Thomas and I celebrated my 23rd birthday one day ahead of schedule. We woke up without an alarm, stopped at our favorite Waco restaurant for breakfast tacos and then jumped in the car to skip town for a day. We tailored our time in Fort Worth specifically to the things I love: we started with iced coffee from a place downtown, walked through a little street fair, and then spent the afternoon exploring The Modern. I find museums to be one of the most serene places on earth—they take me back to my time sketching Madonnas in Italy and taking art classes in college.
We wandered leisurely through the museum and got to see so many beautiful, thought-provoking pieces. Thomas planted himself for over an hour in front of an exhibit that was a film of The National playing their song, ‘Sorrow’ for six hours straight. The title? ‘A Lot of Sorrow.’ it was absurb, astonishing, and deeply moving to watch the band push through emotional and physical exhaustion in pursuit of art. The best part of the whole experience was watching Thomas’ awe as he took it all in. These are the things I want to fill my life with.
Once we’d exhausted the museum exhibits, we grabbed a late lunch of whiskey burgers and bloody Marys at a delightful restaurant called in downtown Fort Worth called Rodeo Goat (home of the fainting goat). Afterward, we strolled around the neighborhood for a little while before heading back home for a nap in the sunshine. I couldn’t have imagined a better birthday celebration.
I’ve always found birthdays to be a great time for reflection. Since this one is happening just a few weeks before we pack up our tiny apartment for a cross-country move, it amplifies the feeling of a new beginning. In my 22nd year, I graduated and got married. I started my first job. And my second. I feel like 23 is bound to be a big one, too, in some different (and maybe even more exciting) ways. Below, I’ve put together a list of goals for this year—things I want to accomplish alongside ways I want to approach life in general.
Stay a student. When I was in the sixth grade, I overheard my teacher telling my mom that I was a “lifelong learner.” It was a new phrase to me then, but now I think I know what he meant. I love discovering new things. In college, it was classes and professors. Now, in post-grad, it takes a different form. Podcasts. Books. Essays. Conversations with people who are smarter than me about topics I don’t understand or want to understand more. This year, I want to seek out even more these chances to learn and grow.
Shed mental and physical clutter. If you’ve seen my apartment (or one of my many, many Craigslist posts) over the past several months, you probably know that something is afoot at the Harbin home. We’re streamlining. This is a movement that Thomas and I have slowly undertaken for the past six months or so. It’s an effort to get rid of the excess in our lives so that we can use the newfound time and money for the things that really matter to us: travel, relationships, quality time, and experiences. As we reduce down our belongings to the bare essentials, it’s not just our home that feels more spacious. Getting rid of our excess has made me feel lighter overall, and that’s something I’m excited to cultivate in my 23rd year.
Social detox. These past few months, I have become really aware of how I use social media. I’ve reoriented my approach and slimmed down both the number of platforms I’m on and the number of people that I’m engaging with. I’ve opted out of certain platforms entirely and, on the ones I’m still using, I have streamlined the group of people I’m following to make sure that I’m being exposed to the kind of content that I find inspiring, useful, and encouraging. I think that social media can be a really useful tool, especially for people who do creative work. But social media turns toxic when it’s used as a means of comparison or judgement—and even for more socially-acceptable things like procrastination. I want to continuously re-evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and make adjustments accordingly.
Say thank you. I’m mesmerized by other people’s routines. Friends, writers, CEOs, songwriters—I love to read about the ways that people choose to spend their 24 hours each day. What they eat for breakfast and how they take their coffee. What I like most, I think, is just how many different routines there can be. As I read biographies and pour over tales of people’s Tuesday mornings and Saturday afternoons, a few themes continue to arise. The happiest people are the most grateful. The ones who start their day (and finish it) with “thanks.” I want to begin a habit of morning gratitude to remember that I already have more blessings than I can count.
This list, of course, is just the beginning: a cocktail napkin sketch of what the next year could be. As excited as I am to daydream about the possibilities, I’m looking forward to experiencing the day-to-day of it even more. Here’s to 23!