No one blogs anymore. I know this to be a fact. In 2018, the blog fell by the wayside, and Snapchat, Instagram, and other microblogging platforms took their place.
But call me old fashioned. I really love to read a good, juicy blog. And so I find myself coming back here at the end of every year to write about the year past, or the year ahead. Even though no one will read it. Even though blogging is dead.
Blogging’s dead, but writing’s not. So here I am, poking my head in, blowing the dust off this thing to do what I’ve always done. I’ll tell you a story.
Happiness was my word of the year for 2018. I threw it out at the end of a hard year in 2017. Quitting my miserable job was, I thought, my best form of self-care to date. I’d been incredibly angry, sad, and sick for the better part of two years and it was time. I walked away, hoping that it meant my luck would change for once and for all. Finally, things would stop being hard, and I would be happy. But happiness shouldn’t have been the word of the year – or at least not the only word I chose.
Really, the word that sums up my year isn’t happiness. It’s self-love.
Because this was the year I realized that I don’t have to settle. I don’t have to lie down and take whatever shittiness flows my way. In the past, and this is still somewhat true, I’ve been known to just wait for it to stop, eyes tightly closed, hoping against hope that the pain will ease, the badness will ebb away, and I’ll be left scarred and bruised, but end up okay.
See, I moved from one crappy job to another. This one was even more insidiously abusive than the last. Through that, though, I met friends who told me that I didn’t have to just wait for something to happen. They encouraged me to fight for the respect I deserved. And so I learned, slowly, to advocate for myself. Even when my impostor syndrome reared its head and told me that I didn’t deserve to fight. Whatever they said about me was correct – I was awful, and stupid, and bad at everything. But I sat through three hours of a brutal meeting with HR and my boss and I advocated for my rights as a neurodiverse, mentally ill woman who was being treated in an abusive manner, and no matter how bad I perceived myself to be at my job, I couldn’t be successful unless that abuse stopped once and for all.
That job wasn’t for me in the end. But the experience taught me that I can stand up for myself. That I can love myself enough to demand better. And then I decided to start trauma therapy, and my entire world changed.
Trauma therapy is hard work. It’s probably the hardest work I’ve done. It forces me to look at myself, and the things, good and bad, that have made me the way I am, and then it forces me to examine them and change the way I react to them. It is, in a way, the ultimate form of self-love, because I’m forced to take all the hurt parts of me, find out why they hurt, and then try to make them stop hurting. It affects everything from the way I think of myself to the way I react to stressful situations – even the way I react to happy ones.
In mid-summer, I started a new job at a wonderful organization. And because they believe in healthiness from the inside out, I found myself eating better. Exercising more. Laughing a lot. Throwing myself into work I really cared about. But most surprising of all, I found myself drinking water.
It’s so funny the way that water can totally change your point of view on everything – it really is life-giving. I found myself clutching my lucky blue Swell bottle, one that I bought myself once I realized that I was thirsty all.the.time – and drinking that cold, clear water whenever I needed to chill out. I would get myself a bottle of water when I felt stressed. I would take it to bed with me. And I have started to depend on that bottle to get me through the worst of days – because if I start to get a stress headache, I can usually head it off by drinking water. If I feel a bit sluggish, it usually goes away when I drink water. And I found that one of the best ways to love myself was giving myself the nourishment and hydration I needed to face problems head on.
So I see this year as the year I got the sparkle in my eyes back – the year I decided that I was finally worth showing mercy to. That I was finally worth loving. And I stopped deciding to be abusive to myself.
I’m not cured. Trauma is lifelong. Neurodiversity is lifelong. But I did realize that eliminating toxicity and beginning to love myself did lead to happiness. So next year, my word of the year will be compassion. For the struggle we all go through. For the fact that some people can’t easily eliminate toxicity, and for that, they deserve compassion and not judgement. And I’m working on not depriving myself of compassion – because of anyone in my life, I’m my own worst critic. And I don’t deserve to turn more toxicity upon myself when I’m just trying to make it, like everyone else.
I have learned a lesson every year I’ve been alive, from learning what home is, to learning how to be more comfortable with who I inexorably am. I can change for the better, but I can’t change my core. And so, with a little help from my friends, family, community, and a truly wonderful therapist, I’ll go into 2019 hopefully keeping that sparkle in my eyes.
I’ll definitely be keeping compassion close to my heart.