Answers. I have been obsessed with answers.
This morning, I dreamed that someone stood before me and said: “The answers to life’s questions don’t always reveal themselves when or how you want them to. But they always reveal themselves as they should.”
I usually don’t remember my dreams. I think I held onto this one because a big part of me has been preoccupied with whether this upcoming year will be better or worse than the last.
2015 was a hard year. I believe in karma, and I faced enough misfortune this year to suspect that I’d crossed her somehow. At some point, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and decided that it was narcissistic, weak and shortsighted of me to think this way. Misfortune happens to everyone. Sometimes it’s deserved. Sometimes it isn’t. The only way to conquer misfortune is to recognize it not necessarily as a punishment, but as a force meant to incite action and growth into newer, better versions of ourselves.
Still, the need for answers nag at me. I want the answers to my life’s biggest questions when I want them. I want to know that everything’s going to be okay, that my fears aren’t as crazy or as likely as they seem. I want the reassurance that life isn’t really as hard or as scary as it often feels, and that I’m not actually alone in my pain or doubts about the future.
I want answers that tell me it really does get better.
A few weeks ago, I read Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes: How To Dance It Out, Stand In The Sun & Be Your Own Person. I thought it would be the perfect way to end 2015, gain clarity on my life ahead and give my writing a boost of novelty and insight.
I enjoyed her work. But it wasn’t what I was looking for.
Don’t get me wrong; Rhimes wrote a beautiful book. She spun a simple premise of forcing herself to say ‘yes’ to more engagements in her professional and familial life into a sweeping manifesto for ambitious women that need a confidence boost.
Her voice is hyper and colorful, just like the mind of a writer who’s constantly racing to get the thoughts and scenes that are running wild in her head out onto the page before her. Rhimes is endearing because she’s humble and she has a wonderful sense of humor about herself. More than that, she has a wealth of insightful things to say about being fearless, as well as on the importance of celebrating ourselves as women. Any of us can take something meaningful from what she writes, as Rhimes talks at length about the importance of standing up for ourselves and in doing what we know is right in our hearts (even if it’s not the popular choice and others are pressuring us to do otherwise).
Still, Rhimes’ work came off as awfully fluffy and un-relatable—a giant humble brag, if you will. Reading about Rhimes’ lavish life posing for magazine covers, delivering speeches, being her own boss, getting courted for interviews by Oprah and Jimmy Kimmel, and turning down marriage proposals was ultimately a brutal reminder that my life was hardly the crystal stair that hers was in 2015.
For Shonda Rhimes, 2014 (and presumably 2015 as well) was a year of ‘yes.’ For me, 2015 was a year of questions. And hardship.
It had a mellow and optimistic start. But by March, the questions started coming, and they began piling on in quickening succession. All of the questions were difficult, but they grew more serious and complicated over time. Questions like:
How do I live with a woman that I can’t stand?
Am I actually friends with my best friend, or do I just entertain this person because I have a history with her?
How do I tell my other best friend that I love and appreciate him without scaring him away or angering/alienating his wife?
Why won’t my boyfriend tell me that he loves me?
Was breaking up with my boyfriend really the right thing to do?
Why do I have feelings for another man that I hardly even know?
Where am I going to lay my head at night four weeks from now when my lease is up?
How am I supposed to be successful and independent when I don’t even make a consistent paycheck?
Can I pursue my writing career without having to live in New York?
Should I give this new guy a chance?
Why am I still sleeping with my rapist? And why do I feel so guilty and conflicted about leaving this person behind?
And finally, the hardest one of all:
How am I supposed to live a vibrant and fulfilling life now that I’ve been diagnosed with a lifelong disease?
I didn’t know what struggle was before this year began. I didn’t know what being an adult really meant before this year began, either.
Until now, adulthood always seemed like a breezy, inevitable stage of life that gave us the freedom and autonomy we often crave but never have as children. In truth, adulthood is about grappling with the pros and cons resulting from the decisions that we make for ourselves. It’s about creating our own joy when hardship starts piercing at our skin and challenging our sanity. More than anything, it’s about persevering through each day—especially when the answers to life’s biggest questions aren’t readily apparent to us. It’s about forcing ourselves out of bed in the morning and doing our best, especially when not having the answers makes life feel too overwhelming to deal with all together.
A lot of these questions still plague me. For the others, their answers revealed themselves and pushed me to make the decisions that have shaped my life today. Those decisions have led to more challenges and setbacks than comfort and progress. Those challenges have forced me to admit that I’m not the same woman I was when I officially joined Team Beautiful a year ago—for better and for worse.
The progress I have made, however, is that I’ve stopped waiting around for the answers. I stopped hibernating in bed out of fear, too. Yes, the desire for answers still nag at me incessantly. But that desire is just something I’ve learned to live with.