In case you haven’t noticed already, I’m big on reflection. I enjoy taking the time to think through some of the things I’ve experienced, maybe to find ways to tangibly focus on how I’m growing as a person. I take time to reflect at the beginning of each year, but also on my birthday. It’s been 28 full years around the sun, and this year was certainly unlike any other. And while there’s a lot about this year I could write about, there’s truly only one lesson that I feel like I keep turning to after this year. The biggest lesson I learned? That I need to stay true to myself.
I think this statement can be true for all kinds of aspects in my life, but let’s break down the ways being true to myself is an important mantra I am currently trying to focus on.
Staying true to myself in my career.
As most of you probably know, I currently work as a Senior Editor at Eat This, Not That! I worked really, really hard to get where I am today. I kicked my butt to get the best grades and experiences I could in high school through grad school. I took a myriad of odd freelancing and ghostwriting gigs to beef up my experience after graduation. And I had to jump around into different types of positions in order to get where I really wanted to be—working as a magazine editor in New York City.
A lot in journalism has changed since I declared it as the thing I want to do for the rest of my life. My job focuses more on digital journalism than print magazine journalism, which was the original goal. But a lot of the aspects are the same. I get to write every day. I get to strategize, pitch, and assign stories to writers. I get to create content in other types of avenues like video, photography, and recipe development.
This year was the first year I started saying no to job opportunities. Why? Because I have decided to stay true to myself and focus my career specifically on food media moving forward. I don’t have a desire to leave food media right now, because I love it so much. And wherever my career takes me, I want food media and/or writing to be a part of it in some way.
Staying true to myself in my art.
This past year I decided to truly make a commitment to working hard on this blog, and it’s been a blast seeing how much this little website has been able to grow.
However, in the process of concentrating more on my blog, I found myself veering into other tempting avenues in order to “increase my traffic” and “get more followers.” I got so sidetracked into focusing on social media tactics and SEO best practices that soon, blogging wasn’t fun anymore. I was ready to quit.
So of course, I re-evaluated. Why did I start blogging in the first place? Why do I love doing this so much? And soon, it became clear: The truest form of myself in art is through writing. Not being a YouTube sensation. Not being an Instagram influencer. Not being the top-ranking page on Google. But to write powerful words that can change people’s lives.
With that, I decided to delete social media on my phone. I still use it on my desktop as an avenue to create content for this blog, but I don’t focus on it. I don’t scroll or spend hours on it. Instead, I spend the majority of my time writing. Because writing is truly what I’m good at.
Staying true to myself in my faith.
Trying to stay true to my faith during a pandemic has been by far one of the most difficult things I’ve ever gone through. I feel incredibly grateful to have such a strong community of believers around me to talk through the trials of this year. But when the terrors of this world start to drown out the still small voice in my head, I forget my faith altogether. I feel hopeless and a deep sense of despair.
I knew I needed a habit change in my life, something that could help me cling to my faith in moments of need. So every morning when I wake up, I read my Bible. It’s usually only 5 or 10 minutes, and I follow a reading plan through She Reads Truth. But it’s enough to get my mind focusing in a better direction, and gives me hope before tackling another day at home.
Staying true to myself in my relationships.
90% of my friends in New York City left this year. And no, that number isn’t an exaggeration. I’ve done the math. I added up all the friends I’ve made here in the city, and then found the percentage of how many of them moved out of the city once the pandemic started. It’s a staggering amount, and it leaves me feeling really sad.
But through this hardship, I’ve come to one very important realization: I need to stay true to the friends I still have. Not just here in NYC, although those are still massively important. But also the friends of mine that I know I can still count on, from all different seasons of my life. The ones I can call to meet up and never have to worry about our time apart, because we will always love each other and be there for each other—no matter the time or distance between us.
This is also true in the steady relationships in my life, like my marriage and my family. These types of relationships require commitment, sacrifice, and unconditional love. And I’m still learning how to do that well.
Staying true to myself in my city.
I think this is probably the most important one of them all. New York City has changed drastically this year. A lot of people left. Few people are hustling and bustling on the streets. We’re spending a lot of time at home and in our neighborhoods.
The change has forced me to really think about how I fit into this city. For so long I strived to “fit the mold” that NYC culture perpetrates…when in reality, I’m nothing like the mold. I’m a small-town girl with a little midwest twist (and a love for casseroles), and I don’t really fit in with the city slickers. As the city opens back up, I hope I can stay true to who I am, and to not let the social norms of others dominate over who I’m meant to be.
So…these are my thoughts on my 28th birthday. They are somber thoughts, so forgive me for the tone. But I think that’s kind of what the year has brought us—a year of somber thinking and reflection as we patiently wait for the hopeful days to come.