Transitions are universal and inevitable, regardless of age we’re constantly evolving. And while change can, at times, feel messy and uncomfortable, it’s through these metamorphosis that we learn success. All of my greatest lessons have come as a result of a pivot after a failure. These pivotal movements have made fertile ground for growth. Through the exploration of these transitions and changes it is my hope that fullest readers will feel less alone in knowing that others are going through the same trials and celebrations. As I move through my Saturn return and the tail end of my 20’s I find myself mining for life’s gems and sharing the lessons I’ve learned (and still continue to learn) through personal essays, lists, and interviews.
Enjoy my monthly column, Pivot for the fullest.
During the height of my wellness obsession at 24, I ended up in the hospital needing surgery. I had a kidney stone the size of a golf ball which the doctors figured out was because I had been consuming too much leafy greens — particularly spinach — which gave my body too much calcium and created the stone. I’d have spinach at every meal, in my breakfast smoothie, in my lunch salad, and sautéed at dinner.
Five years later, after weeks of limping, I sat in an orthopedic doctor’s office because of a suspiciously painful injury. Two MRI’s and months of expensive physical therapy later, it turns out I had a rare injury brought on from doing too many jumping jacks. I never missed my daily exercise class… even when I was too tired or hurt.
There couldn’t have been clearer signs that I was taking wellness to an extreme… but sometimes you have to learn lessons multiple times until you’re actually ready to pay attention to them.
There’s obviously still a place for generally good things like getting enough sleep, eating vegetables, and moving, but the trick is sticking to a balance between health and hedonism, where you both enjoy the pleasures of being human, while also feeling your best in your work and life. Some of us are better at this than others. For those of us with addictive personalities it’s hard to dabble without getting sucked in.
I’m clearly the former — in the category of the overly self-disciplined who can easily deny all pleasure and go all in with rigidity until I’m deflated and lifeless. That’s why this coming year I’ve resolved to focus on improving only how much I’m helping other people, how kind I’m being, and how well I’m listening. Relationships with people are more impactful to my wellness than any wellness routine I’ve ever tried (and, believe me, I’ve tried most of them).
‘Tis the season for a collective propensity for self-improvement. This very column is about growth and change and, as an extremist, I tend to take everything to the end of the spectrum, including my wellness or self-improvement practices. They informed my identity, career, and my relationships… and not for the better.
My focus on bettering myself prevented me from being myself. I spent most of my 20’s controlling my food, exercise, and wellness routines — so much so that there wasn’t much energy left for connecting. I’d stay home with the latest self-help book and my adaptogens rather than living my life.
Looking back over the last decade, I can clearly see how much time I spent trying to change and how little time I spent enjoying what was. I have a body and a mind and while taking care of them both is useful, so is using them to experience joy. We have so few sensory pleasures, that to deny any of them for as long as I did in the name of “wellness” is sad and, frankly, unwell.
I see a welcomed collective pull, for more softness and less rigidity even with wellness. Between this article in The New York Times and the fullest starting their anti-wellness wellness festival unwell last year, it’s a shift towards remembering that life is happening right now and a warning that we’ll miss it if we’re too concerned about our heavy metal levels or if we’ve cleansed our aura one too many times.
The older I get, the more I’m remembering that life is short, which is lowering my tolerance for the moments I waste obsessing about something that doesn’t matter in the scheme of things.
Ironically, I’ve felt my healthiest and happiest during periods where I stay up late, drink wine, and fall in love. Contrarily, times where I force down kale smoothies daily, obsessively practice yoga, and sleep eight hours a night have been some of my most depressed and lonely.
In light of being unwell I’m reflecting on where I am with wellness right now and the direction I want to Pivot in this fresh decade we’re entering into. True wellness for me includes community, connection, and mental wellness. Practices, habits, and routines that are timeless like sleep, water, laughing, and making art are the ones that are sustainable and will contribute to feeling our best more than any trendy fad. Every day I’m continuing to learn, spending more time focusing on prioritizing my relationship with people and my creative work rather than my relationship with food, my body, or my disciplined habits or routines.
To a new decade, and a new meaning of wellness. It’s time to get unwell.
Katie Dalebout is a writer, host, and the founder of Let [a podcast] Out, a workshop that helps people DIY podcast. Since 2013, she has interviewed nearly 300 people on her long-form interview show, Let It Out and co-hosts Spiraling, an optimistic anxiety podcast. Her first book, Let It Out: A Journey Through Journaling is a collection of essays and journaling prompts, and was published in 2016. She writes a monthly column for the fullest called Pivot and runs the website LET IT OUT, a Space for Soft Stories. Catch her in her Let It Out Letter, which features her essays, recommendations, and favorites. When she’s not traveling she lives surrounded by plants in Manhattan.
Photo by: Abbey Moore