Real Life: Perseverance, Not Perfection
Happy belated 4th of July everyone! I hope you all are out enjoying the beach or the lake and relaxing with friends and family. Yesterday was rainy and cold, so we spent most of the day at home, until the sun finally broke through the clouds, and we headed out to Brooklyn for an impromptu backyard gathering. It was great to see friends who I hadn't seen in over a month, and the evening ended on a sweet note back in Manhattan: watching fireworks and eating gelato with B in Little Italy. I felt like a tourist in my own neighborhood, standing in the street with crowds of people, watching the fireworks explode in the distance. It was so fun.
This morning, for the first time since the trip, I spent some time reflecting. On the past month, on the highs and the lows, and what's to come. So many people have asked me "How was the trip?" and I find that it's such a hard question to answer. It was exhilarating and exhausting. It was simultaneously one of the most amazing and most stressful months of my life. Everyone's seen the Instagram pictures, which portray a magical series of road-trip adventures and gorgeous dinner parties: one high moment after the next. Of course real life is never just the highs...there's weariness and disappointment mixed in, there's self-doubt and frustration, and there are moments where you just want to throw in the towel and take a really long nap.
I had the best of intentions going in: I packed my running shoes and my journal, planning to fit in long runs and times for writing and reflection every day. Elise brought a yoga mat, which I planned to use at least a couple of times. (Spoiler alert: that didn't happen!) I packed my camera and Go-Pro and my laptop, with plans to document the trip like a pro, and upload daily photos and videos on the blog. I honestly thought I could run a full-on media campaign from the car: with daily blog posts, a steady stream of social media, regular Kickstarter updates, blog newsletters, and maybe even some guest posts for other publications. All of this plus, you know, eating, sleeping, driving cross-country, and throwing 8 dinner parties. And seeing some friends and family along the way.
And then, real life hit. The launch of the Kickstarter was a mess - delayed by several days and poorly executed. The second dinner party - two days into the trip - (barely) came together after a rainstorm and a total meltdown on my part. (I literally broke out in hives...not pretty.) I got cut by a bottle and ended up in the ER, bleeding and barely able to walk. I got a stress-induced abscess in my mouth and had to go on antibiotics to clear it up. And all that was just in the first week!! Brandon drove 8 hours from a family funeral in Indiana just to be there for me, as I truly didn't know if I could make it through the rest of the trip.
So there you have it: real-life, messy, far-from-perfect Anna. Not exactly the me I want others to see, but then again, I don't ever want to give the impression that I've got it all together. I've really tried to stay vulnerable on this blog because I'm hoping all of you can relate to those sobbing-in-the-bathroom-moments (we all have them, right?!) And we're in this together! Luckily, the remaining three weeks got better, but it required me to temper some of my own expectations and accept one simple fact: I AM HUMAN. I am not a superhero, and even though I'm a hard worker, I can't do the work of 5 people. I need rest, I need time to breathe and dream and recharge, or else I shut down.
So I started to carve out a few basic necessities for myself: Sleep. Alone time. And making sure to be thankful every day – to savor the beauty in the journey rather than fixating on the end goal. A friend texted me one day something that really hit home: "You're making memories that will last for a lifetime: make them good!" I realized that if I let perfection be my guidepost, I'd not only rob myself of joy, but miss out on the experience of a lifetime. And this was not an experience I ever want to take for granted!!
I can't say that I always did the best job living by her advice, but I did make time to enjoy the journey: Elise helped remind me to pull over at random shops in the middle of Texas that advertised "Dang Good Candy" or "Fossils for Sale," to explore sunflower fields in Texas and abandoned dirt roads in Arizona, and to take a detour to visit the Grand Canyon. I made sure to stop at Farmer's Markets in each town, and to visit dear friends and to carve out time for real conversation – even if that meant delaying our drive a bit, or missing out on a blog post. Those are the things I'll remember about this trip 10 years from now.
I have to say, Elise really helped me to take time to enjoy these small pleasures along the way. And goodness knows, I wasn't always the easiest travel companion. We were talking the other day, kind of debriefing on the trip, and I was beating myself up for all the things I did wrong. She responded in a way that was so profound: "Anna, you're not perfect! And no one expects you to be! Perseverance is what matters. Anyway, perfect is boring." I love that. Perseverance, not perfection. It was so funny hearing that from her, because as you may recall, I wrote a blog post a year and a half ago called "Why Perfect is Boring." I was so inspired writing that post, and it came from such a place of deep conviction at the time. Crazy how over a year later, it took someone fresh-out-of-college to remind me of what I know deep down, but had totally forgotten. Thanks for the reminder, Elise!
I just want to encourage any of you all who are pursuing a dream but feel discouraged to go easy on yourself. Dreams weren't built in a day, and perfection isn't the goal. Perseverance goes a long way...chip away at it little by little, day by day, but know that you can't do it all at once, and you certainly can't do it all alone. But can we collectively make a pledge to stop being so dang hard on ourselves?! To stop believing the lies that we must be perfect? If we commit to these goals together, I believe we can encourage each other to keep on persevering!
Now that I'm home I'm trying to take some time for self-care. To rebuild. To celebrate the small victories, rather than focusing on my failures. And one of the biggest things to celebrate is that this cookbook is going to happen!! We have 10 days to go in the Kickstarter and we are 90% of the way to our goal! We have just a little over $5000 to raise - please help me spread the word...we are so, so close. Humbled and amazed that God can use even my mistakes to create something so much bigger and more beautiful than I ever imagined.
P.S. If you have some time this weekend and want to read something really inspiring, I highly recommend this essay by Shauna Niequist on taking time to savor the seasons. I, for one, want to take up her challenge to "be courageous enough to stop producing for a while, and trust that there is great soul value in stillness, in play, in beach walks." Yes, please!