24: The Year of No

Today is my birthday. Year 24 welcomes me with morning cuddles, fresh brewed coffee in an airstream, 85° weather, handwritten cards, and an overwhelming amount of text messages and Insta shoutouts full of love from some of my favorite people.

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As a writer, I feel I’m inherently wired to be reflective and arguably analytical. My astrological sign may also have a hand in eliciting these very Virgo tendencies, but nonetheless, I find I always get a little sentimental when it’s my birthday.

I learned a lot in year 23. I launched a freelance content creation business, crossed Matoma and Quinn off my concert bucket list, ran more, argued less, learned to listen and how to speak. Finished a book—shocking, I know. Traveled to LA, Nashville, Charleston and my favorite island haven in between. I discovered a half guac, half queso shell that revolutionized my love for tacos, took a liking to Jackson Browne, started integrating NYT crosswords in to my morning routine, and I learned the value of saying no.

As a self-proclaimed mood board junkie, I spend quite a bit of time perusing through Pinterest and Tumblr for photos that align with my vision for different projects. And if I’m being honest, I can’t STAND all the cliche quotes out there telling impressionable souls to live every day like it’s their last, or the cursive calligraphy life advice guiding individuals to say yes to everything.

Even admitting that makes me feel a little insensitive, arguably heartless, you could say. Who wouldn’t want to live every day with sheer bliss?! And what argument could I possibly have that supports the act of depriving oneself from a potential life-changing opportunity, or a thrilling and memorable adventure at best?

Here’s the thing.

In year 24, I’m going to be liberated enough to say no.

Saying “No thanks”, “Fuck that”, and “Absolutely not” to the things that I once felt innately obligated to say yes to. In every proclamation to the contrary, a silent confidence will echo through that stubborn, strong-headed no. I’ll forego nights out—where I’d otherwise be drinking too much and sleeping significantly less. I won't feel obligated to fill empty blocks of time with overpriced dinners and hangouts intended only to keep me company or pass the time. I’ll turn down spontaneous shopping sprees and watch less TV (although that may not hold up during NFL season), and I’ll even fall short when it comes to reconnecting with people I once cared about. I realize that initially sounds harsh, and unabashedly selfish, but the single realization driving this behavioral change is the notion that when I say no to the things that don't fill me wholly, I create room in my life to say yes to the intangible delights that rarely get the attention they deserve.

Up until recently, I failed to realize what all I was giving up as I moved through the motions of continuously saying yes. I’ve had less time to write, have rarely listened to podcasts, have not painted once in the last year, and the only time I created to sit down and be distracted by a book has been one of the two times in which I’ve been blissfully lounging beachside. As a creative, this isn’t just problematic. It’s fatal.

Titling yourself as a “creative” has become slightly overused, no question. But for me, creativity is the greatest tangible extension of my inner workings. Sure, it’s my occupation and lifeline for paying the bills, but it’s also how I alleviate and resolve my anxiety when it kicks in. It’s how I get inspired when I’m in an unproductive drought. It’s how I decompress, and, in so many facets, it’s the thing I can invest myself in for hours without realizing the volume of times that’s passed me by.

So, don’t get me wrong. I love nights out dancing and drinking with my best friends as much as I love nights in with Chinese, Friends reruns, and my grand-slam of a boyfriend. I’m not opposed to having nights fueled by a series of “Hell yes!” statements driven by impulse. But, I’m also realizing how much I love having time that’s intentionally set aside with myself in mind. It’s a discipline, really. The wave of the self-care trend highlights imagery and pretentious icons of face masks, matcha tea, overpriced bath salts, hydroflasks, and Erin Condren planners. And sometimes those minuscule belongings do translate as an opulent luxury. But there needs to be more dialogue honing in on the fact that taking care of yourself means intentionally allocating time in your schedule for the things that can’t directly demand your time. My stack of crisp white canvases won’t text me to see if I’m free to paint Tuesday night, and the early morning runs I say I want to make time for won’t expect to meet me at the nearby coffee shop at 7 a.m. sharp. These impalpable things I place value on don’t have the same authority when it comes to the blocks of time on my calendar, but they should. Which is why I’m saying no to the things that compromise the likelihood I’ll follow through on those ambiguous commitments that will only ever serve me independently.

So, here’s a little love letter to you, year 24. I’m ready for a chapter full of adventure, creativity, spontaneity and love that extends from my favorite people to my favorite parts of me. Bring it on.

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