In January 2022, I packed everything I owned into my Toyota and drove with my sister from the Bay Area to our new home, a small town in the middle of the desert.
My sister had received a great offer to work in the clinic in town. Since I was still trying to avoid going back to the corporate world, I decided to move with her.
I remember pulling up to the quaint dusty house I now call home. Certain quirky things like multiple sheds and ominous “smile you’re on camera” signs on the fence seemed to suggest the last owner was the type of person who was prepared for the end of the world.
The most telling thing was the radio tower sitting on the property, a couple of feet away from the house. Every now and then, my sister and I try to guess what the old owner used it for.
I was motivated to move with my sister because I was still struggling to figure out what to do with myself after I had left my job. I felt undisciplined and I rationalized that being alone, with nothing to do, would force me to be a more productive person.
Introspection and Anger
I did spend a lot of time alone in 2022, which I didn’t mind. I filled a lot of my time with books, and of the 35 I read, 20 were in the self help genre.
I picked up Never Get Angry Again by David J. Lieberman in February after one too many fights with my sister. She was working in her clinic all day, and would come home with little bandwidth to chat with me before she had to work on her notes at night. Many nights we’d get into petty arguments that would lead to bitterness and resentment.
Never Get Angry Again focused a lot on the relationship between anger and self confidence. Lieberman argues that a lack of self confidence comes from a lack of action.
This was a lightbulb moment for me. I felt as though I hadn’t accomplished anything worthwhile since I had left my job and that made me feel bad about myself. If my sister made a comment that seemed to validate that I wasn’t doing anything, I would feel hurt, but would hide how I felt. A few days later, I’d get mad at her for something unrelated, like leaving a dirty dish on the counter.
My sister created a safe space for me to open up about the things that were bothering me. I learned to vocalize when she said or did something that upset me. She is always great at listening to what I’m saying and now we have mature conversations around any problems that arise.
Over this past year, we have become even closer than we were before. Furthermore, I learned to be a lot more comfortable speaking up when something bothers me, instead of avoiding confrontation and letting it fester.
Reframing Time Horizons
Two other books that impacted me this year were not books I had chosen for myself.
Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky about his time with David Foster Wallace, was given to me by a friend when I moved out of the Bay Area. Just Kids by Patti Smith was a book chosen by a book club my sister forced me to join with her after we saw a sign hanging in our local coffee shop, Starbucks.
Both books follow famous artists, David Foster Wallace and Patti Smith, and one thing I understood after reading both books was how long the journey is in the creative space. David Foster Wallace found success with a book in his twenties, but then also worked at a gym and as a security job when he was trying to sort out his next novel. Patti Smith and her gang of friends were literal starving artists, working odd jobs while they created art for years before any of them became known for their work.
I started to see that creating and writing specifically, is a long game. The more I learned about different artists the more I saw that it takes a decade, not a single year to build your skills and find success.
This helped me reframe how I viewed my own work and success. One example I had was the podcast I had launched with my sister in 2021.
In 2021, we were still figuring out the best way to plan a podcast and consistently post every Tuesday. In 2022, we had a rhythm figured out and were starting to see new opportunities open up to us.
A small jewelry company reached out to us to exchange a few ad spots on our podcast for six earrings and necklaces. They were our first sponsor.
We also were selected to be mentored by a larger podcast in our vertical. They cited our consistency as one of the top reasons they choose us.
These wins coupled with what I read about David Foster Wallace and Patti Smith’s journey helped me extend my own vision out longer than a year.
Now I envision what I can accomplish in a decade. My philosophy now is that I will inevitably be better at anything I do for a decade, so what do I want that to be?
Flirting With Death
There was one week in March where a couple unexpected bad things happened to people I know well.
I’ll write about each more in depth in the future, but in both situations, people I love had a close encounter with death.
My cousin lives with her husband, kids and my aunt in Austin. On a rainy day in March, a tornado passed through their home, completely destroying half the house. It’s only by sheer coincidence that my cousin and her husband saw the tornado coming down their street. They grabbed everyone and ran to hide in the closet before it hit. Luckily, they were all safe.
The next day, one of my high school friends texted my sister and I that she had a rare form of cancer. She had a three month old baby, and expressed how scared she was. Luckily, she received the care she needed and a few months later, my sister and I flew across the country to join her for her “cancer free” party.
That time to me is a bit of a blur. I felt worried and helpless. There wasn’t much I could do thousands of miles away. I’d cry randomly throughout the day, confused as to why so many bad things were happening.
At the same time, I was touched by the way my family and friends came together. My cousin was welcomed into many homes, and a family friend housed them for a few days while they found alternative housing.
When we were at my friend's “cancer free” party, I saw how many people came to celebrate life with her. She was so grateful we had come, welcoming us into her home for the weekend where we spent hours on the couch catching up.
The power of family and friendship struck a chord with me. One thing I know for sure is I want to invest as much time as possible with the people I love.
One More Surprise
At the start of Labor Day weekend, my sister and I were having a deep discussion on the couch.
As we were chatting, we could hear the wind start to howl outside. Our phones buzzed in unison with a severe thunderstorm and flood warning. Rain started to pitter patter on our window as flashing of lightning and cracks of thunder seemed to hit with increasing frequency.
Out of nowhere, we heard a giant “thump” on our roof.
Followed by another, and a scraping sound.
Locking eyes with my sister, I saw her reflect the same panicked look I felt inside.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said.
We ran outside, into the rain to the car. We drove a block away before turning to look at our house. It was pitch black, but when the lightning cracked again, we saw the radio tower had fallen on top of our house.
To say this was a near death experience feels a bit extreme to me considering what the other people in my life were going through. Technically, our roof did a good job breaking the radio towers' fall and didn’t cave in.
We experienced the same kindness in our community, even though we were miles away from friends and family. The elderly couple across the street had seen us run into the rain, and called us over to hang out in their house while we waited for the police.
There was a lot of stress that weekend, dealing with the logistics of where to stay while a radio tower sat precariously on our house. Our landlord was great though. He covered our hotel costs and called a guy named Shorty to come over and remove the tower.
Still, I felt like I was getting the same message over and over again in 2022.
We are on borrowed time on this Earth.
For so long, I had wanted to start writing but was paralyzed by fear and wanting to be perfect. When confronted with death time and time again, I realized that I don’t want to live in fear.
I don’t want to leave this Earth having been too afraid to go after my dreams.
Write of Passage
My deep self exploration and the constant reminder of mortality pushed me to take Write of Passage, a writing course about working through your mental blocks and publishing your writing online.
Going into the course, I rationalized that the only thing I could control was my output. I decided to try and attend as many sessions as possible and most importantly, publish every week. I figured I had been trying to build a writing habit for two years with little to show for it, so if I got started, the investment would be worth it.
Now I have this newsletter where I get to keep writing essays every week and 118 of you subscribe for which I am so grateful.
Even more than the numbers, I’m so grateful for the community I gained by taking Write of Passage. I had no idea how alone I was, trying to find my way in this creator community by myself. I would read books, watch videos and listen to podcasts, but it’s not the same as meeting people who are on the same path and have the same desire to create meaningful content.
Write of Passage taught me to dig deep and share my personal stories, to be vulnerable and to reflect on my experiences.
When I wrote about getting fired, I finally processed how it felt to work so hard at something and still lose my job. I took a look at a lot of my narratives around work, and saw I had a chip on my shoulder about not seeming hard working.
Writing about quitting drinking was also an exercise in vulnerability for me. I tried to mix my personal journey into a general observational one, but it was my Write of Passage peers who encouraged me to share my journey with drinking.
I’m so happy I did. In both cases, I’ve had so many people reach out to share their own stories with me. I felt less alone in the things I experienced and I also saw how sharing my personal experiences opened up a space for others to talk about theirs.
2022 and Beyond
At the beginning of 2022, I moved to a small desert town, hoping that if I could isolate myself long enough, I could be more “productive.”
I was still struggling with my identity in relation to my work. Even though I had chosen to leave the corporate world, I see now that without a job title, I lacked confidence in who I was.
With a lot of introspection and life throwing multiple curveballs my way this year, I’ve reevaluated what’s important to me.
Our time on this Earth is short.
I want to be able to check in with myself on any given day and know that I am living in a way that is true to me and makes me happy.
Life is also pretty long.
God willing, I may have a few more decades on this planet. I’m invested in growing not over the next year, but over the next few decades. For me, that means choosing to do things everyday that I enjoy, like writing and podcasting. I have found that I enjoy creating, and I look forward to whatever that yields in the next chapter of my life.
Onward to 2023!
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“I started to see that creating and writing specifically, is a long game. The more I learned about different artists the more I saw that it takes a decade, not a single year to build your skills and find success.”
So true! “Overnight success” isn’t real. It’s actually a breakthrough after many years of hard work.
Excited to see what you accomplish in 2023!
Your reflections is so full of heart and inspiring ❤️ I’m also glad you are safe and alive so we get to meet you in Write of Passage. Yes life is short but also long at the same time. 🥂 to building a meaningful creative journey together (those glasses are filled with kombucha)