Ending Well

This year has been a year.

So much can and does change in 12 months. There are the big, routine-disrupting changes such as adopting a dog (I did that this year, his name is Joey, and he’s now my best friend and I like him more than I like most humans) or changing jobs (I sort of did that too). There are also changes that don’t necessarily upend our day-to-day; the sort that move and transition like tectonic shifts under the surface. Suffice to say, the adage “the only constant in life is change” is annoying but bulletproof.

As we approach the tail end of it, I’ve realized there were three major events or moments that happened to and in me this year. Of course, a lot more happened and much of it was very important, but of the metaphoric diary entries of 2018, I’ve whittled it down to the three that took up the most mental real estate. This was an exercise in real life editing, the learned importance of less-is-more which could’ve been the fourth item on this list but alas, it was edited out. (See how I did that? Got it in anyway. The perk of being the editor of my own essays.)

The first occurred in February when an article was written about me in The Baylor Lariat, the newspaper of my alma mater. My former-boss-turned-current-friend told me she had a student who was interested in doing a piece about me, the magazine I’d shepherded for the previous seven years, and the book I’d self-published the month before. There’s not much I wouldn’t do for my former-boss-turned-current-friend so I agreed without hesitation. The interview happened over the phone and though I definitely rambled on for about fifteen minutes too long, it was a fun experience to be on the other side of an interview.

As it happened, I’d already been invited back to Baylor the following weekend to be a judge at an on-campus competition in which I’d been a part as a student. It was in that performing organization where I’d made my best friends and where I learned how to be a leader (mostly by learning what not to do), and I’d been invited back to now judge the competition. Even though it was one of my best friends doing the inviting—a perk of “knowing people” if there ever was one—the experience of being asked back as someone whose opinion carried any sort of weight felt surprisingly edifying.

Before the competition, there was a quick photoshoot in the newspaper office for the aforementioned article. Trying my hardest to ignore my personal backpack full of insecurities about my appearance and about not being in control of the end result of the photos, I tried to channel all I’d seen actors, singers and dancers do in my own magazine shoots. I know it was a poor imitation, but the following morning when the newspaper landed on campus, I wasn’t embarrassed by the end result. Not of the photos and not of that article.

It was the first time anyone has really written about me as a writer. I was the subject and it felt overwhelming but sublimely cool—I’d be a liar if I said it was anything other than sublimely cool—but more than any temporary feeling of coolness, it made me feel like I had a place at the table outside of the table I’d set for myself: BLEEP Magazine. I’d built this magazine and it had become my ticket into people’s lives and to opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have been privy to. But this article was about the me within all of that and that felt important in a way I didn’t truly grasp at the time. I’d come to understand it far more intimately as the year went on though.

The second major moment happened at the year’s halfway point: my birthday in June. I tend to make a big deal out of my birthday because it’s such a solid reason to get people together but this year, I made an especially large to-do out of it. I was turning 35 and that, for whatever reason, felt important to me. I rented out the basement of a restaurant, cranked the music from my junior high and high school days, and we had quite the time. The “we” of whom I speak included my crew from Texas, my crew from New York, my other half, and even my best gal who now lives overseas who showed up to surprise me. We danced and ate and laughed together and it served as the centerpiece for a weekend of running around the city with my best friends. My tribe shows up for each other and that weekend, they showed up for me.

This may seem self-centric, an exhibition of ego on basis of people showing up to celebrate my being born, but what I saw was an afternoon where people who got together to enjoy one another’s company and to celebrate each other. Yes, it was my party, but we celebrated other birthdays, new babies on the way and graduations. We celebrated old friends and new as people from so many seasons of my life were in the same room, mingling and meeting and catching up and drinking mimosas. Is there anything better? Often, we are far too busy to stand around and just be with and celebrate friends and family. But that day, that’s what we did.

At one point in the party, I stood in the center of the room and slowly spun around, taking in the faces around me. As music from my junior high dances played in the speakers, I was overwhelmed by feeling like love was exploding around me like fireworks. Big, bright fireworks. Being reminded in a tactile, present way that my net is woven tightly with unconditional love has kept my spirit buoyant ever since.

The third event was also the most recent. I closed the online magazine I’ve spent the past eight years running and in doing so, turned the page on one of the most defining chapters of my life. As long as I’ve lived in New York City, I’ve been running BLEEP Magazine. It had become a part of my identity and my self-worth and letting it go was both the easiest and most difficult decision I’d had to make in many years.

It was the easiest because I knew it was time. I felt my spirit release it on the last day of April and spent the subsequent seven months planning and plotting my endgame. My goal—articulated aloud on that day in April—was to end well. As the end approached, that meant saying no to some good opportunities and staying keenly focused on the finish line. There were events I couldn’t attend, shows I couldn’t see, and other projects that had to be sidelined, but in the end, the finish line looked exactly the way I thought it would. For months, I’d retained a tunnel-visioned focus on sticking the landing and when it was all said and done, I did. I can say that without feeling self-inflated or arrogant because the evidence is sitting on the website.

Beyond the satisfaction of knowing I did what I set out to do—a feeling I didn’t always experience over the life of the magazine which was why I had such a steely focus on it for its farewell—the act of ending well was an issue of integrity. It was my name on the product—I dreamt it, created it, and spent eight years of my life shepherding it—and as a result, I felt I owed it to the magazine to complete its life in a way worthy of what it had meant to me. I’m sure that sounds like floofy writer talk, but it was my thing. And I ended it well.

That’s something I will carry with me. Not only will I carry the satisfaction of knowing I ended my magazine well, but I will carry that concept into my everyday going forward. Not to imply I was a quitter before—I mean, I commit to finishing TV shows long after they’ve passed their expiration date—but I’ve now seen just how empowering it is. In the same way it was an issue of integrity for me to end the magazine well because my name was on it, so should I also approach every aspect of my life. It’s got my name on it.

It’s happenstance really that this concept landed in the final month of 2018, but I after such a big year, it resonates especially loudly. Next year will bring new changes, many of which are already at work under the surface, but throughout whatever changes either of my own accord or otherwise, I will remember these three things: I have a place at the table, I am surrounded by love, and the act of ending well is important.

To that affect, starting well is equally important. I don’t mean in a resolution sort of way because we all know how dysfunctional resolutions are to our lives. By starting well, I mean entering the new year with intention. Intention to open new doors, to embrace new things, and to walk confidently in lessons learned. Learning to listen to those lessons, to identify and implement them, is part of the ever-present tectonic shifts inside of me. Inside of all of us.

This is a year I will always remember for the way its shaped my life. I didn’t know in January that it would be so pivotal, especially in such a pronounced calendar-year increment of time, but it’s turned into a profoundly defining period of my life. Everything hasn’t been perfect, but I can’t help but be incredibly grateful for all I’ve learned.

I challenge you. What are the three things that happened in your life this year, the aftershocks and impacts from which you still feel today? Reflecting is important, remembering is vital, and telling the story of those moments is a basic human truth. So, what are your three from 2018?

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