By Paige Ort
2021 was a challenging year, to put it delicately. The beginning of another year naturally puts us in the mindset of making changes. We start to take inventory of what we want to leave in the previous one and cultivate in the new one, and there seems to be great promise for it. You have a blank slate with endless possibilities. For me, there was a lot of emphasis on that concept this year.
People I haven’t seen in a while say I’ve changed, and they’re right, and I’m glad they noticed. I’m not sure what the exact moment was, but somewhere in the waning months of last year, I felt a deep shift within myself. I acknowledged I’d been out of balance for a lot of years now, not living up to what I can be and then beating myself up for that. My life has been empty, and the days have gone by looking exactly like the one before, while looking at the friendships and career breakthroughs of others with something between mourning and seething. This was especially so during the last two years, which have been a breeding ground for inactivity.
Then, in 2021’s final hours, the decision became conscious. The coming year is going to be the one I change myself. I will no longer wish I had better and resent those who do. I’m going to make myself better for myself and celebrate the successes of others, knowing I have my own.
I went into this year with a head full of steam. I was going to the gym every day, cleaning the house floor to ceiling, eating healthier, pursuing writing gigs harder than ever. I laid my head down at night proudly, knowing I’d lived my day to the fullest.
Then before the first week was over, I woke up sicker than I’d felt in a long time. There was no going to the gym, or even getting out of bed, and I barely glanced over applications. None of the ones I sent wasn’t worth anything. There were outside setbacks too, such as equipment at the fitness center that was broken for a prolonged time, even before my illness. Not the way I wanted my new year to start, especially with all of these plans of self-improvement.
My stress only heightened on the 8th, when I realized I’d be turning 27 in just one day. It hit me that there’s an end in sight to my twenties now, and I have a lot of catching up to do to get my life started, wondering if there was any way to make it happen at this point. I now fully believe in the “quarter-life crisis” because I lived every uncomfortable second of it.
I was overcome with anxiety. Not even a week after I start improving, something derails it. Thoughts began to creep in like “this is always what happens. I’m always starting things but never able to finish them.” And then I’d feel even worse, both physically and mentally.
I realized I needed to take it back down to the most basic needs and pour all of my energy into getting better. Forget about the other stuff for now, that’s out of the question until you get your health back. When I was well enough, I got back on my feet and reignited my earlier pursuits.
There is a beauty to the quarter-life crisis. Yes, you are staring down the barrel of thirty. Time is no longer an unlimited currency. This means you need to stop stalling and act. No longer do I waste days doing nothing, putting it off until a tomorrow that never comes. Each day, each hour, each second was another call, another email, another application.
This newfound aggression got me so many new opportunities it was overwhelming, and this was a setback. I regressed to a state I’ve spent most of my life in- writing myself off, deciding I could never have what it takes and I’ll just fall on my face before I get out of the gate. And then that familiar wave of anxiety came back in force. I wanted these things so badly, and then when they came I was afraid of them.
I began to wake up tired again, and my hours were consumed by images of failures that hadn’t even had time to pan out yet. When you are trying to change for the better, that’s when every memory of every previous attempt failed. It creates an inner voice that tells you this time will be no different. No matter how many years go by, you’ll still be in the same place until you have no more years left.
My solution was to just take it one task at a time. All you have to do right now is write this 500-word piece. Just swim this lap. Just drive to the place. Just hold this conversation. It came down to the most mundane things. Surely I can accomplish that. And despite all of my doubts, I did. These supposedly small victories became the foundation my confidence began to build itself upon, each feat being another brick.
Before I knew it, I was being praised for my writing, seeing results from my workouts, and I’ve even gone after dreams that have been confined to my yearnings all these years, such as starting my own blog that has gotten a few fans already!
Everything didn’t happen exactly the way I envisioned it in January 2022. I got something better. I came to learn I am becoming someone who can roll with the punches and keep going even when things don’t go right. I have finally stopped making excuses and started fighting for myself. I seek what I want and can say why I deserve a place in this world. I embraced audacity, something I’d always avoided before. All of this makes me leave January 2022 with more hope than ever, and I can’t wait to keep going.