A Year Out and the 365 Project

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I have been on a blogginating roll over the last few weeks.  Between this little page and my yoga page and the various websites I write for, I’ve been posting something practically every day.  Part of me saw this rapid-fire writing and went, “Is someone missing her 365 challenge?”

In 2013, I decided to do a 365 Project.  Typically, it’s something for photographers: take and post a picture every day for a year.  But I decided to put a writer’s spin on it: write every day — every single day — for 365 days.  It didn’t have to be good — it didn’t even have to be coherent — but it did have to be every day.

I started it barely a month after quitting a field that I had sworn up and down was my calling.  I started it when my tai chi instructor — who had been pressuring me to start teaching for months — gave me a chance to finally teach and I was still such a burnt out shell that I didn’t even know if I could handle teaching a few classes a week.  I started it when, once again, life was flipped upside down: only two years after getting married, moving to New Hampshire, and changing jobs (all within the span of a month), I was now moving further up north, moving into my first house, and moving in as jobless former teacher (also all within the span of a month).

I don’t know what I’m more proud of: the fact that I actually *completed* the damn challenge or the fact that I had captured some pretty transformative 365 days.  It captured my move, my days with yoga teacher training, my misadventures, my passive-aggressive barbs at someone I still harbored a gnarly grudge against (a grudge I’ve thankfully dropped somewhere along the line).  I wrote guardedly, I wrote vulnerably, I wrote just to get the damn post done that day.  I wrote poetically and pragmatically and grammatically-incorrectly.  But I did it.  From August 2013 to August 2014.

Now I’m going over some of the entries, reading over what was going through my mind.  Reading over everything I documented, the opinion entries that would eventually turn into Thought Catalog (the website that started all of my internet writing) pieces, the entries that made it sound like I finally and seriously had my shit together.

Some entries make me smile, some make me shake my head, others make me ache.  And some just hurt for the sheer fact that life is no longer like whatever it was that I wrote about.

Life has been a gigantic retrospective in some ways as of late.  I guess that’s what you do when you’re petrified of the future — when that fear fluctuates between the adrenaline-fueled rush before skydiving and the impending dread of potentially falling off a cliff.

It’s what you do when you feel like you haven’t had a moment to settle into whatever new version of “you” is for longer than a minute before something knocks you over, turns you around, makes you reconsider what defines you.  When life has had you on the spin cycle for so long, you honestly don’t know what it’s like to have both feet on the ground.  So you anchor yourself on nostalgia.  You anchor yourself on the past, because the present is shaky and the future is wildly unpredictable.

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And that’s what you do — when you’re in a perpetual cartwheel, you reference back.  Here’s a time when one hand was planted on the ground.  Here’s a time when there were two.  Here’s a time when technically I was defying gravity and everything was off the ground.  Here’s a rare moment when both feet were planted and it looks like I had been standing still the entire time.

And that’s part of the reason why I write.  I don’t just write to get blog hits (although it does feed my ego, can’t even pretend there).  I don’t just write because, without it, I’d probably burn up and burn out.  I write to document those moments.  Feet on ground.  Feet in air.  Body technically parallel with the earth.  Because change is constant.  If you’re lucky, you can get a false sense that you are on a safe and predictable path.  But that’s really all it is: a false sense.  We’re all a phone call, a car crash, a pink slip, a diagnosis, a chance meeting away from going wildly off course.

I write because the present might be shaky, but it’s really all I have.  This moment, this emotion, these words.  This breath.  And it will transform, evolve, bleed into newer moments.  Moments of extreme change.  Moments of stagnancy.  Moments where time speeds by and moments where every second is agony.  Moments that we could drive ourselves mad trying to predict or anticipate.

But that’s it: moments.  I originally did a 365-day writing challenge to force myself to be a bolder writer, to write with more abandon and less reserve.  But the real takeaway was that I captured 365 moments of all shapes, sizes, and varieties.

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Now I am almost a full year out from the project.  I’m toeing into August of 2015, knowing full well that life is nothing like what it was when I was toeing into August of 2014.  It is very easy for me to look back on some of the posts — to look back on any writing that I do — and go, “This is the shittiest, most melodramatic thing I have ever written.”  It’s very easy to take the times where I was the most open & vulnerable in my writing and feel extremely exposed, making me wish I kept all of this in a private journal that no one else could read.

But that’s also life: we look back on the emotionally intense times and can’t help but feel shitty, melodramatic, perhaps a little too exposed for our comfort.  It makes us wish we could keep it all private, bottled away so no one else would have to read into just all the dark and complicated ways we tick.  We don’t like admitting even to ourselves that we deviate from the cool & collected ideal society would like us to be.

We don’t like admitting that we can’t take back or recreate moments.  We don’t like admitting that we can’t predict the future moments.  And so perhaps a huge reason I write is because it’s all a reminder — a reminder I constantly need reminding of — that these moments make up one seriously incredible story, and it’s okay if certain chapters veer left, if certain passages are hard to read, if there are plot twists and cliffhangers.  These are the moments you have to embrace.  Because, no matter what, eventually that story ends.  Not just the chapter.  Not just the passage.  The whole story eventually ends.  Eventually there will be no more moments.

And so I continue to cartwheel.  I continue to document that cartwheel, doing my best to not forget that the part where, in order to cartwheel, I have to throw my hands up in the air, trust my own abilities, and be okay with getting dizzy.

(For those curious about my 365 Blog Project, you can follow the link here.  I really can’t recommend the activity enough to any and all aspiring writers — even if your 365 Blog Project is more like a 30-Day Blog Project.)

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