I don’t observe many holidays. Christmas is stressful, the 4th of July is noisy, Easter is fattening, Halloween is fattening and slutty. I love Thanksgiving, though, because its warmth, juxtaposed with what is often the first cold weather of the year, comforts me. It’s also a benchmark holiday, one that encourages reflection and an awareness of the blessings in our lives.
Birthdays and anniversaries, which I also love, are similar: they invite perspective, a step back, an objective look at what we might otherwise ignore.
I have some friends who are almost obsessively focused on goal setting. They talk about their goals as much as I talk about Arnie. It’s exhausting, and I find that I just can’t keep up; I can’t always be moving forward. Sometimes I need to be still.
And when I do set my sights on something, I seldom tell anyone, because my ego won’t let me face people if I fail.
But, ok, everyone fails sometimes, even the toughest people I know. The difference is that they move on; I dwell. They brush themselves off and try again. I avoid eye contact, get combative, give up.
Now, though, a few weeks before my birthday (a benchmark), I’m looking at the year behind me and wondering why I do that. Why am I so ashamed? Everyone makes mistakes.
On the heels of Jonny’s death, I realize this: I get another chance. I’m still here, breathing, thinking. I can try again.
Sometimes I do try again. Sometimes I face mistakes head on and move past them, smarter the second time around.
Last year at this time, I’d just left good job at a great advertising agency to take a sales position better suited for an unpaid intern. I spent my days half-heartedly asking climbing companies for money they didn’t have, to support an endeavor I wasn’t sure I believed in. It was a mistake, but rather than admitting it, I stumbled through the summer, barely able to make eye contact with Brad because I was so ashamed at the strain my actions put on our relationship.
I woke up sad every morning. Ashamed. Guilt-ridden. Depressed.
And then I decided to change it.
I’m not sure what snapped in me, but once I realized that my path wasn’t sustainable, that if I kept going, everything around me would crumble, I immediately quit my job and started looking for a new one.
People were assholes about it; I remember one night, at dinner with friends, I mentioned to someone that I was looking for work.
“AGAIN?” She shouted so loud that everyone in the restaurant turned to see what was going on.
Barely managing not to fall apart, I whispered,” yes,” and changed the subject.
It seemed very easy to be them.
It felt very hard to be me.
The year improved. I took a new job as a writer. I made friends with Brad again. I backed off climbing because it stopped making me happy. I started running again because it makes me feel good. I reconnected with my friends. I committed myself to something—Crossfit—because I just needed to see if I could.
And now, a few weeks before I turn 32, I’ve decided to set some goals and not worry about sharing them with people. In the past, I was afraid to tell people what I wanted to do, because I was afraid that my goals would seem insignificant. It’s been that way for years: my climbing projects are other peoples’ warm-ups, my long runs are other peoples’ rest days.
But I’ve finally figured out that not being a great athlete doesn’t make me a bad person. I don’t have to feel like a hippo in a roomful of china dolls every time I go to the climbing gym. I don’t have to feel bad because I only ran (insert arbitrary number here) miles today.
So hey, maybe I’ll fail. Maybe I’ll lose interest. Maybe my goals will seem small and insignificant to you. That’s how it’ll have to be, though, because the alternative wasn’t getting me anywhere.
And hell, I know there’ll be days when all this talk becomes just that—talk—and I fall apart because I can’t do sports good.
But everyone makes mistakes.