able to afford new ones, and having to prioritize the few things that were non-negotiables in my life.
It was very stressful and I didn’t have the resources to deal with that stress in the ways that I would have historically. I had to face the fact that a lot of what I had considered “self-care” was out of my price range. I don’t just mean the kinds of self care that involve shopping or going to a spa—I mean essentials like going to therapy or the doctor. Even my go-tos like buying some nice tea or taking a fitness class felt too expensive. But in the end, I had to bite the bullet and figure out how to keep up the few self-care activities that I needed to keep my head above water. I had to think of new, cheaper ways to maintain my fitness routine and even negotiate a payment plan with my therapist for the times I really needed to go in for a session.
All of that sounds darker than I think it actually was. I have experienced some very dark times in my life and most of them were not in the last 18 months. But that time has been hard in a way that I had not experienced before; I had to figure things out on my own while also trying to keep myself together. In the past I had more of a safety net to land in when things were getting hard. I had good insurance and a full time job or support from my parents to prioritize my mental health. Or, if we’re being honest, simply had yet to max out my credit cards making a big career transition. This time around I felt like I had been thrust into adulthood a little unprepared and had to make some tougher decisions than I had in the past.
All of this made me question a lot of things about what my platform has historically been and some of the things I’ve considered “wellness,” as the uncertainty of freelancing made my version a lot more bare bones. It made me wonder if I spent too much time focusing on products or expensive classes and I felt a bit guilty. But at the same time, even when I had to prioritize sustenance and paying bills, I realized that a lot of the lessons I’ve learned about self-care and mental health were what held me together during the hard times. It wasn’t all bad! And some of my non-negotiables remained the same.
The main thing on my list of non-negotiables was movement. I couldn’t afford as many fitness classes as I used to, so instead I spent more time running outside through the winter—sometimes in the snow—and finding lower cost ways to get the job done. I did a lot more free community classes and home workouts using the Peloton app. I did more journaling to process my feelings instead of going to weekly therapy. I stayed home more to avoid putting money on my Metro Card. I re-framed what it meant to “treat myself” from getting an expensive massage to getting a new book to read or buying one fitness class that I used to take for granted.
The Struggle and the Triumph
During this time I also contemplated what to say about all of this on here or on social media, but at the time didn’t have much to say. I shared something vague about making this transition back to graphic design and basically said “you’ll know more when I know more.” I had no idea what trajectory I was on and sometimes wasn’t even sure I was on one at all. Some days I felt like my only trajectory was to lie in bed being broke for the rest of eternity, so then I would go on a run for something to do. And then in the social media universe I would only talk about the running part because what is there to say about lying in bed being broke?
In the age of social media a lot of us feel compelled to perform some type of success on the internet when we don’t really feel successful at all. I did wonder if there was something wrong in not sharing the struggle along with the triumph, but sometimes you just want to live in the triumph when you’re in the struggle… and so I did. And the triumph of my running and fitness journey was as real along with the struggle of making a big transition. But sometimes you have to struggle in silence for a while before you can share.
So now, with a slightly different perspective after many months of seemingly endless life changes, I’m back to share what I’ve learned. Thanks for sticking with me.