A long December and there’s reason to believe/
Maybe this year will be better than the last/
I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leavin’/
Now the days go by so fast.
– Counting Crows
I’m not very good at New Year’s resolutions. Oh sure, I make them. I make them every year, without fail. I’m just not very good at keeping them.
I approach every New Year with renewed enthusiasm, determined that this year will be the year that all of my dreams come true. But anyone who’s ever abandoned their resolve before the close of January will likely agree: it’s one thing to make grand promises in a happy, hopeful champagne haze as the clock strikes midnight, and quite another to do the hard work of goal setting, holding yourself accountable, and meeting the necessary self-imposed deadlines on the way to achieving personal growth.
But this January, I stand on the precipice of a very different year. It’s a year where change is inevitable. A year that has challenged me to live differently. A year that has proposed a dare.
Shortly after my grandfather died, I returned to Los Angeles to discover that the small company I’ve worked at for the last 11 years – essentially my entire adult life – had been sold. There was a new job waiting for me in another state. But not just any state: it was the state where I was born, where members of my family lived, and where I’d been thinking about moving back to. Surely this was the universe giving me a sign, right?
Well, maybe not. The closer I looked at the job and the ways my life would change if I accepted it, the more the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach grew. While a piece of my heart would always reside in the Pacific Northwest, it was actually all of the time I had recently spent there seeing my grandfather through hospice that opened my eyes to how much I still love my life in L.A. True, Los Angeles can be a harsh and difficult place to live, but it’s also a place of tremendous energy and excitement. It has been my home for fifteen years, and in that time I have built a solid community of amazing friends and gifted creative collaborators. I had been seriously considering leaving L.A., but after my grandfather died, I realized that I wasn’t ready to. There was still too much left undone – opportunities unexplored, projects unfinished – for me to walk away now. If I left before I felt ready, I knew I’d be filled with regret.
Still, staying in L.A. meant no job, and stability had always been important to me. In contrast to my old position with the small company – where I’d sacrificed pay increases for the ability to work from home, maintain a flexible schedule, and have a tremendous amount of autonomy – this new company was much bigger, and much more corporate. It was a grown-up job. I’d be an integral part of their marketing team, with the ability to climb the corporate ladder and build an impressive resume. This job was a sure thing.
But once I got really quiet and listened to my inner voice, I realized that there is no such thing as a “sure” thing. Here’s what I believe instead: we trick ourselves into investing in “safe” choices and manufacturing the illusion of security to distract ourselves from the terrifying truth that everything goes away. Even us. Anyone who has ever received that phone call, or that diagnosis or that pink slip knows that the foundation upon which we build our lives is fragile, and it only takes a sudden, unexpected gust of wind to send everything tumbling down.
I never thought that, at thirty-five, both of my parents would be dead, and my grandparents, too. I never thought that I’d get married, and that it wouldn’t work out. I never thought that the company I had worked at since I was twenty-three would leave the state, taking my job with it.
But all of those things happened. I wasn’t ready for any of them, but they happened all the same.
My father was a serious risk taker. I wish I was more like him. In truth, I’m kind of a chicken. Not Dad. He preferred to put it all out on the line and roll the dice. Sometimes, he lost, and he lost big. But he also won, and his winnings made him tremendously successful. It is because of that success and the money that resulted from it that I realized something else: I don’t have to settle for a life I don’t want to live.
A few days before Christmas, I turned down the “safe” job to stay in L.A. For the first time in my life, I’m going to see what it means to not work in service of someone else, but instead to invest in building my dreams and the higher vision of my life. It is a choice that terrifies me, but it is the only choice that I could make. Here’s something else that I believe: my fear is less about running out of the money my parents left me and more about the fact that taking accountability for my life means that there’s no one else to blame if it all goes wrong.
So here I go. This New Year, I am plunging into the great unknown. I am filled with gratitude for the gift my parents have given me, and filled with fear that I’ll screw it up. But my gratitude is bigger than the fear. So is my determination. And so is the quiet, unwavering voice inside of me telling me that this is the right thing to do.
It’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe/
Maybe this year will be better than the last/
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself/
To hold on to these moments as they pass/
And it’s one more day up in the canyon/
And it’s one more night in Hollywood/
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean . . . I guess I should.
Until next time, friends