Hello! *Sparkle* here – or otherwise know as Anna Hickner – but my nephews prefer the former. I write from a fifth floor walk up in Harlem, New York where I’ve spent the last year living as a post doctoral psychology resident and, most recently, a newly hired clinical psychologist at a community health center. Growing up in Michigan, it was a distant dream to live in The Big Apple – one that I never thought would actually be possible for me until more recently. And then this happened:
Actually, before NYC my life’s journey took me to Indiana and Spain for college, Costa Rica for a volunteer year, Chicago to recover from volunteering and apply to graduate school, and Washington DC to earn my doctorate. One might think after all that I would be prepared to make the jump to the city that never sleeps, right?! Wrong – after graduate school I was burnt out, bummed out, and was the brink of emotional collapse. So what did I do, you ask? Did I pull myself up by my bootstraps and saddle up for the fight? Simply stated, no, I didn’t. Instead, I left the country to backpack along around Southeast Asia for 10 weeks, which you can read about here, an impulsive yet somehow intuitive decision I will never, ever regret. In graduate school I encountered many challenging, soul-searching opportunities that many times I wanted to run from, or just forget. Doing neither (aside from leaving the country at the end of 2012), I’m infinitely grateful that in graduate school I also encountered yoga and an amazingly supportive community and practice to steer me back on the right path. (My own therapist also helped, too.) It was a path that helped me to finally make it to my dream city. This isn’t to say my life in NYC is all that glamorous. It’s not. I commute 1.5 hours each way to work, and if you didn’t catch it before, I walk up and down five flights of stairs every time I leave my apartment. With heavy bags of groceries. With two loads laundry. And I’m probably still recovering from moving in. That said, there are days I run in Central Park or walk around downtown feeling like the luckiest girl in the world because I’m here. (There are also days where nothing seems to go right, but at least things are not going right in NYC.) In the end, whether it is a good day or a bad one, I know that made it to a place that’s legendary for anything being possible, and I’m one step closer to making other dreams come true.
This brings me to the big question of “What is it to be Living the Good Life?” Sometimes I find it hard to not get caught up in the fantasy of rom-coms or social media where living a good life is about finding true love, having it all, or taking a lot of trips/having crazy jealousy-inducing meals/posting-everything-about-your-life-as-if-it-were-amazing-and-the-best-ever. It’s not. At least not for me. For me, living a good life means experiencing it all – the full spectrum that the universe has to offer, and then being able to share the highs, the lows, the points of pure desperation/elation/tribulation/infatuation with others. This is what makes life real, and something I experience regularly with my patients and loved ones (or, on occasion, with strangers). Sure we can usually find a silver lining in plans gone awry, and that’s important, but sometimes it’s okay to just feel the rage or hurt or confusion inside, and just BE there. Hopefully someone can be there with you, because if we all experience these emotions, and accept that they are part of life, then we never really are alone. And that might be one of the most important parts of truly living a good life – companionship. In short, the authentic moments in life, and the ability to intimately share them, is what I determine life is all about.
As you may have gleaned already, I love psychology. I love how it not only allows me to impact others’ lives in a meaningful way, but also helps me learn from my patients, my friends, my family, even people with whom I struggle. Still, being a therapist means giving of yourself. A lot. Because of this I’ve had to develop ways to nourish and replenish myself so that I can keep on doing my job. My passions also include singing/playing piano/composing music, and, of course, yoga or some sort of physical exercise. I guess this really can be simplified by stating that my passions revolve around expressing myself creatively – whether through word, song, or bodily movement. Because we never are really just one thing, right? So why limit ourselves in that way?
Aside from great music to accompany a solid workout or a fun night out with friends, I’m also inspired when I see others achieving their dreams – to see what makes them *sparkle*. I love to witness others investing in life’s genuine gifts, whether this means getting out of bed and making it through one more day without falling back into a severe depression, or crossing the marathon finish line. After all, life is a series of marathons, is it not? Even if some days/months/years feels like a sprint…
Speaking of, moving to the ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made of’ was one of my marathons, and started to help me believe that with patience, practice, perseverance, and a good support network (ie, peers?) anything is possible. I hope moving to NYC is just the beginning of many other marathons. Two of my ultimate dreams are to have one of my songs on the radio or in a movie some day (such as this Bluesy ballad: Murder or this Disney-esque piece: Fall In Love Again), and to eventually be student-debt free. (Actually, if I could sprint through anything in life, being debt-free would top the list!) Alas, as I have learned this is not likely any time soon, I put on my yoga pants and tie my shoelaces once again, preparing for another five flights of stairs.
Taking life one authentic step at a time. :-)
Thank you to Hannah for including me in this! I feel honored, and I look forward to reading about and being inspired by you and others who are Living the Good Life. *Sparkle on, friends*
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This post appears as part of the In Her Words series. To learn more about In Her Words, click here.