I am going to tell you a few things that you’ve heard before, possibly from your favorite motivational blogger, your pastor or Will Smith.
“Trust the process.”
“Everything happens for a reason.”
“What’s meant to be, will be.”
“You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.”
While all of these sayings are 100% true, unless you’ve made it to the other side, hearing these things might incite an eye roll, and when you’re going through a difficult time, it’s like you see these phrases everywhere. They’re on blogs, they’re on Instagram stories, they’re on Twitter feeds, they’re on podcasts, they’re somehow slogans and taglines on posters in the train station and on stickers from quirky retail stores. You will go to the movies with your bf to watch Fast & Furious 14: Still Pretty Fast But Considerably Less Furious, and you will see, “Trust the timing of your life!” written on the side of your XXXL popcorn bucket. It will feel like the whole world has conspired against you because the Universe is not only very wise, but it’s also an asshole.
Around two years ago, I was in my own “How is this life?” situation. It was the second to last week in February, and I was moving out of my apartment. My best friend’s college friend was moving up to New York, so we decided to find a place together. It was a rush job, and I let her take the reins, and we ended up in a decent apartment, but with her getting the room with the big windows, which was my only ask. Strike one.
My job, which was already very time-consuming, was getting increasingly harder. I had a demanding boss, my responsibility and ownership kept increasing, and the idea of admitting I couldn’t “do it all” seemed like career suicide. The...work...would...not...end. Strike two.
I was pretty miserable, and on top of that, I was no longer writing. I know we make time for the things we love, but also, we only have a limited amount of energy. My work left me physically and mentally drained every evening. Strike three.
My finances were a mess. I had never been great at saving and had built up a pretty substantial amount of credit card debt. I bought a lot of shit I didn’t need over the years, and I had a hard time saying no to people. I said yes to everyone’s everything: weddings, bachelorette weekends, birthday getaways, boozy brunches with co-workers, dinners with friends. Strike four.
I had started dating this great guy around this time as well. He was sweet, thoughtful, considerate, but he was also disciplined, focused, and regimented, all qualities I was not. He was already working in his dream field, and instead of seeing him as inspiration or viewing him as a strong partner, I grew more insecure and started shutting down. Strike five.
At three strikes, you’re out. At five strikes, people are going to start wondering why you’re still walking around the field, thinking that you’re playing. I couldn’t keep up with my boyfriend, my friends, my job, or my money, and it didn’t help that I always felt so sluggish and weak. I had stopped working out due to life, and I getting by on garbage ass food. Sometimes I would eat everything and anything I could get my hands on. Other times, I would just eat snacks for weeks. SNACKS. My meals would look like a 5-year-old got hopped up on Pixie Sticks and robbed 7-11. I’m pretty sure my insides were just mush at this point. I don’t even think I had a skeleton. I was more like a functioning lava lamp, just a heavy ass liquid blobbing my way from my apartment to my office and back. Blob blob blob.
It wasn’t great.
I wasn’t great.
The very amazing boy I was dating asked me to move in with him. It was way too soon, and I wasn’t ready, and I’m sure he wasn’t, either, but he figured this way I wouldn’t have to pay rent. I moved in, escalating our relationship way too quickly. (Ugh.) My finances actually got worse because OF COURSE THEY DID. I felt so bad for leaving my former roommate in the wind that I gave her time to find a person that she liked while I continued paying rent for an apartment I didn’t live in. On top of that, I felt inadequate for not paying rent at my bf’s, so I overcompensated by buying everything and anything I thought we needed. Groceries. Decorative pillows. Ridiculous cookware that we would use once like a cast-iron skillet (have you tried cleaning one of those bad boys?!) Months went by without me writing a damn thing which made me feel like a complete loser. I was a writer who didn’t write. You would think that would light some kind of fire in me but NOPE. Instead, I doubled down on all the not writing I was doing... and put all my energy and effort into my job. (I know it doesn’t sound very logical, but I was at such a frenzied, on edge mess that logic didn’t live here anymore.) I was coming home at 11 pm during the week and going in on weekends. My job was the one thing I felt like I could control, and I was finally doing well. Really well! Sure, it was at the cost of my health and my relationship and my dreams and my passions and everything else I cared about, but I needed wins somewhere and this was it.
I felt like I was failing as a girlfriend and partner, as a friend, as a daughter, as a creative, and as a person. I just needed to be good at something. (What I remember most vividly is how much I would cry during these few months. I’d cry on my walk home from work. I’d cry at my desk. I’d cry while watching TV. I’d have shower cries with a full face of makeup; disgusted at how pathetic I looked in the mirror)
To explain how everything unraveled, we would need to go somewhere for burgers and many, many drinks. What you need to know, though, was that the Universe was telling me that there was a lot of work to be done within myself. The cracks in my soul were showing. What I needed to do was take a step back and say to myself: “Ay girl. Ay! Black hoodie! You need to get...it...together.” What I did instead was nothing. I basically shrugged and told life that this was Future Jennifer’s problem now.
Like the Universe, Past Jennifer is an asshole.
When I first realized things were going south, I should have accepted that I needed that time to get right. Instead my little brain looked around, decided it didn’t like the situation, and instead of accepting this was where I needed to be, it decided, “Oh nah.” I left one roommate situation to essentially be in another one, where the stakes were higher, and I wasn’t ready. Instead of working on my passions and bettering myself, I became fearful and focused on things that were draining me because damnit, there was comfort there. It was shitty comfort, but it was comfort just the same. As everything got worse, I sought easy solutions and fought any kind of self-growth. I internally crumbled.
And that was it. The end.
No, I’m totally kidding. That’s not the end. It never is.
That following March, I found myself moving into a new apartment. Yup, exactly one year later, down to the same week, I was moving again. My new apartment was exactly 9 blocks up, between the same two exact streets. A year had gone by, and here I was, restarting my life at essentially the exact same place I was a year earlier. God and the Universe had brought me back to where I had been 365 days ago: where I was supposed to be.
I lived in that apartment for the next 7 months. I became extremely close with my roommate, Haley, who reminded me a lot of Jennifer From One Year Ago. Anytime I saw her doing something rooted in bullshit, I called her out on it. If you ask her, I’m sure she would tell you that I was really annoying, but I was out here trying to save lives.
I stopped staying late at work. I would leave around 6:30 pm, without fail, even if everything wasn’t done because it never would be. I never came in on weekends again. I would work as hard as I could while I was in the office, but once I left, I didn’t carry my work home with me. I received a raise, and a promotion. Ain’t that some shit? I switched tracks, and now I’m in product development, where I get to be creative every day.
I also enrolled in writing classes: one with Second City, which taught me how to pitch a pilot, and one workshop with a writer from the show This is Us. I started going to events that I thought were interesting, even if I had to go alone -- dope events like Novella, a women’s writing group that puts on monthly salons. I even started the blog! A blog that I said I was going to start for years except this time, I actually did it! (It’s called Penny Lane is Figuring It Out, and it’s me talking about everything I’ve ever fucked up on. I DO IT SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO, LADIES.)
Financially, I’m doing the best I’ve done in years. I paid off three credit cards, and only have one left, which I now use to earn miles, and then pay off each month. My credit score is in the 700’s which is the highest it’s ever been. I don’t buy shit aimlessly, and long gone are the times when I’d order Seamless every night. I still go out to dinners and the occasional happy hour because shit, I have to live in this world, but I cook at home a lot more because I’ve been meal prepping. I’ve also lost ten pounds! I mean, the gym is still the WORST, but at least I go, which is a big improvement from when I’d talk about how I needed to go as I ate Flaming Hot Cheetos for dinner. And...drumroll please...I just moved into my own apartment three weeks ago, which still blows my mind. Like...I can afford my own one bedroom? By myself? Dude, what a life.
Do I wish I could go back two years, get my shit together, and not have to make all the dodo headed mistakes that I did? Hell yes. I would love to reverse time and not cry as much as I did, not feel as much as I did, not work as much as I did, not examine every tiny aspect of my personality/habits/life as much as I did but that shit was SO NECESSARY.
I had to literally go back a year and RELIVE MY LIFE OVER because I didn’t want to be where I was, and instead of showing up and working through my shit, I was trying to Pass Go and Collect $200. You don’t get to cheat the system like that, and if you try, it will eventually catch up to you, and it will not be kind.
If you’re not where you want to be currently, that’s fine. It’s where you need to be. Remember, you will not be there forever. You are not your circumstances, and you are not what is happening to you. You will get past this, and eventually, you will be where you want to be. You just have to keep showing up and doing the work. Some days, things will be so garbage that you’ll want to just lay on your floor and eat your way through a tub of cookie dough. Some days, you actually will lay on your floor and eat your way through a tub of cookie dough. And maybe tears.
But it’s all just temporary. The lessons you’re learning now will be the foundation for the next chapter of your life.
And dude, it’s going to be such a dope chapter.