On making it to lunch
reflections, resolutions, and living like a Navy Seal
I tried to do it the normal way.
Really, I did. You know – check the boxes, list the statistics, analyze the data of my “annual review.”
But in true Grace fashion, I ended up writing a long-form creative piece (surprise!). This essay is long. If you want to skip to the bottom to read how I’m conducting my 2023 like a Navy Seal, no hard feelings. :)
But if you’re interested in reading my yearly reflection, it’s a cocktail of grittiness, nostalgia, and hope (divided into four parts) about everything I learned this year.
Part I: On Good Dogs, Bad Jobs, and Median Investments
I kicked off my 2022 year in Jack’s hometown of London, Kentucky (a tiny town of rolling hills grazed with cattle and blanketed beneath pillows of January snow).
While the snow accumulated outside, Jack and I watched shit-flick after shit-flick while his dog (a goofy, big-headed, lovable Pitbull mix named Milo) snuggled under the blankets against our legs. 2022 would later take Milo from us – a brain tumor that seized his life almost a decade earlier than it should have – but those moments we had with him were precious.
Back in Nashville, the snow continued to fall.
Sure, it was inconvenient and uncomfortable, but many beautiful things are. Not to mention I lived at the bottom of a large hill that would inevitably ice over, making it impossible for me to make it to work (thank goodness).
Before I got my first writing gigs, I waited tables and worked a mobile spray tanning job. The restaurant I worked at was in a boujee downtown hotel, and mornings came early: sometimes, 4:45 am early. The pay was terrible, the people were toxic, and I often think of that job as a glorious waste of my time.
I once spilled an entire carafe of orange juice on a business man in an Hermes suit (that’s $6,000 worth of clothing now coated in sugar and pulp; and a very angry finance bro). I got a head chef fired because he put something in my drink when I wasn’t looking (people continue to amaze me). And one day, when I was working room service, I met Tucker Carlson in his underwear (my strangest flex to this day).
But looking back, I learned a lot about my personal limits.
How they extend far beyond my initial perception. How I’m capable of just grinding it out. Waking up at 4:45 on a Sunday morning when it’s 13 degrees outside is not for the faint-hearted, but I found ways to make it my own. Those moments (driving into the city via a deserted highway while chugging a Celsius, steam rising from the inky skyline, the faint, ethereal tint of sunrise before sunrise glinting off glass buildings) ironically became some of my favorites. I was seeing the world in ways I never would have before. There’s something to be admired in that.
Granted, it sucked. I quit in April. But you get the picture.
During this time of working oddball jobs to scrape in some cash, I was determined to kickstart my full-time writing career. Unfortunately, I fell into a “get rich quick trap.” I invested a large amount of money in a copywriting course I thought was the answer to all my problems, believing I was “on the fast-track to six figures” and all that. While my copywriting coach helped me immensely, it wasn’t what I needed. What I needed was plain ole’ experience; not foo-fooey millionaire strategies (you’ve got to walk before you can run, G).
I like to refer to this time in my life as a Median Investment. It wasn’t the best decision I ever made; but it definitely wasn’t the worst. It was an incredibly average decision. And that’s okay. Median investments are better than no investments.
What did I learn in Part I?
Love on your dog. They’ll be gone quicker than you think.
Don’t overestimate yourself – but definitely don’t underestimate yourself.
“Grinding it out” is much easier when you can find quiet moments of joy and gratitude.
Just decide. What is for you will not escape you.
Don’t quit. No matter what.
Tucker Carlson will tip you $50 on one cup of coffee.
Here’s to walking before you can run.
Part II: On Roommates and Russian Mobsters
2022 was some of the most fun I’ve had living with friends.
Drew and Maria were two girls I knew from college (I played basketball, they played tennis) and I was blessed to build a beautiful friendship with them.
Drew (middle) is the hilarious one with snarky comebacks and teenage boy humor, the one who gets into fights at bars, but she’s one of the best friends you’ll ever have. She’s fiercely loyal, loving, and empathetic.
Maria (right) is the trendy style queen and fitness guru, with quintessential Vine humor and a laugh so maniacal it’s infectious. She’s also from Russia, so half the fun is hearing her talk on the phone with her parents who don’t speak any English (“Maria, what were you and your mom fighting about?” “What do you mean? I was telling her I loved her!”). We also have a theory that her dad is in the Russian mob, but that’s a story for another time.
As roomies, we hosted dinner parties and wine nights, binge-watched Twilight, stole clothes from each other, did nightly face masks, got lost for hours on hikes in the woods, and developed a baseless and apartment-wide obsession with mini M&M’s.
Maria yelled at me for not doing my dishes. I yelled at Drew for drinking Mango White Claws for breakfast. Drew yelled at Peach (Maria’s dog) for peeing on her graduation gown. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What did I learn in Part II?
Precious friendships are often already there – you just need to dig a little deeper.
Making friends outside your typical friend group is incredibly rewarding and should be done more often.
Live with your friends before you get married (this is a non-negotiable).
Your early 20’s are equally stressful and liberating. Soak it up; and get through it together.
Sustain your friendships. Unexpected FaceTimes go a long way.
Never trust Maria when she says her dad does “construction” for a living (we know better)
Part III: On The Light That Filters Through The Dust
In autumn, I got a call from David Perell.
I had received a full-ride fellowship to his online writing school, Write of Passage – a course I’d been dying to take, but couldn’t afford. This was a moment that kickstarted a lot of things for me.
More importantly, it immersed me in a community of writers.
Writing is not a solitary sport. It’s social. Writers need to lean on one another. It’s an essential part of the process. And strangely, it’s something I’ve never had before. Playing basketball in college meant my schedule didn’t allow for writer’s groups or bookclubs with my classmates. As many writers do, I felt isolated and alone. David calls this “intellectual loneliness.” But since Write of Passage, my intellectual loneliness has been cured.
I meet weekly with upwards of five to ten writers who I admire, trust, and are building genuine friendships with. They help me sharpen my voice, take out my head trash, and keep my nose to the grindstone. They help me remember why I do what I do. They help me become a better artist and a better human. They’re the light that filters in through the window, striking the dust motes in the air, turning them over and over, making something beautiful out of something ugly.
It feels clinically insane that I ever wrote anything before having a community like this. I went from having never published a thing to publishing a piece of my writing 12 weeks in a row (and counting). Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal; for me, it’s huge.
And it’s just the beginning.
A scene from Dead Poet’s Society — where intellectual loneliness was irrevocably cured.
What did I learn in Part III?
Curing intellectual loneliness is so much more important than you think.
Publishing your work isn’t as scary as it feels.
The beginning is the time to make mistakes – no one’s listening yet.
Have fun with what you create.
Make time for daily flow states.
Set deadlines for your writing. And meet those deadlines – no excuses.
Find writing partners who keep you accountable for said deadlines.
Find writing partners who know your voice and give you feedback accordingly.
Find writing partners who inspire you.
Find writing partners.
Part IV: On Being Responsible When It Really, Really Sucked
When my lease with Drew and Maria ended, I moved back in with my parents.
Not because I wanted to, but because it was the right thing to do.
Jack works for my dad’s business (and is co-workers with my brother…how’s that for family dynamics?) so he was moving to my hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina anyway. It made no sense for me to keep blowing money in Nashville while we wanted to save money for a wedding and a house. Throw 9-hour long distance in the mix, and the choice was obvious.
I adore my family, and I’m forever grateful that they’re taking Jack and I under their wing. But I miss Nashville.
I miss drinking margs every Friday night with the same group of friends at the same cheap Mexican restaurant. I miss walking around farmer’s markets and buying local honey from the same vendor. I miss falling asleep to the subtle hum of the highway and the AC units outside my window. I miss overdressing to go to fancy cocktail lounges. I miss dancing in grimy Broadway bars in a pair of ratty Converse, because they’re the only shoes I dare take downtown. I miss the coffeeshops. Gosh, I miss the coffeeshops.
But here in North Carolina, I feel I’m in the right place. I’m saving money, spending time with family, and diving into my writing career. It’s a season of buckling down, strapping in, and compounding momentum. I think the place I’ll be at in 5 years will be in debt to this phase of my life.
For me, that’s endlessly exciting (and don’t worry Nashville – we’ll be back).
What did I learn in Part IV?
Your life is separated into seasons. Don’t try to force one season to be longer or shorter than it’s meant to be. Accept the season that you’re in, and do what you can with what you have.
Trust your intuition. Your gut always knows the best path for you.
The right thing is often the hardest thing. The sooner you accept this, the smoother things will go.
Sometimes, it’s better to be a side character in someone else’s story rather than the main one in yours. For a little while, anyway.
Home is not the place where you grew up. You recreate home over and over again as you move through this life. It’s a beautifully fluid thing, always moving and changing.
Living 2023 Like A Navy Seal
My college coach used to tell us a story about Hell Week.
Hell Week is the last training phase to become a Navy Seal — and the most intense. In short, it’s a week straight of doing intense physical activity while being cold, wet, starving, sleep-deprived, and all that (yes, people have died).
A Seal who successfully passed Hell Week was interviewed about his experience, and was asked this question: “How did you do it?”
He said: ”I just tried to make it to lunch.”
He didn’t wake up in the morning thinking about finishing the day or finishing the week. If he did, the task before him would have felt far too daunting and impossible to complete. He’d quit. But if he could just make it to lunch, then maybe he could do it.
This is how I’m treating my 2023.
Instead of brainstorming an arsenal of New Year’s Resolutions, I’m creating a daily playbook of simple, consistent, soul-feeding habits that are small, attainable, and compounding. Writing daily. Working out. Eating good food. Getting good sleep. Walking. Praying. Meditating. Reading. Having coffee with my mom. FaceTiming my friends. Nurturing the little things that aren’t that little at all.
Here’s a quote from Charlotte Grysolle’s newsletter yesterday that inspired the hell out of me:
“Forget about goals and resolutions for 2023. The mindset to cultivate is strategic patience: prioritize simple habits and systems you can stick with for the next decade.”
For gals like me (who thrive on autonomy and are suffocated by rigid structure), this is the water I should be drinking. I don’t need to rewire my entire life and analyze the statistical data of achieving my dreams.
I just need to make it to lunch.
Thanks for reading! Send this to someone who needs help making it to lunch. ;)
See you in 2023!
"I don’t need to rewire my entire life and analyze the statistical data of achieving my dreams." Love this & the gritty lessons you share with us.
I was feeling a bit overwhelmed heading into the new year but no more. All I gotta focus on is making it to lunch. Thank you!