36 is my favourite number.
It always has been. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been drawn to it. Perhaps it had something to do with it being our house number for my entire youth. Or that I worked out that our home phone number added up to 36, which, being our street number, meant something special.
It has always been my ‘lucky number’ in the way that anything can be lucky. I always felt a connection, even if that number hasn’t ever really proved itself to me.
So, when I turned 36 in January last year, I was convinced it was going to be ‘My Year’. It was the year I’d been growing towards my entire life.
You probably don’t need to be told, but it wasn’t my year. I don’t think there are many of us in this world that would claim the past 365 days as their own.
I found myself working extra hard in my job, writing less than ever, reading less than ever, and generally not being able to enjoy the world due to various and myriad restrictions.
But, it was not all bad, and I had it a lot easier than many. My aforementioned job for one. More than many could boast. I also had a substantial year of growth in my relationship with my Boyfriend, him being the only one I was allowed to see. It brought us much closer in many ways.
So as my 36th year winds to a close (I graduate in a week) I learned one major thing, which I think is probably one of the most valuable lessons I could have learned:
Most of life is outside of your control.
This is not a nihilist position. I do not feel restricted by this at all. If anything, it has made something so much clearer to me. There’s no point in saying “this year I’m going to get a publishing contract.” That is very much outside of my control. What I can do, however, is say to myself: I am the only one that can do the work that can potentially lead to a publishing contract.
And that, my dear readers, is what I have taken into this new year. I have cut through the noise and the distractions. The end goal is all well and good, but it is up to myself alone to do the work.
And I have not taken this lesson lightly.
I have started scheduling my time in a way past me would have thought ridiculously regimented. But current me finds so freeing. Who would have thought that alarms would be the key? Alarms that wake you up, tell you to do yoga, tell you it’s time to write and simultaneously turn your phone on do not disturb, then turns back on in time for you to check any messages, and get ready for work. Then tells you to wind it up at work in the afternoon (I’m notorious for just staying on), let’s you know that it’s ‘Faff time’ when you get home, before telling you to read for an hour. Many alarms. But once they’re all done I look back at my day and know I’ve done some writing, I’ve done some reading, and I’ve even faffed about for an hour so I am relaxed (something that is difficult for me to achieve). And then I’ve still got the rest of the night ahead of me to do whatever takes my fancy.
I’m making the baby steps needed to get to the end of the draft I’m working on. I’m getting through my TBR in a much more substantial way. And I’m even watching more TV than I have in years, having always scorned myself for not doing work any time the TV was on.
And it’s only 3 weeks in.
I’m so ready to be responsible for my own career that I’m loving the freedom this structure is allowing me.
I am the only one that can write my books. I am the only one who can produce something (with my name on it) that someone will want to publish. So, I will.
I guess 36 was lucky after all. Without the burnout that it brought, I might not have realised that committing yourself to a professional schedule is not denying yourself all the other things in life. In fact, it makes them so much richer.
When I hit my birthday, it won’t be that I can say “I’m 37”, it’ll be that I can proudly say “I was 36. And I learned something.”