In Highland Park, there’s a barre studio by the name of Body Dada that’s adorned in pink lights, with cubbies and lockers in the back, and tiny bamboo shelves reserved for shoes. I went alone and spent $12 on a pair of mandatory grippy socks. Electric disco jam blasted through the speakers while the slender, energetic instructor guided us through the high-energy, low-impact workout. 
We tossed our hair around and stretched on black yoga mats, hip thrusting to the beat of the music and massaging our muscles when it became too intense. At the end of it all, I felt tired and satisfied—the best feeling.
It’s been two months sober, three months since I last smoked, and 364 days since I moved to Los Angeles. I’ve had one lonely albeit fun birthday, two or three ‘just because’ vacations, two oil changes, two apartments, three haircuts, a handful of mental breakdowns, two WIP scripts, many many one-night connections, plenty of trips to the beach, and at least a hundred cups of overpriced coffee.
Someone (it’s very generic) said that if you don’t look back on yourself and cringe, you’re probably not growing. When I think of the most important times in my life, it’s always when I’ve taken the leap to discover what was waiting on the other side of my fear. 
I write a lot about my time in Chicago, because it is and always has been something I’m incredibly proud of. Sure, kids leave home and spend time in another city, tumbling through coursework and shitty weed, caught in the whirlwind of early academia. I’d been to the dispensary too many times to count, and found myself wrapped up in the stress of perfectionism; I cried over my first breakup and listened to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs nonstop, living in what I wanted to be reminiscent of a 2000s indie film.
Chicago gave me a lot more than a degree. I left without friends, and much of a social life, but I had something a lot deeper and it was the ability to figure it out. A well-needed and highly underrated skill that comes only with fucking things up and thinking your way out. Boy, has it been useful in Los Angeles.
The same way I left home at the first chance as a teen, I pulled the trigger on my move in the span of two weeks in the middle of last year’s frigid Midwestern January. Change has always been hard for me to accept, but like everything else in life, it was a conundrum—I was bored, angry, and tired of everything being the same. 
I realized yesterday in a drive on the 110 that I had not given myself enough credit for growing. I’ve always equivalated growth to that which is professional. A new job, a kudos from a boss, a letter of recommendation from a hiring manager, or the so-satisfying title of teacher’s pet. Being ridiculously career-oriented, I forgot about everything else outside of the office. The living part.
When I turned 21 I picked up drinking like I was born for it, and genetically speaking, I kind of was. I looked down on co-dependency, and found myself on the opposite side of the coin, refusing help and reassuring myself I didn’t need people like everybody else. I clung to the routines I hated, judging them as comfortable and familiar. I let my wants drown out my needs and bit my tongue, peace-keeping like I always knew.
Then things changed so quickly. So quickly. 
All of a sudden, I was lonely. I spent so much of my time by myself, as a self-declared introvert, not realizing my chattiness and excitability was a kid inside begging to be let out. Begging to nag, jump, and toy around with self-imposed boundaries. I wanted people. For the first time in my life, I want people. I want friends. I want to show up to their galleries, I want to sleep in the same bed as them, hold their hair when they’ve had too much, pick up croissants from Trader Joes together, (playfully) judge their taste in men and send them photos of things that remind me of them.
I found myself hating the never-changing routines. I cut my hair and realized the shortness of it made it bouncier, and wavier, and my new look made me brighter, somehow. I took different ways home, learning how to weave through the city GPS-less. I let myself get lost and viewed it with curiosity in place of fear. When I grew frustrated with not being heard, or underestimated, I started to speak up and though there were times it wasn’t received well, I’ve stood my ground and demanded to be treated with respect, because regardless of how I feel about myself, I deserve to be treated with kindness.
I put myself in the 2000s indie film again, viewing the confusion and unknown of it all with such curiosity and optimism. Let myself meet people and let myself let them go. Opened myself even more to people from different walks of life, finding common interests and adoration in the things that brought us close. 
All of this is to say that, while I don’t have a different job like I hoped, and I haven’t been nearly as creative as I would’ve liked, my life has been so fun, exciting, hopeful, and unhinged this year. And I’m so thankful. I’m thankful I’ve let myself fuck up massively and come out on the other side stronger. 
I’m sure there are a lot more headaches to come this year, but I’ve learned that every bad day presents an opportunity for gratitude. Sure, I paid way too much for an oil change but hey, aren’t I so lucky my car is in good condition? Yeah, I’m unhappy with my job but I’m lucky to be employed during one of the worst job markets ever. Do I miss getting drunk and having a delicious cig to up the buzz? Yep, and I’m also so happy I’m bored and healthier.
I hope this year I meet the right people, ones that not only open doors for me but ones I feel comfortable opening my heart to. I want to trust myself more, try things more, and ask for more. I want funnier, even more unhinged stories, more opportunities, more possibilities, and a lot more alignment with myself, which I’ve already come so far with. 
Most of all, I am ridiculously thankful to myself for doing all of this for me. For buying me plants I can actually take care of, for standing up for me, for letting me expand, for letting me dream and accomplish those dreams.
There are fortunes I keep in my wallet that always fall out when I’m having the worst day of my life, and my favorite one by far is, “The reward is the journey, not the destination.” It’s been beyond rewarding so far.