Tomorrow is my 27th birthday, so in this post I get real about what this year has brought me, what I’ve learned so far through starting this blog, and where I’m headed next!
There’s just something about birthdays that always makes me want to reflect. Of course, birthdays feel less and less important as we get older (I forgot how old I was for the first time the other day…that’s how you know you’re getting old!) but rather than focusing on my age and all that comes with that, I love to reflect on how far I’ve come in the past year – like my own personal new year without all of the confetti and expectations!
So, let’s look back…this time last year I was about to graduate from my Master’s program in Higher Education Administration. I had just gotten a full-time job offer for the position I’m currently in. I was ready to embark on my career journey in student affairs, certain that that’s what I wanted to do. I was ready to dig my feet in and start climbing the ladder I had laid out for myself. I was the happiest I had been in years and I was so excited about the future.
A comfortable life
I also hadn’t written anything in years. I had put all my creativity and big dreams aside to play safe. So when I say I was the happiest I had been in years, I realize now that I actually was just the most comfortable I had been in years. I wasn’t pushing myself out of my comfort zone at ALL, and if I was it was in super small minute increments and only because someone was forcing me to do it, not something I sought out on my own. And I dreaded it.
I was so happy in my comfortable bubble I had created. I was still reeling from the period of intense anxiety I had had years before, so I was unintentionally creating a life so safe that I would never have to endure that again. And even small things like normal workplace criticism were huge threats to that.
Growing and glowing
But after a few months at my job, a few shifts started to happen. Firstly, I was finally only working 40 hours a week for the first time ever. Before that, I had been teaching, which was easily 60-70 hours a week including time spent lesson planning and grading. And then I went to graduate school full-time while working 2-3 part-time jobs, so I felt like I was either working or doing homework or in class most of my week. So, after finally finishing grad school, I actually had time to explore my other interests more fully with my free time outside of work.
And secondly, I was making huge strides at work – accomplishing feats I never thought I could, and finding new interests in event planning and graphic design. And I started to realize how comfortable did not mean happy, and that I could dream bigger and have a much fuller life than I had previously imagined.
Then there was the other issue of graduate school. “But didn’t you just finish graduate school?” you may be asking. Why yes, yes I did. But what I didn’t realize when I went to school for student affairs (which is basically anything on the non-academic side of college such as admissions, student life, orientation, etc.) was that in order to advance in the field, you had to go beyond your Master’s and get your doctorate. Generally, no one would consider you for higher-level positions until you did that.
So my plan was to do that. Never mind the fact that I did NOT want to go back to school, go into more debt, and have no life again – in order to climb the ladder, I had to get my doctorate, so I was going to do it. But I dreaded it so much. It kept me up at night with anxiety. I had no clue how I was going to pay for it. And I just didn’t have any desire to do it.
A new direction
So when I started opening myself up to possibilities and career paths I hadn’t previously considered outside of the education world, I realized that meant I wouldn’t have to get my doctorate. And the second I realized that, it was like this huge weight had been lifted off of me. I was so damn relieved that I could lift that expectation off of me, one I had been worrying about for years, for good.
And then everything started to change. I got a hunch to start a blog, something I had never previously thought of doing. And I just went out and did it, throwing all caution to the wind. I was terrified, but as soon as I started thinking about what I wanted to say, it was like I couldn’t write fast enough. I had a lot to say, and I loved the process of writing it all down. It was like coming home to something I had lost for so long and never thought I would find again.
I threw myself into the blogging world, and the more I connected with others and shared my story, the more I discovered. There was this entire world I had never known about. I was so hungry just to learn and grow, and I was so happy to be in touch with my creativity again. A good friend pushed me even further after a few months of blogging to write creatively again rather than just blog posts, something I had never thought about doing in my adult life (I talk more about that here). And again, as soon as I let my creativity in, it was like it poured out of me after having been ignored for so long.
So this is what happiness and fulfillment feels like, I realized. I switch between exhilarated and terrified daily, but I’m not playing small any longer. And I know the journey ahead will be difficult, but completely worth it.
I know there’s still so much more for me to learn and discover, and for the first time in my life I am so excited to do that. I’m okay that the path ahead is uncertain, and I’m okay with just trusting in the next step rather than needing to be able to see the entire path ahead. I am so much more in touch with my true self, so much more open to sharing and connecting, so much more alive and fulfilled than I ever have been.
I am also faced with a lot more fear and self-doubt than I’ve ever had before. I’m working through a lot of internal issues that are coming up for me in terms of switching dreams and changing my passion. I’m navigating uncharted and uncertain territory. But I am also so excited to wake up each day and continue forward on this path, because I know it’s one that’s truly aligned with my truth and purpose.
I know it’s not going to be easy. I know I have a lot of uncomfortable growth ahead. I know I will inevitably have a lot more doubt and a lot more fear to contend with. But I am done allowing fear to control my life. I am done playing small and keeping myself comfortable to avoid negative emotions. And I am so excited to see what this next year will bring.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading and for going on this crazy journey with me. I am so honored to be sharing my story with you, and I would LOVE to connect and hear yours. Every single person who reaches out to me means so much to me, so thank you. This is a crazy journey we’re all on together, but however you found me, I am so glad to be sharing it with you.