So far my 30s have been anything but calm. The traditional cultural perception that your 20s are tumultuous certainly held true for me, but I am beginning to think that the whole idea of settling down and really being a grown up (whatever that means) is total and complete hogwash. Every year feels like a new transition, with a new moral of the story.
So here was 2014’s hard-won lesson: this year I learned to set limits.
With one health setback after another and promises to myself broken, I came to two seemingly incongruous conclusions: 1) I will never be not busy because that is just how I operate. 2) On the other hand, it’s important to keep myself busy with things that bring me joy and start moving away from things that drag me down. Being busy for the sake of busy-ness is no fun anymore.
So I learned the word “No”.
I said “No” to a school schedule that was borderline-sadistic and was sucking the enjoyment out of my education…very unusual for me.
I said “No” to working night shift in order to salvage my health and my sanity. I then said “No” to a job that was starting to drain all of my emotional, physical, mental energy.
Then I said “Yes” to three new jobs. Sigh.
But they are all jobs that sustain me, and will open doors to new opportunities as a nurse practitioner. I’ll be cutting back on some of my hours next semester in order to focus on clinical residencies, but I ultimately decided to keep all of the positions on a very part-time basis, to keep my options open when the time comes to transition into my new role.
I am also saying “No” to self-defeat. As many of you know, I have struggled with my weight for many, many years…for many, many reasons. I’ve always rebelled against weight-loss programs in solidarity with my fellow curvy women and in rejection of a societal ideal that is impossible for most of us. But reality hit me right in the gut this year, when my usual exercise routine became almost impossible due to joint pain and deconditioning, and it then became impossible for me to walk down a long hallway or climb the stairs at home without getting out of breath. It’s no longer a matter of rejecting a Size 2-lifestyle. It’s a matter of wanting to be alive when I’m 50 without being totally disabled. It’s a matter of wanting to get pregnant without being “high risk” just because I weigh too much. It’s a matter of wanting to participate in my life more fully. I have turned down social invitations because my closet is full of clothes that no longer fit. I have failed to participate in family outings because I am too embarrassed to break a sweat when I climb a hill in my mother’s hill-y Berkeley neighborhood. I am halfway dreading an upcoming family trip to the Caribbean because wearing a bathing suit is an exercise in humility and I’m worried I won’t be able to snorkel or hike with everyone else because I won’t be able to breathe. I’ve been in a downward spiral for so long that I’m about to crash and burn.
So 2015 will be different. That’s the only pseudo-New Year’s Resolution I am making. There are specific plans being made, but I’ll share when they are more concrete. For now, let’s just say that as I’ve learned to say “No” to the choices that bring me down, I am also starting to learn how to say “Yes” to the choices that lift me up.