Exactly one year ago today, I posted this:
when it's the most beautiful first fall day you can imagine, and you've made a life-changing decision that makes you want to reflect on and feel gratitude for the last few special years and catch your breath a bit before the next exciting chapter kicks off at a million miles an hour- you take your book out for some french fries and sparkling rosé in the middle of the afternoon. because if there's a better way to mark a milestone, i'm not sure what it is #bigsteps #whatwouldcarriebradshawdo
One of my favorite things about social media is the way that (when used correctly) it can serve as an incredible real-time journal. In all the times I’ve tried to establish a consistent routine with keeping a written diary, I’ve never been able to figure out how to capture moments from my life quite the way Instagram does. There’s nothing like a photo to bring you back to a special moment, and when I look at this one, the way I felt on September 15, 2016 comes right back to me.
My wedding ring was brand spankin’ new. It had been on my finger for less than three months. My nails were freshly painted from celebrating my friend’s wedding the weekend before. I was reading a book called The Knockoff. It was a perfectly gorgeous day, one of the first of the season that was cool enough that I could whip out my favorite denim jacket again. I walked out of my office building downtown for the last time around noon. That moment felt like any scene of a revolving door you’ve ever seen in a movie — a little disorienting, a little upside down. When I got out onto the street, I stared at the sky for a few seconds before making my way to the subway. In my time as a New Yorker, I don’t think I’ve ever walked slower. I sat silently on the train, too antsy to read or listen to a podcast. I remember looking around me at the subway car, empty in the middle of the day, wondering if I’d find myself right back there several months later, sitting alone in an abandoned car at noon, ferrying myself back and forth to Manhattan begging for a new job because I’d failed as a writer. When I got home, I wrote this:
It’s the most beautiful day here in New York, and the first day that really feels like fall– my favorite season. In that moment, it felt like a small gift from the universe just for me– as if this first day of my new journey was meant to also be completely gorgeous so that I would walk outside and know that I’d made the right decision.
When I started at my job almost five years ago, I was twenty-one years old and making a two-hour commute to New York City from my hometown in Pennsylvania. I remember so clearly a very dramatic, suburban, wide-eyed thought that I had as I walked up Eighth Avenue on my first day. “Here I am, in New York! This is where I’ll make a name for myself. I’m here to make my fortune!”
There have been moments over the last few weeks since I gave my notice that I wondered if, in doing so, I’d thrown away the opportunity to fulfill that naive twenty-one year old’s city ambitions. I know that it’s not. I am entering a transition, and it’s going to be challenging and uncomfortable, and it might stretch me to some of my previous limits, but it will lead me to a place where I can call my own shots as to how I make that name for myself. I don’t think it’s ever too late to figure out how you really want to live your life. Circumstances aren’t always right for making massive life changes, and I am grateful that the stars have aligned in my own circumstances to make this possible for me at twenty-five, almost twenty-six years old. Now, the trick is to let myself feel each and every stage of this transition, so I can get to the other side ready to chase success in my own right and as my best self.
For now, I am going to take myself out to my favorite little French spot on the corner to sit outside on this perfect day with a book, an order of French fries, and a glass of champagne. Because if there’s any better way to mark such a major milestone, then I don’t know what it is.
I did just that. I ate all of the French fries, and I think I ordered a second glass of champagne, too. And now, a year later, I’m even more grateful that I’ve chosen the path of becoming a writer, because it gives me a chance to uncover musings like this one and to think back on the self that walked out into the world with only a vague plan and absolutely nothing on her agenda a year ago and to say to her, “You survived. You did what you said you would do and you did it well, and you survived.”
It’s unfathomable to me now that I can reflect back on that day with a year’s worth of wisdom and experience. There have been a lot highs and plenty of lows. And as much as I usually like to wrap up these monthly recaps with a clear lesson or specific takeaway, I’m not sure that I can do that today. I’ve realized that this journey and the career path that I’ve chosen are constantly changing, so maybe what I’ve learned these past twelve months is simply to buckle up, hold your head up high, and try your very best to make things happen. In spite of the challenges and setbacks, I get up every. single. day and work — hard, and only occasionally in my PJs. It doesn’t always pay off the way I expect, and I often find that I have an entirely different set of goals 24 hours later, but this formerly uptight, cautious girl has embraced the uncertainty and seen the benefits of letting go. When you put in the consistent, back-breaking effort and trust the timing of the world around you, magical things happen. All that I’ve wanted throughout this process was to be true to myself and to set a good example for my four younger sisters, and I hope I’ve done that. I want my sisters to know that you have it within your power to build something that’s all your own.
When I shared that photo a year ago, I intentionally stayed quiet about the specifics of my transition. In the end, it wasn’t about leaving a job or starting a new job. It wasn’t about being dissatisfied at my former company or telling the world that I’d had the guts to quit. It’s still not about that. While leaving was the right choice for me at that time, I still have nothing but gratitude for that first chapter in my career, and I look back at it now with even better perspective on all that it taught me. What I wanted people to know that day was that I was about to launch myself into a crazy new adventure. Getting into the specifics was pointless, because I hardly knew what the specifics would look like myself. I’m so glad I didn’t limit myself with some “official announcement” of what I was doing, because the adventure is ongoing. I’m still not quite sure what exactly I’ll be doing next week or next month — let alone a year from now — but I do know that I’ve carved out a niche for myself where I get to do what I love, make a living doing it, and learn a hell of a lot about myself along the way. With that said, I feel like I can confidently call this first year a success.
Today, I’m celebrating this personal milestone by slowing down work and taking some time for myself. I might get a manicure. I might finish the book I’m reading. I might take a walk around the neighborhood. I might go back to that little French spot on the corner and enjoy another order of French fries and a glass (or two) of champagne. I’ll figure it out as I go — after all, I’ve gotten pretty good at that lately. I have a feeling that whatever I decided to do will be really fun : )
Thanks to all of you for supporting me over this past year. It’s been more special than I can say to share this experience with you! Let’s keep it going, shall we?