At 35, a Reflection: On Living a Big Life in a Small City

Monday, August 12, 2019


I always wanted to lead a big life. I wanted to live in a big city & do big things & maybe (now this is the Leo in me talking) be a little bit famous. I always felt like I had it in me, like I could hit it big in some way, whether I became a writer or ended up on a reality TV show or... who knows, really. I didn't even know; I just knew that I wanted a big life, & I felt like I was ripe for it.

One week ago, I turned 35, & my friend Rebecca, who was visiting from Brooklyn, asked me how I've been feeling about my life. What am I proud of accomplishing? Is there anything I feel like I should've already accomplished by now?  What life do I have versus the kind of life that I want?

And it got me thinking: I don't have the big life I'd imagined, but I do, in so many ways, lead quite a big life. I wanted fame, or something, & I didn't get that, necessarily - but I have some form of recognition through this blog & my online presence & my recent writing & reporting.

At 35, I've been published in The New York Times & The Washington Post & Esquire & Redbook & Woman's Day. I've also been published in one anthology, & I can't wait to be published in another coming in 2020.

I make a little bit of money & get to attend cool events all over Cleveland as a prolific blogger in a small but mighty city, meeting other "influencers" (I hate that word) & raising up the very best the CLE has to offer.

This blog even led me to connect with the editors of Cleveland Magazine, who asked me to write a book review for them that has since led to monthly freelance gigs writing dining reviews, "Best of Cleveland" snippets, Q&As, an award-winning mental health essay, & so much more.

And that one freelance opportunity has led to others. I've since written for Ohio Magazine & more recent for Edible Cleveland & WISH Cleveland with, I feel lucky to say, no seeming end in sight to the opportunity to continue doing so.

And as I led Rebecca around Cleveland, I found myself chattering incessantly - errr, serving as a tour guide - about all the many things I know about this city. I know so many of its people & its places & its stories, about its history & its future. I am an extrovert who loves chatting with strangers, & I have turned many of them into friends; they tell me their stories, & so often, I get to put those stories to paper (er, computer screen) & bring them to life for the (relative) masses.

I am not famous or well-known or big-time, but I lead a life that suits me, a life of big stories & big personalities & big conversations. In sum, the advent of the Internet has allowed me a much smaller scale "fame" than was possible when I was a little kid with big dreams.

But actually & perhaps interestingly, I am not & have never really been a person with actual big dreams, aside from "I want to live somewhere cool & be known for something." I am not a person with big specific dreams. I don't aspire to great or huge things - just to do things I enjoy & feel fulfilled by, things that bring joy to myself & to others.

And just knowing that much about myself - that I wanted to live somewhere cool & be known for doing something cool - has led me to a medium life in a medium-sized place where I get to do things I love & spread joy through writing.

I have a full-time job I love making an impact that matters, & I have a "side hustle" doing the same, in very different ways. I don't have a lot of free time, but I do, even through the busy-ness, have a lot of joy in what I do, & that means that it doesn't feel all that much like work, even when I'm working myself to the bone.

And for 35? That feels pretty goddamn good. So honestly, here's to 35 more of the same - because I don't have a single complaint about what I have or haven't achieved yet. And that, it turns out, is a blessing I could never, ever have imagined.

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