Recently, I was on a particularly turbulent flight back to Charlotte from a work event in Indianapolis. I’ve flown enough to not flinch at the occasional “bing-bong” signaling passengers to keep their seat belts fastened, but the persistent bumps and shakes and rocks were enough to break my concentration. I looked up from the book I was reading and scanned the clouds outside my window, searching for an early sign of descent.
We still had 45 minutes to go.
I turned back to my book, pretending to read while, unconsciously, my palms grew sweaty. But although my eyes were scanning the lines of text, I was no longer absorbing any of the words or ideas.
This went on for awhile as the flight attendants cancelled the in-flight service and retreated to the back of the aircraft. I didn’t have my standard ginger ale to distract me on my tray table. And I couldn’t read. It was just me, alone with my thoughts.
Then, after what seemed like forever, I saw our first break out of the clouds. I watched as, slowly, plots of land appeared, then highways, cars, treetops, the airport, and finally, our wheels hit the tarmac. I breathed a sigh of relief (not that I was ever really worried), and texted my husband:
“Just landed. It was a turbulent flight. I’m happy to be back on the ground!”
It was similar to how I felt when we hit the one-year anniversary of our somewhat tumultuous first year of marriage. As we approached the date, I mentally reset. It’s that same feeling of hope and renewal that most people experience on New Year’s Day. Like the past can’t touch you anymore.
A few months after our wedding, we packed up our lives, moved to a new city, and started new jobs. In addition to these changes, we lost a collective four grandparents and one uncle. It sounds silly to say now, but being a newlywed gave me a false sense of immunity. Like we had a one-year pass to experience nothing but breakfasts in bed and snuggles and adventure. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. We couldn’t help but feel that life had beaten us up a little bit, and all we wanted was to get our feet back on the ground.
During this time, I allowed myself to wallow. My evenings and weekends became a blur of yoga pants and fast food and binge-watching Netflix shows I didn’t even like that much. But it filled the hours. And it allowed me to heal.
Then, February approached and my scabs started to grow itchy. I felt a break through the clouds. I thought to myself, is this really how I want to live? Is this really how I want to love? What happened to my hobbies? (No, streaming television shows doesn’t count.) When was the last time I learned something new? Took a class? Went outside of my comfort zone for something other than work?
To motivate myself, I set out to make a bucket list. I pulled myself off the couch, reached for my pink, leather-bound journal I bought in Martha’s Vineyard, opened to a fresh page, and wrote at the top: “30 Things I’d Like to Do Before I Turn 30.” In consultation with my husband, we mainly filled it with experiences surrounding food and travel. But then I thought: what happens after I turn 30? I have to give up and move to the suburbs? I didn’t want to end up right back in the same spot in just a few short years.
(Also, let’s be honest. The combined salaries of a teacher and a copywriter don’t exactly have a cushion for multiple grandiose vacations per year. I was setting myself up for failure.)
So instead I decided to set out on a journey of self-improvement by rediscovering my hobbies. The beauty of self-improvement is that it never ends. You can never exhaust new knowledge or skills or experiences. And that’s the premise of this site.
We’re on year 2, we’re back on the ground, and I’m coming out swinging.
Aside from hating flying, I really enjoyed the post. Me and my wife just celebrated our first year anniversary, and we didn’t have to go through the pain of losing so many loved ones, but it wasn’t always easy. The idea of starting the second year is REALLY exciting.
P.S. I really enjoyed the “Also, let’s be honest. The combined salaries of a teacher and a copywriter don’t exactly have a cushion for multiple grandiose vacations per year”
Thanks! I love your blog too – it’s true, so many newlywed experiences come from the female perspective, not the male perspective. I also feel like there are so many blogs about the wedding and planning the wedding, but nothing about the realities of marriage. That’s what I hope to discuss!