wordsmith + lover of language

a (really bad) dog year

The past year has felt like I’ve been running a marathon. And halfway through, it started raining really hard, which was already terrible, but then I looked down and realized I’ve been running all this time in the rain with only one shoe on. Considering the most I’ve run in the last year is an arduous mile and a half, you can imagine the tragedy of this scene. I can’t even see the finish line, I actually don’t know where it is. So I’m just running and running and running feeling weighed down, driven only by finding the end because dammit — I know it’s out there!

I was talking to a friend recently who said, “You know, some years are just dog years. You feel like you’ve lived through seven years in one.” We talked about how the worst thing is actually knowing it’s a dog year. You can’t really do much to change it, you’re learning a lot but just chugging along because it is what it is: an endless year of painful growth.

When I decided to move to D.C. (decided is a loose word: I lept full force into the opportunity without really considering outcomes because, “it’s not Utah so it can’t be that bad, right?”) I felt like I was on the cusp of a shift in my career. My timeline was finally, finally lining up with what I had imagined for myself. I was getting out of Utah! I was going to do work I was excited about! I was livin’ on my own, man! *finger guns*

What I hadn’t anticipated was even though I genuinely enjoy my work and get opportunities I never imagined, my personal life would crumble to nothing. I would work, go home, eat, sleep, wake up and do it all over again. I would miss my friends more than I thought possible and take every chance I got to spend time in New York where my partner lives.

I would feel incredibly alone and disenchanted with life, a disorienting feeling that’s made me feel like I’m tearing in half. My life is distinctly work and every other weekend I’m allowed some socialization and fun. (And it’s not like I haven’t tried to make friends, it’s just that nothing has clicked. People are busy trying to figure out their own lives and every young, sociable person in my office has moved on to other things.)

I used to be so blithely optimistic. “If you just do your best ~with passion~ good things will come!” Sometimes I refer to past Katherine as an annoying, naive little miss sunshine I’d like to smack with reality, but then I remember reality did smack her for me. Smacked me... Who used to be… her. (This is getting really meta, sorry, bear with me)

The thing is, you can always do your best. You can always “keep keepin’ on” and pretend like the bad and hard things don’t hurt, but they do. And the difference between Lil’ Miss Sunshine and my current curmudgeonly self is that I’ve allowed myself to be deeply affected by the exhaustion, the hard things. Things that used to roll off my back weigh heavily with each step. The endless effort it takes to put your best foot forward despite having lost a shoe, despite being drenched by the rain, despite being so lonely you don’t know how to go on, despite it all, gets too overwhelming.

It’s been good for me to attempt to learn how to manage the angst that comes with a single-shoe-rainy-marathon-running-dog year. But it’s also stripped me of my sense of self. I can’t remember what I’m working so hard for. I don’t really know what the finish line is. It used to be simply, “MOVE TO NEW YORK” in big, bold, skyscraper letters. But now I’m worried about liking whatever job I get in New York. What is that? I could move to New York tomorrow if I wanted, but wouldn’t have a job that I am passionate about. Why is that coming into play now?

Part of growing up, I guess. Realizing there will be sacrifices made for things we want. Sometimes really, really big sacrifices. An entire city of sacrifice. There will be long periods of pain and growth and waiting for something, anything, to confirm we’re doing it right. There will be times we don’t get to live where we want and we miss the people we love so desperately it hurts, but we do get to work where we want and how we want.

I guess all I meant to happen when I wrote this was to let you dog year’ed people know, I feel you. I get it. It really sucks and I understand completely how exhausted you feel. All that’s keeping me going is knowing even dog years have to end sometime. Until then, we’ve gotta suck it up and take the rainy days as they come.

Woof.

-k

Katherine K. EllisComment