For the most part, I write exactly what I think. I pride myself on it, actually—that on this URL, the one place I can write for fun on the internet, I transcribe my unfiltered thoughts.
But the thing about writing versus speaking is there is this itty-bitty thing called a delete key. Which I use often. When I write a sentence that’s sorta what I meant to say but not really, I scrap it and try another way. You can’t do that with speaking.
You know what else you can’t do? You can’t read through your first draft. You can’t type up a thousand words on a given topic and take a walk around the block, come back to a Word doc with fresh eyes, and see if it sounds as good on paper as it did in your head. You can’t reflect on it and identify the points you started rambling on and the points you didn’t hit (but wish you did).
Never have I ever been interviewed for a podcast, other than my own. I was not thrilled about the process. After three rescheduled interviews the only reason I can give as to why I’d rather ask the questions than answer them, is exactly what I just spent four paragraphs ranting about. I had so many things I wanted to say, and my fear was I would walk away talking about details that didn’t matter and forget large themes that did.
I could write individual blog posts on each of these, but these are the three biggest points I wanted to hit home in my interview that I didn’t really convey. I actually wrote them down twenty-four hours before Tara and I hit record, determined that if I was forced to spend an hour talking about myself, I was going to talk about this.
So here it is.
#1: Be grateful for every mistake you ever made.
In my twenties, I fucked up a lot.
As I sit here typing this, I am twenty-nine years old, six months away from my thirtieth birthday. I feel more secure, more at home, more like myself, and happier than since I graduated college.
Of all the mistakes I made over the past decade—of which there were a lot—of all the stress I caused my parents and older brother, of all the teary-eyed phone calls my friends answered from states away, I am so thankful for every last one of them. It took me until this year—the very last year of my twenties—to feel that.
I wasted a lot of years and energy being mad at the world because I didn’t want to accept life on life’s terms, thinking the world owed me something because I existed on it and apparently that makes me different than the other six billion people here with me.
I am a I-need-to-touch-the-hot-stove kind of person, and every mistake I made over the past decade was a lesson I was always meant to learn. It made me more resilient (as almost always happens as a result of unfortunate circumstances), but it also made me calmer. Things that would have seemed like the END OF THE WORLD at twenty-two are just part of daily life now. One of my favorite quotes of all time is my friend Nora saying, “This is not genocide,” which is something I tell myself on repeat.
#2: If you don’t choose your own destinations, something else will.
I moved around, a lot. Twice in my life, I filed taxes in three different states in a single year. H&R Block makes a killing on me. And the funny thing about my peripatetic lifestyle is I ended up in the city I once left. Now I cling to that city as if it’s my safe haven, protecting me from all the shit I dealt with elsewhere.
I could tell you a million reasons as to why I moved around so much in my twenties, but here’s the truth. I moved for two reasons: Either I wondered mindlessly into an option laid out for me, or I ran away from something with no conscious destination. Both got me into trouble.
Up until the day I moved to DC (the first time) I was a driven individual. You never had to push me to work toward or be motivated to do something—I was overly ambitious on my own. But looking back on it, I wasn’t driven because I was some freak-of-nature teenager. I just saw things I wanted and went after them.
But once I graduated college and moved to the east coast (something I said I would do since I was ten), there wasn’t really anything I wanted anymore.
Every decision I made was a reactive one. I got job offers I didn’t care for, and for all intents and purposes went, “Meh, sounds good,” and accepted. It was like life was still moving and I jumped on board for the ride, but I wasn’t steering the train in any particular direction. And when that train off-boarded at its final destination, I was pissed at the world for putting me there.
In late 2014 and early 2015, that changed. I no longer reactively followed life to wherever it took me. I just started running.
That year was the worst year of my life. [Editor’s note: I understand that people reading this could easily roll their eyes, because they’ve dealt with unthinkably horrible things like having a loved one die, which never happened to me. I’m just sharing my experience.]
There are five people in this world who know every detail of that year. One is my brother; the other four live in DC. I never talked or wrote about it—and don’t plan on starting today—but I want to explain how that year put me into flight mode.
There’s a fine, fucked-up line between responsibility and fault. Some things that happen to us are our fault, and others are not. But no matter whose fault it is, it is still our responsibility to handle it, because that’s just how the world works (again, this is me not accepting life on life’s terms).
Instead of taking ownership over things that happened that year, I blamed it on my circumstances. I tried to change my environment, change my city, change my employer—anything except trying to change whatever was going on within me.
#3. All of my mistakes were a result of not asking myself, “What do you want?”
When I came back to DC, after living in five states in five years, I felt like I owed the world something for somehow fucking my life up [Editors note #2: Once again, I realize that my experience and take on fucking my life up is nothing compared to others; and once again, I’m simply sharing my personal experience.].
I honestly thought there was a debt I owed to my own life. That I wondered so many years without direction, it was my duty to make up for that. I unconsciously decided I would no longer “Be Kara,” the girl who always found herself in chaotic situations.
After pursuing nothing for the first half of my twenties, I chose one of the worst things to aim towards: A fucked-up vision of what success looked like. I convinced myself that this was the path I wanted, and I kept convincing myself even when I was completely miserable—something obvious to everyone around me, but me.
And therein lies the entire theme for my entire twenties, in altering stages: Of the shit I got myself into, most of it came as a result for not going after what I truly wanted. I chased skewed visions of success, ran away from things I should have turned around and faced, or allowed myself to step into a reactive life.
It is ironic, and very unfortunate, how we complicate things that should be very simple. And obvious.
A happy life, from what this twenty-nine year old brain is slowly figuring out, is nothing more than asking yourself what you want, then pursuing the answer.
I outsourced finance in college, so it should have been obvious that a career in investments was not my life’s calling. I left my home in Iowa—which I love—because I absolutely despise cold winter, so it should have been obvious that Boston was not an ideal city for me.
Today, my life makes a lot of sense. I’ve spent a small fortune in parking tickets and totaled vehicles, so I live in a city and neighborhood where I don’t own a car. I wrote for fun for years, and now I write for a living. A healthy lifestyle is important to me, so working for myself, which allows me to cook all my own meals and go on several walks a day, makes me feel grounded.
I never expected to type fifteen hundred words this morning, so I will leave you with this:
You are in control of your life. Not your parents, not your friends, not your coworkers or employer. You are the one who has to live it every second of every mind-fucking day, and therefore you, and only you, get to choose how you live it.
Every day, wake up and ask yourself what you want from that day. Then go do it. Repeat the process again and again until you look around and realize you built a life that you actually enjoy. There are no rules you need to follow, no debt you owe to society. And unlike what I thought for most of my twenties, the only thing you truly owe yourself is to move toward the things you want, and away from those you don’t.
All my best,