Within Reach

I’d say that we do a fair amount of reflecting and resolving around here. Once it was on a daily basis, lately it’s been more like weekly. But today is different — today is the start of a brand new year. Exclamation point, exclamation point.


I love the first of the year. I love the thought of a clean slate, a new beginning. I wonder what you’re eager to wipe clean, not sad to see go, and what you’re ready to start sketching, maybe just doodling, in its place.

If I had a little whiteboard propped against the backsplash in my kitchen, and if you lived within sugar-borrowing distance, it’s likely you would find me bent over, aggressively erasing an image like this:


I think it would only be mildly melodramatic to say that 2015 was steeped in sadness, for me. There were some big, big triumphs, too, but for the most part, last year was not one I’d care to repeat. Judging by my feed full of gratitude posts and Instagram top nines, I think I might be alone on that score, but no matter.


My phone says it’s January 1, the sun’s an optimistic orange, and Oregon has decided to give us a break.


I scoot my chair closer to the show and thumb through the wishes I have for this next year as if they’re in an old-fashioned photo album.

Me, standing on top of a mountain, smiling. Flip. Me, racing towards a tide yet to change its mind, a soft breeze skittering across exposed skin. Flip. Me, dozing in a passenger seat, warm and sleepy and full. Flip. Me, pulling a pizza out of the oven, face flushed, happy. Flip. Me, up late on a dimly lit porch, pressing my lips against somebody else’s, dizzy with it. Flip. Me, trading stories, passing plates, laughing with three good friends. Flip. Me, navigating a new job, neither dreadfully bored nor wildly stressed. Flip. Me, moving out of my apartment, out of all of these cities, relieved. Flip. Me, walking the few blocks over to my mom’s, thrilled. Flip. Me, writing in a window with a view, calm. Content. Flip.


I could keep going. But some things feel too personal, too private. With that being said, what I’d really like is to be brave enough to ask myself what I really want. I don’t have to come up with an answer today, or even during this whole Month of Resolutions, but at some point this year, I’d like to unfurl a little list. Tack it up in my kitchen.


What would I ask for, if I weren’t ashamed or embarrassed or afraid? What would I ask for, if I knew it was there for the taking?


My mom and I were just talking about this. That it’s worth asking ourselves what we’d want, in a dream world, because acknowledging those quiet hopes is so often the beginning. Once they’ve been aired, every decision we make moving forward is made with those goals (at least partially) in mind.

Think about it. A year and a half ago, my quiet hopes brought me to Oregon.


This year, my quiet hopes might lead me to leave. I don’t know; I’m not sure yet. I do know it’s true what they say — that wherever you go, you bring yourself with you. I’m enormously grateful, and a little bit proud, that I like myself approximately 40x better than I did a year ago on this day.


Last year I wanted to do several things. Chief among them: stop doing anorexic things, damn it. Be the person you fought so hard to become. Maybe take a break from pushing on the past like a bruise to see if it still hurts. Write yourself through, when you’re sad or stuck or scared or slipping backwards, help. Love yourself as much as you want someone else to.


Dwell a little less. Remember nothing is static. Get a full-time job with benefits (and paid time off and a 401k). Build your savings back up. Move into your own apartment (a real one this time, with a kitchen and a closet and a stove!). Be more patient with yourself. Throw away your timelines.


Make more friends in Portland. Be here now. Bond around a fireplace or a coffee table, instead of just liking each other’s posts on social media. Resist the urge to compare. Date again, after a long time away from it all. Don’t define your upcoming year by whether or not you fall in love, move in with someone, or get engaged. Travel. Realize that everyone moves at their own pace, and what’s right for someone else right now might not be right for you.


I don’t have a list like that this year. I have those images I mentioned earlier, and my latest round of quiet hopes. I have the doodle on the corner of my napkin at the coffee shop, and the disjointed thoughts bouncing around my brain on the way home.


I would like to be brave enough to let people get close, without the guarantee of a happy ending and a hand-in-hand walk into the sunset. I would like to trust that I could handle it, if things didn’t work out — be it a relationship or a job or a place. I would like to be accepted regardless of what I look like or what I do for a living, and I would like to do the same for somebody else. I would like to give and accept love unreservedly, and I would like to stop rationing — money and hope and joy and peppermint patties. I would like to pick three good things at the end of every day, and 365 days from now, I would like to look back and say 2016 was the year I loved with all the lights on.


I would also like this quote by Gayle Forman to no longer be true, to no longer apply to me: “I understood all that in my head, but I didn’t believe it in my heart.”


{Rialto Beach via @ronsynder1, rainy window via @finn, outrageous sunset via @stephenskis, Oregon coast via @fursty, 2015/2016 via @jean_julien, beach camp via @andrewgolesch, rainy NW Portland via @jennhouston, half-hidden A-frame via @platoux, snowy pines via @sam_cahill, cozy cabin via @alexstrohl, Mt. Hood via @stephenskis — all on Instagram.}


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