January post-mortem

So how am I feeling at the end of month one?  Pretty good, to be honest.  It wasn’t nearly as hard to buy nothing new as I expected.  Granted, I did have that one slip up due to a combination of unusual circumstances, not planning ahead well enough, and general unwillingness to put myself through the torturous experience of shopping for pants.  But I didn’t feel constrained this month, as though trapped in some bubble world where I could watch the rest of society move about normally in realms I could not access.

Did I miss shopping?  I cannot lie, occasionally I thought of all the money I could save on stuff I don’t even need.  But life has been very full this month.  Instead of dumping hours into online sites or wading through stores I cooked.  Read.  Wrote.  Caught up with friends.  Began jogging again.  Sent some letters, actual handwritten notes on stationery I’ve had since middle school.  Found an internship opportunity.  Started a collaborative photography project with friends.

I like this version of my life.  It’s closer to the lifestyle I’d like to lead.  It’s also more balanced.  Towards the end of last semester I grew increasingly dependent on shopping and sewing to balance the stress of school.  Remove shopping from the equation, and other hobbies flourish.  Without the material distractions that create an external definition of self, I’ve been able to focus on internal recalibration.  This is not a radical departure from the Jessica of 2008 but rather a distillation process.  Remove the dead wood to let half-hidden gems shine through.  2009 is about chipping away at the soil around those half-hidden gems, buffing them, learning to work them seamlessly into daily life.

A balanced approach to life means spreading the self-worth eggs into multiple baskets.  It means identifying with multiple parts of my personality.  Just as a three-legged chair is more stable than a two-legged chair, the more identities we create for ourselves the more stable our self-identity becomes.  Baker, crafter, student, friend, runner, photographer, daughter, volunteer, and yes, maybe even writer.

Balance is especially helpful in a society that places so much stock in careers to define who we are.  In my case, this means my identity defined by measures of student success (Grades!  Classes!  Collaborations with professors!), and, by extension, my post-graduation plans.  To solely define myself along these lines, particularly when I’m just acclimating to this program and have quite woolly plans at best, is to throw open the door and invite in self-doubt, anxiety, and depression with wide open arms, particularly if I kick sanity out the door as well and compare myself to my fellow students, an impressive lot to say the least.

Classes start Monday.  I’m excited.  It’s going to be a good semester.  I’m also excited for a new challenge in February.  January accomplished everything it was supposed to accomplish.  I’m ready for more.

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