Wholly Fabi

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Why I Let Myself Go (And Maybe You Should Too)

This is the last day of the craziest year of my life.

366 days ago exactly—because this was a leap year—I wrote this as a wish for myself:

Here’s to another year.
Here’s to giving even less f*cks.
Here’s to more joy and more adventures.
Here’s to being more, feeling more, living more.

And live more I did.

Did I have a deeply ingrained feeling that 37 was going to be different? Yes, absolutely. But little did I know just how much.


THE SECRET TO REVERSE-AGING

Did that catch your eye? Good, I was aiming for that.

It actually comes from a funny conversation I had with a friend a few months ago. We hadn’t seen each other in about a year, and when our paths crossed at a conference, she laughingly approached me and admitted that she hadn’t recognized me at first, and asked if I’d found the secret to reverse-aging.

This would have just been a sweet compliment if it wasn’t for the fact that I’d had several people had made similar comments of late—friends, acquaintances and even strangers online and in real life (like the cashier who had the hardest time believing that I was the age indicated on my ID card, but had to accept it because people don’t typically pretend to be in their late 30’s).

What exactly had I done to suddenly give off that vibe?

The last twelve months crystallized the very slow work I’d been doing for the last few years, when I decided that something had to be done after hitting a wall and feeling like I’d completely lost myself.

One of the most important parts of that work has been taking the time to examine all of the labels that I’d chosen to wear—consciously or not—over the span of my adult life. While some were clearly hurtful, and clearly needed to be shed for me to thrive, not everything was so clear-cut.

As women, we usually feel compelled—especially as we age—to take on loads of identities. Whether these serve us or not is a different story. 

Many of these choices are motivated by deep love, and a wish to care for those around us, and so we don’t ever believe that we could possibly be harming ourselves by taking them on.

Loving parent? Helpful friend? Devoted partner? Loyal employee? Why would we question these?

And these are all, indeed, on the surface, absolutely positive. But, as is the case with so many things in life, it’s when we scratch past the surface that we get to the real juicy stuff and that we let some real answers emerge.


CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER OVERACHIEVER

I will never hide the fact that I’m a recovering perfectionist. Or that I used to derive a lot of my worth from all that I could achieve. And I could achieve a lot.

Since life has a lot of timing and a wicked sense of humour, Facebook actually reminded me of this status earlier this week. Incidentally, I couldn’t think of a better way to illustrate where I was standing 5 years ago:

overachiever

I can’t help but shake my head looking at this now, as I can now easily translate this into: Look at me! Look at how busy I am! Look at how organized I am! Look at all that I’m doing! 

Just reading it makes me tired, actually. And also a little sad. Because I know that behind all the achieving, and the checklists, and the busyness, I didn’t really know who I was anymore. But by keeping busy, I could also avoid asking myself that question.

What changed?

I let myself go. Or rather, I let go of all the expectations that I’d placed upon myself, and waited to see what would emerge. 

This last year represented a huge break from my life of the last few years: leaving the stability of a corporate job and saying YES to a lifelong dream—something I’d never given myself permission to consider before; becoming a student again to gain the credentials I needed to pursue my new path; finding an authentic voice in my writing—which had been completely shut down for more than a decade—and daring to put myself in the public sphere; the list could go on for a long time.

What became quickly apparent through this process is that I couldn’t keep up with all the shoulds of my former life and still devote the required energy to creating this new incarnation of myself.

I had to make choices—daring choices, even—and release from many of my self-imposed identities in order to find out what was really going on underneath.

To truly remember who I was.

I came to find out that me—the vibrant me whom I remembered from very specific periods of my life but who also seemed to go completely underground for long stretches, leaving me numb and stiff—was still there all along; she was just waiting for me to find her again.

The boldness, the creativity, the nonconformity, the inspiration.

Still there, still mine.

I had thought them exhausted, a thing of the past. It turns out they are actually richer, even, as a result of the passing years.

The great thing about getting older is that
you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.

Madeleine L’Engle

Will 38 continue this reverse-aging trend? Who knows?

But all that I’ve discovered by “letting myself go” will certainly stay with me now, gently nudging me to keep digging, to keep growing and above all, reminding me not to use doing instead of being.


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3 Comments

  1. Absolutely love this! Such a great reality check for a fellow over-achiever!

  2. This is amazing. Thank you for this post – it’s a good reminder to someone like me who is still too much of a perfectionist. What a great message!!

  3. Thanks for writing this. It is very hard to find women talking about the stuff you wrote about here. Usually it is talk about competition with other women, who let theirselves go, who has the best figure, what new diet and how much weight loss etc..it gets depressing and exhausting. So glad to read something like this.

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