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Three Lessons from 2023

Congratulations, we have officially (almost) made it through 2023! There’s something I love about the nostalgia of sitting in a warm coffee shop the last few weeks of December and thinking back over the year. This year has been a big one for me. I got back into the film world and made a short film with some friends. After five years, I packed up and left my home in Carpinteria to move to New York City.  My parents bought a house in Nashville and will be living there full time in the next few months and I’ve been dating someone for the past few months who I think might be around for a while up ahead. 

It has been both a year full of whirlwind joy and adventure and also hard moments of processing big life changes and the inevitable grief that comes with change. While sitting at the end of the year looking back it has felt like a knock - out, it really didn’t start that way. In fact if you would have told me what this year had in store 12 months ago I would have never believed you, just because life looked so much different back then. I feel like there’s been three really big lessons I’ve learned this year throughout all the twists and turns, so buckle up and let’s talk through them - sorry this is a long one and to be honest I didn’t edit it much. All my thoughts just came rushing out, I wrote them down and posted as is, so thanks for the grace along the way.

Lesson 1: You have ownership over your own happiness - stop being a victim. 

This is an important, but harsh lesson I have had to own up to over the past year and I think it even started in late 2022. In November of 2022 I hit a really low point in my life, it was the first time in my life I would say I actually struggled with feelings of depression. I knew I had to make big, drastic and different choices and changes because the option to live life the way i used to was no longer available and my mind and body were failing me fast. 

I had to change my mindset from a victim mindset of why is this happening to me, trying to blame others or beating myself up for making choices that led me to the point where I was. I had to accept where I was and also acknowledge I had the ability to help myself. My biggest advice to you if you find yourself in a similar situation is to MIX IT UP. Try new things, get out of your comfort zone. Your body is begging for new meaning and you have the responsibility to give it just that. 

In the name of reestablishing more community in life I signed up to work tech at the little historic theater in Carp for their Christmas show of 2022. This led me to meeting an amazing group of people, so different than the groups I knew well in my city, to doing another show for them early in 2023, even joining an improv group and acting in a short play in March where I ended up finding my film crew who I made a short film with this summer. One little change, a step in the right direction, a choice that even though showing up in a room where I don’t know anyone was awkward and a bit scary at first, but it beat another night at home alone, literally changed the trajectory of my life. Take the first step and I think you’ll be surprised how much ground you can cover. 

This lesson has continued to ground me even in the past few months where I’m actively walking in my dream life, a life that I didn’t even pray for because it seemed too absurd to hope for. At the same time I’ve battled a ton of anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed by it all. Again, I had to take a step back and realize I had the power to support my body better and help it adapt to change, versus blaming outward circumstances that I had started growing resentful towards. 

This time, the lack wasn’t community, but strengthening my mind and the messages I was feeding it. I turned to research and helped identify triggers within my body and adopted new mental health practices such as breathing techniques, journaling, taking certain thoughts captive and replacing them with more life giving options and diving into my routines and health. This is SO big, I cannot stress enough that when your body is anxious or in flight or fight and it doesn’t want to do anything to help itself, you HAVE to help it out. Even when you don’t want to work out, or choose the healthy fuel option for your body, do it anyway. The changes will compound over time and it makes such a difference in your overall bandwidth to handle life. 

One of the biggest inspirations when it comes to someone owning their life and not playing victim is my best friend Ari, who is now approaching two years in her battle with leukemia. While it’s only gotten harder, Ari has persisted with a type of mental fortitude and strength that I think could heal the entire planet if we could bottle it up and pass it around. Every day I’m tempted to look at my own life and complain about the ways I’m tired, anxious or overwhelmed and then I think of Ari, how she approaches each day in her current battle, and it reminds me who I hope to become in my own life. 

Lesson 2: You will do it when you’re ready. 

Whatever that “it” is for you, this is a lesson I feel has really come with time and age. When I spent the middle part of my twenties in the same city and same job, I started worrying that the big dreams I had for my life were fading. Now, at the same time, I was really content and happy with where I was at, but there was always this tug of thinking I had so many things I wanted to do and the fear that I would never do them. I thought I had gotten too comfortable and would be too scared to pursue anything else in life. Turns out, I just wasn’t ready. 

If you’re sitting there afraid that you won't do something because you haven’t done it yet, maybe you’re just not ready. Everything I’ve done in the past few years, moving jobs, moving cities, being in a relationship, all happened because I was finally ready. It’s given me a lot of hindsight and helped take a lot of pressure off myself because I now have faith and trust in myself to do what I want to do, but it all comes with time. Plus, God’s timeline is very rarely sooner than ours, it’s often much later. And in this gap of “I know where I want to go, but I’m just not ready or it’s just not happening”, we can step out and put our fears and faith in God. And thank God for that. That there is a God who is infinitely better equipped to knit our lives together in the right way and time than we could ever achieve on our own. 

Just trust that you’ll end up where you’re meant to be or where you want to be when you’re ready. 

Lesson 3: I can do hard things 

(Disclaimer: There are many people out there handling MUCH harder things than moving to a new city. This is just what this phrase has meant to me and my season of life.)

I feel like I’ve heard this phrase everywhere in the past few years. It’s an acknowledgement and acceptance of this might not be easy and I might be scared, but I can do it anyways. My goodness, moving to New York City was that big, hard thing for me this year in so many ways. I had long wanted to live in the city, but had shrugged it off because I thought there was no way I could do it. No way I could find housing, feel safe traveling the subway on a daily basis, living in such a different environment than I had ever known.

In fact, just a little tangent here. My original plan was to not live in the city this year, but to experience it for a season. My plan was to just find an airbnb for two months and get a taste of a life I really wanted, but didn’t have faith I could actually create for myself. And God in his infinite grace, love and understanding of my heart and its desires gifted me open door, upon open door to make it so that I could actually live in the city long term. When I talk of doing hard things, I have to admit such a humble acknowledgment that I owe everything to the Lord and the way he worked in my life to make the life I’m living a possibility. He is a God who truly gives good gifts. 

Within a week of making the decision to “experience the city” for the fall, I had reached out to my current roommate who, at the time, was just a mutual friend living in the city, to get some advice on where to start looking for housing and such. Instead we found out we were both looking for housing at the same time. We decided to look together and without her being in the city, able to look at places for us and also just lead me through the extensive and complicated housing process, I would not be where I’m at. Only God could have orchestrated that so beautifully. 

Back on track here. I think a lot of my fear in moving from my home of almost a decade in Santa Barbara came a lot from my memories of how I handled moving away from Nashville in my early twenties. How I chose to leave Nashville and handle the loss of it is not one of my proudest seasons looking back. Instead of realizing all the ways I was equipped to make this move better, I was filled with fear that history would repeat itself. 

I had to get a handle on myself and my attitude and realize I had grown up, matured and could and would handle the move differently. That it would be hard to emotionally cut ties with my little beach town and the community I loved, but I could do it with grace and thankfulness. That it would be hard to finally clean out and dismantle a home that I held onto with the hope that Ari would get better and move back into and we could go back to living our life as normal twenty somethings, but I could accept the reality of life and still have hope for Ari’s healing. That it would be hard to pack my entire life into a small number of suitcases and lug them all the way into the city and up my fourth floor walk up, but that I was young and strong. That it would be hard to figure out the subway, use a laundromat for the first time, budget way better to afford life in the city, the list could go on and on, but that I was smart and capable of learning new things. I knew it would all be hard, I did not have a glass half-full mentality about how hard city life would be. However, step by step, day by day, I did it. I now live life in the city, I’m still learning and adjusting, but I’m doing it. I can do hard things. So can you. I know it. 

So that’s it, all my thoughts, feelings and lessons about the last year. Wherever this post finds you, just know I hope this year brought you something good, even if it was wrapped in some difficult times. I hope you are finding rest and a bit of time to reset over the next few weeks before we all jump feet first into another year. I hope this new year brings a bit more peace to your life and our entire world. 

While I will not be braving the diaper wearing crowds of the Times Square ball drop this year, I did venture over there a few weeks ago. They have a tradition where you can write your wish or hope for the new year on the pieces of confetti they drop in Times Square at midnight on New Years Eve. I just can’t help but to think of the absolute beauty of that picture. Of a world, waiting together, counting down from 10, and when the ball hits zero and we usher in a New Year, it’s under a blanket of confetti raining down, filled with all the hopes, dreams, prayers and wishes for the goodness of the New Year. 

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