This is 38.

What to say about the last year of my life?

It’s hard to do big, retrospective moments when you live a small life on purpose. But I guess that’s a good place to start: the decision to play it small.

It’s counter to everything we encourage, and boy, have I caught various levels of exasperation from friends when I describe myself as “ordinary,” but whittling my world into easily manageable parts has kept me afloat in the madness of the last year and a half. Not saying that I’m keeping up with Michael Phelps or anything, but I’m not screaming for life rafts via vague “check on your friends” memes on Instagram, so I’ve got that going for me.

As I think about it, though, I can see how small decisions in the last twelve months have added up to a theme. In March, I stopped going by “Skinny Black Girl.” In May, I quit Twitter after nearly 11 years of vomiting my inner dialogue into the world (142 days off that narcotic as of today). In August, I dropped my lifelong objection to strength training (crystallized by years of being the absolute worst at everything in elementary school phys. ed.) and picked up my first set of weights.

By the end of the summer, I had collected a handful of moments that felt like “last times” and it hit me that I was shedding skin.

To know me is to know I’ve had several radical life transformations. I flame out. I rise from the ashes. Rinse. Repeat. Stopping the rollercoaster and living in the middle makes those transformative moments harder to recognize, but in the slow, steady way that characterizes this phase of my life, I’m turning things over; making room for who I’ll be in the next decade of my life.

I’m excited to meet her. In the meantime, here’s to another year of clearing the way for her grand entrance.

This Is Your Life

A couple of months ago, I declared myself average.

I looked at my life: my job and salary, apartment, looks, talents and hobbies, and material trappings and realized I likely won’t go much further than cute, working-class administrative professional in a cute apartment who can write a little bit when so moved.

It sounded defeatist–and boy, was I admonished for it–but saying it aloud was a peaceful, clear break in an otherwise restless, foggy year.

See, it’s been a long time since thinking big served me.

When I was a kid, growing up in a marginal neighborhood with a well-meaning mother who told me I had a duty to fly even though she provided no safety net, “thinking big” was the escape hatch. I had to see my life beyond the house, neighborhood, and schools where I spent my formative years. I had to believe there was more for me than babies and unreliable boyfriends. In my lowest moments–demoralizing heartbreaks, depressive and suicidal spells, interruptions to my carefully-laid plans–“something more” buoyed me back to the surface, out of my dark depths and into the sunshine.


My ideal self haunted me as much as it motivated me. On a dime, it could pull me out of misery or turn to quicksand around my feet and drown me in my daily failure to live up to it. How much of my anxiety and depression, I wondered, was triggered by the fear of wasted potential?

Why, at 35, was I still fixated on what I could be?

I’m as single and (surgically, permanently) childless as I dreamed. I have the job title I’ve coveted since 2010. I live in the neighborhood I’ve wanted to live in since 2009 when an old boyfriend moved here and I just knew we were on the path to cohabitation. And my apartment, with its hardwood floors and plenty of light, is everything I could want for my budget. Shit. I even like my car.

Why couldn’t I sit HERE at the table I set instead of letting my food get cold window shopping for a prettier table?

To quote the title of my favorite book of 2018, What If This Were Enough? 

So I am average.

That is neither an insult nor a testament to what I deserve. It is a statement of fact; what my life reflects back to me every morning.

I want to immerse myself in what is–what I can touch, taste, see, and feel right now–without comparing it to an idealized version in my head.

Something Else

“We’re freshmen as far as being grown,” he said.

I thought of this, looking at the crowd around me. Aunties in their 40s and 50s in their sequined suits. Girls in their 20s in their re-purposed club dresses. Career-climbing peers in their red-bottomed pumps. I found what I usually found — no kinship to any of them.

“Freshmen as far as being grown,” I repeated back to him. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

“Yeah,” he beamed. “All the good stuff happens after 30.”

Does it? I wondered, my chorus of “But what if you don’t care for marriage, children, or career?” lying in wait on my tongue. Not here, I soothed. Not with this 30something heart attack survivor who — by all appearances — possessed a thirst for life I long abandoned.

“I know I’m not old,” I explained a few days prior in a pew at a friend’s wedding to a young man I later learned graduated high school in 2009. “But I’m too weary to feel young.”

A year ago, I happily played Fun Auntie. A year later, performing “fun” to validate my life decisions bores me. Fun Auntie hangs in the closet next to the rest of my ill-fitting old identities: the Perfect Girl Next Door, the Career-Minded Go-Getter, the Creative Bohemian, the Guys’ Girl, the Defiant Feminist Bachelorette.

“Freshman year,” I repeat to the air above the firm queen-sized mattress for my aging lower back. That’s not it, I decide before nodding off. A freshman year requires faith — in my specialness, in some dream, in a world where it can come true, in endless possibilities. I don’t have it.

This phase…this phase is something else.