A Little Light

I noticed a little light in the sky as I rode up Market just before 6 pm. Not much, mind you. But a little. It may not feel like it between the waves of clouds and rain, but the days are getting longer. It’s one of the underrated aspects of January. It can be hard to appreciate in the dead of winter, I understand that, but it’s true. The evidence was right there over Twin Peaks and Diamond Heights.

January has always been one of my favorite months. I like summer, but I’m not really a summer person. Everyone loves fall and spring, sure, but winter is my season. I get this is not everyone’s opinion of winter, but give me frozen waterfalls, downhill skiing, the heart of the hockey season, and a good winter beer. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the other seasons. I just really enjoy winter. And I particularly enjoy January because the days are getting longer again, because even if I had nothing to do with it, it’s a damn fine month to be born in. Even if it’s arbitrary, watching the calendar roll over and the sense of recrudescence it foments (even if it is short-lived in many cases) because it’s a new year is pretty cool. Perhaps it would make more sense to time that with spring, but who ever said the Gregorian calendar made sense?

The 2016 edition of January has not been my favorite so far. Work has been…not that great. I missed applying for the job I meant to, have been working way more weekends than I ever want to, and I’m finding myself burned out. And the short-term ramifications are that I find it harder to get done the other things I need or want to do. The dishes pile up, the laundry doesn’t get put away, I’m not cooking as much as I’d like to. Thankfully, I’ve managed to keep some other things in motion. I’m still getting my running in, and there’s still time for trivia and I am taking care of myself okay, but not as well as I’d like. I find I’m making more mistakes in little things too, at work, or in the kitchen, almost putting in the wrong ingredient or running out of something I could have sworn I checked on before I started halfway through. That’s why I missed applying for the job I meant to, I saw the email, it didn’t magically mark itself as read, I just didn’t really see it. I’ve felt that way a lot this month.

We all make mistakes. I’ve learned to own mine. Sure, there are a lot of other unlucky little things that happened, but the first mistake I made was missing something I said was important to me. I didn’t take the proper steps to ensure I took care of myself. There’s not always going to be someone to catch you when you fall. In this case, there wasn’t. While the ramifications feel bigger right now, everything just feels a bit more exaggerated. And it feels like the lows have been lower. Or perhaps not lower, but just way more frequent than I’d like. Lots of little indignities piled up on each other. It’s just been one of those stretches where I find myself muttering “of course” a lot. And it’s easy to get distracted by the fact that if I’d received an offer for the job (strong possibility), that would have meant more money, more prestige, I don’t know, whatever you imagine goes along with that kind of stuff.

But mistakes also present opportunities. If I’m feeling overwhelmed doing the position on an interim basis, why do I want to do it on a permanent basis, while adding an hour to my commute each day? Is it worth it? Is this really the best opportunity for me right now? Sure, some of that is spin, bargaining as I work my way through processing the mistake I’ve made. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Perhaps this isn’t the right fit for me, or the right time. How do I juggle a longer commute and more responsibility with still wanting to have the flexibility to make it to the Hemlock on a random Wednesday? Time is a finite variable. What gives in that equation? How can I use my time more fully in ways that I want to? Money is not the only measure of success, and due to a fair amount of luck, I’m doing just fine. I won the lottery when it comes to my living arrangement. How much do I want to actually enjoy living in San Francisco? Even in its (current/constant) broken state, it’s an exceptional place. I am exceptionally lucky; I have a good thing going on right now. How much do I want to disrupt that?

Of course, I’m not just thinking about present me. I’m thinking about future me. I turn 35 tomorrow. Which is not old. But it’s hard to call myself young anymore. How many more shots am I going to get at that next chance? Do I want to delay it another year? Well, now I don’t have much of a choice. I did delay it, at least for the indefinite future. But that also creates new choices.  I can evaluate the path I thought I was going down and ask myself why I really was. And the answer is…I’m not really sure? Because it seems like the right thing to do? Because the rent doesn’t pay itself? Because it allows me to do the other things I want to do? Because it is the right thing to do? It’s probably all of those things, and a few more.

As I pivot, I applied for something else. Now I can wonder if that’s the right fit. There are different challenges to that position, as it’s a lateral move, not a move up; it does not present any immediate financial reward, which let’s be real, never hurts. I still need to be offered a job before I get too far ahead of myself. But that position is where I thought I was heading if you’d asked me a year ago. And then some things changed and I thought I was heading somewhere else. Now I may be heading back to where I thought I was going all along. On the surface, it plays to my professional strengths. While it may be short on the immediate bump, perhaps it is what’s best for me professionally in the long run. There’s not really any way to know that, of course. Perhaps they are all justifications. What isn’t? When I write it out, it’s a ridiculous thing to be hung up on. But that’s a reason to write. It helps me step back and remember I am objectively a very lucky woman. I am mad at myself for missing this opportunity, but that I had it at all would have been hard to fathom even a few years ago.

Perhaps that’s the clarity that comes with acceptance. It’s still real a couple weeks later, but I’ve processed it. Not 100%, of course. I’m in no rush to say that I’m past this, or I still won’t feel the effects for a while. I will. We live with our mistakes. They are not our sum, but they inform who we are. How we respond, who we are in the face of them, who is there for us when we make them, how we move past them. Hopefully, we learn from those mistakes. We make changes. We become more fully realized versions of ourselves. We explore new opportunities. We take new chances that lead to new mistakes, and through this cycle, we continue to grow. It may not feel like everything is going the right way right now. But there’s still 10 days left in January, still time for it to be the month I know and love. Sure, it’s gonna rain tomorrow. But we need the rain. And behind the clouds, it’s only getting brighter.

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