"You have the option to choose saving yourself from REGRET, which is an open hearted space, rather than saving yourself from EMBARRASSMENT, which is a closed hearted space."
It took me a lot longer to put this together, but it was worth it. People always shit on New Year’s resolutions, but the reality is that we keep making them. That’s because people like setting intentions for themselves. It’s okay if you fail or change your mind—you’re just taking stock of your life.
I used The Desire Map to structure my intentions for the year. I loved every second of the process, which helps you figure out what you really want to feel first before you set any goals. Any goals you set are in service to your core desired feelings. Simple but still kind of revolutionary. Categories below are also from the book. Danielle Laporte is legit.
Core desired feelings: ease, openness, connection, love, bold
2014 core intentions:
- Work on a major writing project
- Volunteer locally and regularly
- Strengthen relationships
- Challenge my body
Lifestyle and Livelihood (work, money, travel, home, style)
- Knit on another major project at work; own it
- Get someone to help me with my money stuff
- Max out 401K
- Freelance meaningfully without burning out
- Make the effort to decorate my apartment
- Travel every quarter
- Trip to Berlin to see Cieran?
- Vegas weekend to see Britney/Celine (Divas Weekend)
- Columbia 5-year reunion
- Visit Seattle, L.A., Austin, others to see friends
- International trip options: Tokyo, South Africa, China
Body and Wellness (fitness, food, mental health, rest, movement, sensuality)
- Go on Bay Area hikes bimonthly+ (Use Bay Area Hiker as a guide.)
- Continue training 3X/week
- Try new classes: more yoga, dance, barre, TRX
- Swimming lessons in the summer
- Keep up with Invisalign; start saving for LASIK
- Flirt more
- Consider an SF therapist
- Move everyday
Relationships and Society (romance, friendship, family, community, causes, collaboration)
- Find a regular volunteering opportunity that’ll help me connect better with the city
- Give 5 percent of my income to Islamic Relief
- Reconnect with friends
- Host a party/organize a gathering once a quarter
- Never trade up for better plans
- Visit home once a quarter
- Collaborate with someone on a creative project
- Get a mentor / Mentor someone
- Be someone reliable and available instead of someone who hates phone calls, texting and emails
- Help friends in need, especially those looking for jobs
- Revive SLIST as a way to connect
- Deeper conversations with grandparents to fill in the dots
- Get laid, probably. Maybe. Just once?
Creativity and Learning (hobbies, interests, education, artistic self-expression)
- Resume Arabic study
- Read a shitload of books and track on Goodreads (50 for the year?)
- Visit major SF cultural institutions: symphony, ballet, Kink
- Take Skillshare classes
- Stop being afraid to write the scary shit
- Write the scary shit
- Treat writing as more of a craft and less of a thing that happens miraculously once in awhile—practice and take classes, like Cheryl Strayed’s summer workshop at Esalen
- Put together a more substantial writing project
Essence and Spirituality (soul, inner truth, faith, practices)
- Continue almost-daily meditation
- Take another solo Christmas retreat
- Seek out a religious adviser
- Soul strolls
"In the depths of winter, I learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
In recent months, I’ve felt the urge to take a personal retreat, a time to assess where I’m at and think about the future. On the surface, I wanted to stop talking so much, eat delicious, healthy things, stay active and read everything. Preferably somewhere beautiful and without a wi-fi signal.
I don’t want to share where I stayed, to be honest, because there’s something sacred about this place for me now. I can tell you that I was in a retreat in a jungle off the side of a mountain range somewhere quite warm and right next to the ocean . There were about 10 other people staying in different casitas, lovely open air spaces where I showered outside and lit candles and oil lamps to see after sundown. Our rooms were separated by sloping trails, and we’d hike up together for meals and the occasional yoga.
The weather was warm, and I had access to a private beach. I brought a ton of books, a few journals, some music, a flashlight, nice underthings.
I can tell you that this retreat was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I set intentions in a mini-opening ceremony:
“Over the next week, I ask myself: “What can I do to feel more loved?,” “How can I get rid of the cloud of sadness that follows me each year no matter where I live, or what I do?” and “What are my true desires?”
Every morning, I woke to the sound of rowdy chachalaca birds. I navigated around paths of poop from a family of gray foxes. I read A New Earth, The Glass Castle, The Road, A Visit from the Goon Squad and Americanah. I used Danielle Laporte’s The Desire Map to drill down on my real feelings and plan out the next year. I never wore makeup, and there weren’t any mirrors.
The food was a feast: all organic, gluten-free, incredibly delicious. I had cream of almond and broccoli soup, grouper, quinoa, coconut ice cream, tofu, pumpkin tart, apple crumble, huevos rancheros, shrimp, chestnut and ginger soup, granola and many cups of tea.
I bouldered across different beaches, proud of myself for making the climb. I held my hands up in the air in front of wild, crashing waves and sang “My Heart Will Go On” at the top of my lungs. Huge swaths of time, I was the only person around, and I took advantage by skipping, singing and stopping when and where I wanted. I siestaed in colorful hammocks strategically placed around the land. I rarely knew what time it was.
I veered a little off course mid-week and made friends. We sat together when humpback whales breached in the ocean in front of us and when Christmas Eve fireworks lit the sky.
Still, I found myself keeping distance. Even in brief, surface-level conversations, I became self-critical and competitive—the exact feelings I was trying to avoid. I didn’t come to judge or be judged. For the rest of the trip, I minimized interaction to some meals (worried, then, I was coming off as too rude) until the last night when I decided an evening of flirtation and community were what I wanted.
I woke up in the middle of one night to the most awe-inspiring thunderstorm I’d ever experienced. Every beat, lightning lit up the entire jungle. Thunder cracked with power and brute force. The rain was relentless. The swinging doors of my casita opened a few times, but I was dry. I covered my books with a towel and teared up for the first and only time that week. The rain forced cleansing. It rained for hours, and I stayed up to write. Gradually, the lightning slowed to three beats. Then four. Then five. The jungle was the quietest it had been since I arrived, thirsty creatures and plants offering their silent gratitude.
Even paradise can feel constricting. I ventured off into town one afternoon and was overwhelmed by the noise, the people, the crowded beach. I quickly returned to my escape.
Instead of one giant, emotional epiphany, I had several small moments of clarity.
A laundry list of things I know to be true:
- The only way to feel more love is to give more love.
- People are both good and bad. They cheat and lie and change their mind and talk shit but no one is unforgivable.
- Nothing lasts forever. Nothing.
- Part of life is suffering and pain. Part of life is joy. My life is about maximizing joy and respecting the pain. There will be more pain. There will be more joy.
- I am still becoming who I am.
- You cannot always choose what happens to you but you can choose how you feel about everything after.
- When you know better, it’s your absolute imperative to do better. You can’t just keep fucking married men or sleeping around half-heartedly or getting used by exes when you know it’s wrong and you know it’s not serving you.
- I will experience lasting romantic love again. It may happen next year, it may happen in 10 years. I need to just be fucking excited about it in the meantime.
- There is god. God controls the rain.
(I believe the cool kids would say “#nofilter.”)
"Power is being told you are not loved and not being destroyed by it."
- A family that desperately cares
- The ladies of the Pinterest writing team
- The Denny’s receipt on my bed that reminds me I’m still not very classy
- Cheryl Strayed / Sugar, for writing like a motherfucker
- Blue-Green smoothies from The Plant, my only source of greens during the week
- Monday, Wednesday, Friday workouts with Hassan
- Cultural conflict, for that extra perspective
- Slow-jogs to the Golden Gate Bridge
- Deepak Chopra and Oprah, for the daily omms
- My fabulous eyebrows
- Leaving New York when times were good
- Knowing when to say goodbye to unreliable people
- Saying goodbye even when you’re not ready
- Being pretty unabashed about the Backstreet Boys
- Papercuts, which seem rarer each year
- My iPad, for getting me to read again (it hurts to say this)
- "Make Believe" from In a World Like This
- Personalized notebooks from Mayfair
- The Place Pins team and launch party
- The Best of Depeche Mode
- Self-awareness in all things
- Connie Britton’s hair
- BK, IC-B, TG, LBK, EG, MP, VN, MG, SB, BB, SA, AH, PG, JP
- Puerto Rico with my favorite minorities
- Hearing the adhan in Istanbul
- The last few minutes of This is the End
- Hot air balloons in Cappadoccia
- Frank Marquardt, for everything
- "What Does the Fox Say?"
- Dinners at The Brickyard
- Genuinely being happy for the engaged
- Seeing past schmoozers
- Anyone who questions authority and the status quo
- Monthly delight from PopSugar’s Must-Have Box
- Macaroni and cheese, always
- Skiptifitor Fridays
- Jesus and Muhammad in the Hagia Sophia
- Julie Klausner’s “How Was Your Week?” podcast
- Miley Cyrus
- A job that feeds me, mentally and actually
- A CEO I believe in
- The absurdity of Scandal
- A brother who can truly bail me out
- When he calls you back after a year, and you get to reject him this time
- Tuesday night Zumba with Pablo
- Viva Goa’s chicken biryani
- SFO, an airport I could live in
- Thai massages from Lamai Thai Massage on Chestnut St.
- Knowing that I have enough
- Mozzarella sticks
- Amazon Prime
- Keeping birthdays simple and small
- A healthy digestive system
- People who forgive me for being so bad at returning calls and texts
- People who know never to text me
- Health insurance
- Journalist friends, who are fighting the good fight and enriching me with stories
- Neena, my New York therapist, for telling me: “I don’t ever worry about you.”
- Frances Ha, The Spectacular Now, 12 Years a Slave
- Friends who visit
- Iced Grande Nonfat Green Tea Latte Shaken, Light Ice, Unsweetened (and the baristas who can dig it)
I have a history of writing things that hurt people.
When I was in high school, I kept a blog that was widely read (and often scorned) by my group of friends. In it, I was reckless with my emotions and opinions, often exaggerating about certain events, and I received enough hateful anonymous comments in return to trick myself into thinking I was someone important, someone who was better than the place I came from.
In college, I kept a different blog that was more discreet but served as a harrowing chronology of my battle with depression and heartbreak.
Then I stopped writing. Aside from a few well-received personal essays (well, my family wasn’t crazy about them), I’ve kept relatively quiet on the self-publishing front. And it’s been a good thing, I think. I’m an undisciplined, emotional writer, and I tend to write only when I’m feeling very badly. The fact that I haven’t regularly written in years only speaks to how much progress I’ve made in becoming a human adult with more control over my emotions.
I would like to write again, though, and I’d like to do it in a way that’s not completely destructive. I’ve been processing a lot of events from my past, and I’d like to write about them without being completely afraid of what people will think of me or how people will react.
Consider this my only preface.
"The summary of my life is three statements: I was immature, I became experienced, I was consumed."
Finished Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and I feel totally gutted. Having a lot of complicated feelings about my family, specifically my mother and how I’ve been treating her all these years. Also spending a ton of time alone right now, by choice, and I can’t tell if it’s a form of pre-depression or just a reality of adulthood. I don’t need people as much as I did when I was young.
On a positive note, I think that Wild may be the book that gets me to write again.
7 years. Still here.
"A huge appetite for success and an equally deep desire for simplicity."
"A woman saying yes to a date with a man is literally insane, and ill-advised, and the whole species’ existence counts on them doing it. I don’t know how women still go out with guys when you consider that there’s no greater threat to women than men. We’re the number one threat to women! Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women, we’re the worst thing that ever happens to them. If you’re a guy, try to imagine that you could only date a half-bear, half-lion, like, “Ugh, I hope this one’s nice.”"
"The past is always tense, the future perfect."