First posted to my newsletter on 8/10/17

I turned 31 three weeks ago. I was in Coventry, England, and surrounded by some of my very favorite people. I turned 30 in England, too, and spent that day punting around Oxford and listening to my friend Caroline's Irish session in a pub in London. It was a giddy day. And because I'm a superstitious lil' mongoose, I was sure that the energy from the Best Birthday Ever would propel me into the Best, or at least A Very Good, year. But nope! My 31st year was very bad, indeed. 

I probably should have predicted that, in retrospect! This time last summer, I was packing to move from the best place I'd ever lived to a very uncertain future in Austin. I was also in the thick of my dissertation (hahahaHAHAHAH), and leaving nearly every person to whom I really mattered. It didn't go well! And then it was November, and everything got so much worse.

The fall and spring passed in a haze of anxiety and protests and loneliness and classes and weekends away. I wrote a lot, but not enough. I read a lot, but not enough. And even though my 31st birthday was just as terrific as my 30th, with new friends and Game of Thrones and Ultimate Frisbee in a sunny park (Brits are GREAT), I couldn't shake the shadow of the previous year, the terrifying feeling of time slipping away, of potential lost. 

Listen. Obviously, I am fortunate beyond measure in millions of ways. My lost year, so far, has really only been a year (even though it feels much longer), and when I'm feeling sane and grounded I can recognize that it wasn't really lost. I accomplished a lot, and maybe that's the wrong way to think about how to measure a life, anyway (cue Rent). Capitalism!

But even with all that, it feels like something has slipped. I want so much for this year, for 31-year old Haylie. Usually my fiercest wanting arrives in the spring, but the seasons in Austin are mixed up by the miserable summers. I've never lived somewhere before where summer is the staying-in season; it's always been my favorite time of year, and especially so in DC: fireflies and outdoor movies and fireworks and happiness, happiness, happiness. But now we're mostly stuck inside, and there's lots of time to long for more. To whit! 

Things I Want This Year

  • To finish my dissertation

  • To get a part-time job...

  • And, hopefully, a career

  • To write more of what I really want; maybe a newsletter? (meta!) 

  • To read some things, and make some things

Don Draper.jpg

On Facebook a few days ago I wrote a post about how you'd think English, of all languages, would have a better word for longing (with the above image of Don Draper for good measure; I've been rewatching it, and boy oh boy does that series get what I'm talking about). One of my friends posted a Portuguese word, saudade, in response. It describes a nostalgia for something that has not happened yet, and how it's pleasant, in a way, to want things: it hurts, but damn if it doesn't make you feel alive.

So that's where I'm at, in the early days of 31, wanting the world, and already nostalgic for what I'm going to want next, after I finally get it. 

Haylie Swenson