A New Year's Resolution to Choose Me
This year, I choose me. It’s not a new year’s resolution as much as a new outlook. It’s not something I can succeed or fail at and not something to grade. It is not something to fear or avoid. I am walking through the forest of life, tripping over roots and slipping on fallen leaves and I am simply choosing a new path: a path where I am the most important. I am leaning into self-care, building safe environments, choosing what I want and need. I choose me.
Last year, I chose paths that left me in tears. I chose to work late on a night when my father had asked for support in celebrating a small accomplishment — after years fighting against aphasia, he was the expert on the six o’clock news, and I missed his segment. I chose to push my emotions aside to be the perfect organizer of an event — at a memorial for violence against women, I did not leave room for me to cry. I chose to work through lunches while struggling with an eating disorder and ignore the echoing voices of every professional on my health care team. I chose to suppress my enthusiasm and limit my intensity, not smile in meetings and not dance in the office, because this is what my performance review said to do. I chose to not walk my dog, more often than not, because I simply did not have the energy. These paths sometimes left me in exhausted, sobbing breakdowns. Sometimes, these paths left me numb. I’m not sure which hurt more.
I call these “choices” because I cannot escape the shame, the guilt, and the embarrassment from what I feel like I should be able to control. Every one of these situations hits on my greatest fears — failing my loved ones, failing my work, failing me. However, as my therapist reminds me, it is never too late for a breath of self-compassion. In the new year of “choosing me,” I choose to reframe. I choose to not accept the same, the guilt, or the embarrassment as is. These so-called choices stemmed from bigger situations and events outside of my control. I didn’t choose to work late, a project demanded it. I didn’t choose to not walk my dog, I truly lacked the energy and strength. In a new year of choosing me, I choose not to own this fault.
This year, I will start a new job (this is a fact). I am turning my back on my dream job (this is hyperbole), abandoning projects I care about (this is guilt), and deserting my passions (this is anxiety). I label each of these (fact, hyperbole, guilt, anxiety) because, in a new year of choosing me, I choose to reframe. Reframing will be an ongoing exercise and I will offer self-compassion as I learn — forgiving myself when I don’t, but trying again nonetheless. The details of my old job and my new job don’t matter. What matters is that when my father asks for support in celebrating a small accomplishment, when I want to cry at an emotional event, and at the end of the day when my dog wags her tail, I want to be there. This new job will let me be there, where my old job wouldn’t. This choice still makes me cry, still makes me feel guilt and anxiety. It may for a while. Self-compassion dictates that I make space for these feelings, so I will. I will cry and remind myself of the facts.
This is what is right for me right now. In an effort to address former hyperboles and anxieties, I have come face to face with the fact that there are no “dream jobs” or “perfect choices.” With every changing day and flap of a butterfly’s wings the world will change and you will change with it. There is only what is right for you right now. And if what I care about right now is watching my father on the six o’clock news and walking my dog, then I choose what will achieve this. My old job (not my dream job, just my old job) didn’t allow for this. My new job does.
So, yes, I have accepted a new job that emphasizes four-day work weeks and flexible hours. And there is no shame in saying I need that right now. But, I am also excited for a boss with fun colored hair who laughs when my cat jumps on screen and asks how we make room for authentic emotions in social science research. I’m not forgetting the passion and drive I loved in my former vision of a dream job, I’m just choosing a new mix of these things.
In the swirl of emotions, I can’t help but realize that my choices may benefit my mental illness as well. That working from home means I can cook and meal prep (great for my eating disorder) and flexible hours means I can explore fitness and hobbies (great for my anxiety). Choosing me isn’t a disaster or a loss or an embarrassment, it actually works on so many different levels. Suddenly all of the self-help books make a bit more sense. Suddenly choosing me makes a bit more sense.
I can choose me in a million different ways. I can choose work-life balance and a new career direction. I can reevaluate my chronic ideas of perfection and focus on current desires and needs. I can do bubble baths when I want and therapy when I need. I can pick a new sewing project and finally explore cosplay, learn how to cook with cauliflower, and explore hiking trails near my home. These desires and needs may be fleeting, and that’s OK. In a year where I choose me, I will validate myself and constantly adjust my goals. There is no fixed perfection, no everlasting goals. Just me. So, I’m choosing to be selfish. Happily, confidently, and still anxiously, choosing to be selfish (my anxiety is always there, but we’re reframing that too). I’m choosing me.
Today I walked my dog. I felt the cool air on my neck, watched the happy swing of my dog’s tail, and decided to choose me.
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