I woke up Saturday morning with an exquisite, bittersweet pain. It had been awhile since I felt that, giving up alcohol when training for my marathon last year. The dreaded hangover took me unforgivably as I stuffed my head into the pillow clouds of my bed, while listening in on the usual 10:00 AM, on. the. dot., conference call where death and destruction of the night before and the morning of are recounted. I pounded one liter of water as the producer, notorious for his Southern slow speech, reiterated all the facts we already knew to make one singular point that ultimately meant nothing at all. 

My birthday landed on a Wednesday this year and I didn't do the proper "going out" version of the celebrations until Friday night. My new District tribe - the past group no longer - actually did it proper, with no bad decisions made, a lot of dancing and a genuine good time had by all. We were all having a rough year so far, despite the New Year's declarations, and have formed our own support group. 

After the conference call, instead of just lying in bed until the pain subsided, I finally finished the book I was reading this month, Swing Time by Zadie Smith. It's part of my 2018 bucket list to read 3 books a month this year. My adoration for Zadie Smith goes beyond her writing. Her entire look and persona is just mystifying. She looks like what Nefertiti may have looked like in real life (reference to Swing Time) and her fashion style is of a genre in the ranks of Yara Shahidi, Jenna Wortham, Tracee Ellis Ross. It's bold, colorful and unapologetically feminine. Her tragic pessimism for life in general, which she spoke of at a talk at Sixth and I, was not attractive however. Pessimism is a quality that I do not want or need in my life. When I regrettably pleaded with my ex (another broken boy who couldn't handle failure) to still be friends the night he broke up with me, he said, "I would love to be friends. I need more positive people in my life". It took time to realize that I actually didn't need people like him in my life. People who see the glass half empty, as the saying goes.

There was a quote in the book that hit me harder than I wanted it to.

A truth was being revealed to me: that I had always tried to attach myself to the light of other people, that I had never had any light of my own. I experienced myself as a kind of shadow.

I do find fault with the line on a personal level. I always believed that I made my own light, as hippy-dippy as that sounds. I made things happen for me when it really counted and mattered. I'd rather define that attachment to others with that light as a positive. I know that I don't choose my friends out of convenience. My closest friends all offer something that inspires me on a level beyond getting drinks at the neighborhood bar. In fact most of our time was spent outside of bars, doing things.  I was at my lowest this past year, and the people who stuck around, they were the ones that ultimately mattered. 

J'ai vingt-huit ans. As with my previous reflections, I never thought I would be where I am now. I'm still in a city I dislike. I am still in a job - well two jobs at high-profile places - both of which are not the dream job. I still feel like I am meant to do so much more. But everyone thinks that.

I have a friend here in DC who unexpectedly emerged as the true friend from my original District group.  She and I know New York City well and miss our days there, but we have found ways to tolerate our current city through personal growth goals. She and I said that we have to grow by at least 3 percent (an understandably arbitrary number) every time we saw each other. The growth could be as simple as not buying outside food for the whole week to save money, or it could be as significant as gathering the courage to voice complaints to our bosses. 

I used to have these grandiose goals in my birthday reflections. I still want to be that girl. But I think I it's time to re-frame my goals so that they are smaller and instead, build up to the grandiose. I had a horrible and difficult 2017, but I pushed through that to become a version of myself that I genuinely like because I know that this version can only become stronger and more impressive because I figured out the formula. I have to surround myself with people who bring out the best in me. I have to invest in myself in terms of my mental and physical health. I have to forgive myself if I make mistakes. I have to be brave and do things that scare me because that is when growth happens. This is going to be a big, important year for me and I already know that I am taking the steps to make it one of the most formative years of my life. 


Alexandra Sarabia