Monday, May 7, 2018


I am 30.

It's 9:15 on a Monday morning and I am thirty years old. 

Yesterday I graduated with my Master's Degree in Clinical Social Work. 

This time last year I packed up the house I own, put it up for rent, sold 90% of my belongings, and moved to my childhood home for the first time in over a decade.  I quit my senior position at a long-term care facility and started classes. 

When I started the program last year they told me this would be the fastest year of my life. 

I think I've told this story a thousand times and it feels as though it's lost its magic. 

The amount of hard work and sacrifice of this last year feels normalized. 

I'm still coasting.  That long-legged run at the end of a sprint, to prevent the startle of a dead stop. 

This morning it's all done.  This part of it anyway. 

And I've normalized it, but in so many ways that's dangerous.

Dangerous to believe this amount of stress is manageable long-term, dangerous to not acknowledge what it took to survive, dangerous to not learn how to be proud of yourself.

I told my clinical supervisor the other day that when I started this journey, I didn't start it because I knew I could do it.  This was not a shoe-in.  I started because I was faced with a choice.  A fork in the road.  To the right would have been a cliff, I think.  Or a path of a lot of the same.  Maybe not something as obviously malicious as a cliff -- but life wasn't in that direction.  Growth was.  Flourishing wasn't.  To the left was a bridge.  A precarious rope bridge.  And I had no idea where it led.

No one needs to understand why I made the decision I made.

As that same clinical supervisor said, "desire is enough".  I might quantify that with a "sometimes", but what she meant was I didn't owe anyone an explanation. 

But what I want you to understand, even if you don't need to know "why", is that I did not know if this would go well.

I did not know if this would end well at all. 

I came into this season of life with an empty cup.  I had experienced more loss and grief and hardship and sabotaging than I'd ever care to admit-- a season of total deconstruction.  And I truly wasn't sure I had what it took.

But the risk of trying was worth it, compared to the risk of taking any other path.

So here I am. 

I am 30.

It's 5pm now because I don't know how to write this.

But I have a Master's Degree.

I graduated with a 4.0, departmental honors; was awarded student of the year, and passed the state licensure exam last week.

And now it's all over.

I'm laying on the couch, 30 years old, with a Master's degree.

When I was 20 I wrote, "it's only weird when you think about it."

There's no eloquence to be had right now.  There's poetry in it, somewhere.  It's a story worth telling, certainly.  But all my good words have gone missing.  It's taking all I have to string sentences together coherently.  Because this is all over now.  And what comes next will be hard in a different way.  What comes next will be a brand new adventure.  And honestly, I'll have to wait until more words come to process that.

All I know is that last night it rained.

As it should. 

Stormed and flooded; lightning and thunder.  My god, it rained.

And Olivia said it first.

Washed it all clean.


this morning i was driving into lexington and behind me the sun was rising and in front of me the darkest storm clouds were churning.  it looks like spring.

a song came on pandora and all i heard were the words, we don't get to be here long.

i spent the morning in an interdisciplinary meeting, shadowing, pretending i don't know what i came to learn.

bereavement risk.

spiritual risk.




loss of control.

words being thrown around in the way that only professionals can throw them.

all ive been thinking about all morning is how short of a time we have.

that at the rate we are going, and if im lucky to die of old age, fifty or sixty more years doesn't seem like enough.

its not enough.

and my eyes are hot and puddled as i say that.

i hope for reincarnation.

i hope there's a pause.  of glory and relief.

and i hope one breath rolls into another and you are crying as you are rebirthed.

not because heaven isn't real.

or because i dont believe in what comes next.

i just hope that's what comes next.

and i hope that we get enough life that we eventually arrive to the end and we feel satisfied.

Friday, May 4, 2018


Someone in my family mentioned the other day about how they had spent their whole childhood wondering what they would be like when they were 30. 

I did too.

I remember when women I love turned 30.  My mom.  My aunt Donna.  Lea.  Each of these women were in a very different phase of life by the time they turned 30; their lives looked nothing like mine.  My frame of reference for 30 did not prepare me for what life looks like for me right now. 

As I crept closer to 30 I met peers whose lives looked like mine.  Single parents, unmarried, college graduates, homeowners.  Beautiful women who were either role models or cautionary tales.  Women who've loved us, uplifted us, led the way.

But I have very few people to look up to who knew how to navigate 30 the way I am going to have to. 

And that's the only part of the new decade that scares me. 

Otherwise, I am happy to be here. 

I struggled for days after my family mentioned how during childhood we daydream about 30.

I grappled with what my 12-year-old self would think of me today.

I worried that I have not made her proud.

The truth is, I wouldn't have.

There's no way 12-year-old Anna would be proud of who I am now, because 12-year-old Anna would have zero frame of reference for what it took to get here.

She'd not understand that being married and having a house and being a writer was not the only life worth living. 

Recently I left a really hard thing and paused, telling myself and the people standing with me: there are things in life that I am very thankful we don't know how hard they are before we go into them.

There are seasons of life, tasks, events, milestones, jobs, relationships, roles, that had we known how hard it would be... we'd have never started in the first place.

I'm afraid had you told my 12-year-old self I wouldn't have any of the things I wanted back then... she would have tapped out.  Run for the hills. 

I am so thankful we can't always see what comes next.

I am so thankful we don't encounter something until we are almost ready for it. 
I am so thankful for attributes of resilience and flexibility.

We've all seen the movies.  The Kid, with Bruce Willis, comes to mind.  As does Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  A character travels back in time and meets themselves as a child (in the case of the Meatballs, he travels forward and meets his future).  Ultimately a character is given a decision.  Do you alter your life by interrupting the course of events?  Or do you allow your former self to experience life as it comes?

I'd tell my 12-year-old self to be prepared.  To get ready to be surprised. 

That life would be hard. 

That even the next year of her life would be unbearably painful and scary.

But that life doesn't have to look like we planned to be good. 

I might be tempted to tell her what catastrophes to avoid.  When to leave and who to walk away from and who to speak up to.  But even then, I risk unraveling the whole story.

A story that, I hope, is nowhere near ending. 

A story about a lot of hardship, a lot of loneliness, but about a lot of adventure.  About a brown-eyed boy who thinks you are the most beautiful.  About rediscovering your strengths.  About being brave.

I'd tell her, just wait.  It's not easy.  But it's going to be good.