The End of Being 27

This week I turn 28 years old, but I’m not quite ready to let go of 27 yet. 27 has always been my favorite number, and I had a feeling for a long time that my 27th year would be an important one. Indeed, that has turned out to be true in ways I could never have imagined.

I turned 27 last summer in Colorado. Almost none of my friends were in Colorado at the time, and I spent the day with only my parents and the dogs hiking, at the spa, and at a delicious dinner. It was a peaceful, sober birthday, which is exactly what I needed.

Since I turned 27, my life has exploded into a dream world. Almost everything I’ve ever wanted for myself has come to fruition this year, and everything I’ve yet to accomplish feels just beyond the horizon. I’ve always secretly been a writer. Or maybe not secretly because I’ve been writing into this internet void since I was 15 years old. But I’ve always secretly wanted to be a successful writer with a reasonable audience and maybe even some financial compensation. This is the main thing that has happened in my life this year.

Starting in later September, I had a series of creative and scholarly publication acceptances that have continued into as late as last week. I don’t usually say this stuff so explicitly, because I feel in our writerly and academic culture, it’s obnoxious to talk about your successes without feigning humility or being at least a little bit self-deprecating. I am good at doing both of those things, but for this moment, because this is my blog, I’m just going to say that I have accomplished a lot this year and I am quite proud. Between my NY Times Modern Love essay, fiction and creative nonfiction publications in my favorite magazines, being a finalist for an International Literary Award in creative nonfiction, winning a fiction contest with a journal I’ve admired for a decade, and having my first peer reviewed publication acceptance, I feel like I’m finally building a foundation for myself in the various fields I have my feet in at any given time.

I’ve had to think a lot this year about who I am. An academic. A teacher. A writer. It took me months to even use the word writer, and I am trying to own it a bit more, but I’ve always struggled with labels, which if you know me is something you already know. More than anything, I’m happy to have gained respect and recognition from writers and academics I admire, because for me success has always meant simply being able to talk to and work with people whose work inspires me most.

I have to make a lot of decisions lately about how to divide my time between writing my dissertation, writing this book of essays, and working on this long form nonfiction desert project, but I find that the more work I have to do, the more work I get done. I’m also really grateful to be on fellowship this coming year so that I can have the next 14 months to write and write and write and not attend to anyone else’s needs {in a work capacity} but my own. Though I’m going to miss teaching terribly, as I think that’s the primary thing I care about most with respect to the many hats I try to wear these days.

I’ve also ventured into love in a much braver way than ever before. I started dating which is something I’d not previously done. I had a variety of different kinds of relationships, and all of that has culminated in the most beautiful, most surprising love I could have ever hoped for. I never knew love could be like this, but I won’t say anything more about that for the moment because one other thing I’ve figured out this year is how to have a bit more restraint and discretion when necessary.

That restraint has come after a long, continuing battle with all the destructive things I do to myself. Eating terribly, falling into a hole and never coming out to exercise, smoking, drinking, chasing heartbreak, etc etc etc. I seem to keep sinking this year into bad places. As proud as I am of my accomplishments this year, I’d be lying by omission if I didn’t acknowledge the many ways in which I am disappointed in myself for some of my behavior. This started in October when I kinda collapsed under the stress of my pending Modern Love publication. And since then things have been a bit of a roller coaster. March got especially bad and I think I’m still digging myself out of that hole. Being up here in Canada the past ten days has granted me a lot of much needed perspective, so I am hoping that I can level out again and start 28 on Friday the same way I started 27, which is calm and steady and sure.

Soon I will update about Canada and the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, since that has been a career game changer for which I am forever grateful. For now, I will board a plane to Seattle, then a plane to Denver. I will once again be able to use my phone to call the people I love instead of depending on Skype, serendipity, and unreliable wifi connections. I will get to see my best friend who just came home from the Peace Corps after two and a half years. I will get to see friends visiting Colorado from out of town. I will get to be with my animals and my parents, and I will get to turn 28 in my favorite place on earth.


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