keeping promises to myself
love is an expensive thing to live for
Years ago I used to do solo day trips from Philadelphia to New York on the 6am Megabus. I’d take the midnight bus back. It cost me $11.99 at the time. I’d sleep on the rumbling, sighing bus and wake up in a new loud place, where everything was sharper, more impersonal. The turns, the pace, the stares of people. I biked to central park and guggenheim by myself once, thinking about the gap between who I was and who I wanted to be.
I was so young and loved being alone and being exposed to new things. New York was a dreamworld with gritty edges. Giddy on the train to Brooklyn, shoulder to shoulder with strangers on the subway. Dumplings in a corner shop paired with a warm cup of jasmine tea.
All the promises I made to myself back then were really small things, like studying for a test or telling someone I cared for them. But I guess everything feels like a small thing until one day it changes your life, right? It felt good to keep my own promises. So simple. I felt capable of steering my life in a certain direction without much external input.
I noticed that when I make and keep promises to myself — even small things like focusing on health or pouring time into a creative project — I feel more whole, more settled, more trusting of my intuition and inclinations. When I ignore them, I feel increasingly alienated from my own mind. And every choice feels fraught with the anxiety and panic that I might be choosing wrong.
Growing idea: building self trust is a product of keeping your promises to yourself.
But why is keeping promises to ourselves so hard?
As we move through life, we gain more commitments which interfere with our promises. Commitments are agreements you make with other people, and promises are agreements you make with yourself. Simple example: you work a strenuous job (commitment) and can’t take care of your health (personal promise).
If you’re finding yourself giving up on your own promises, it comes back to asking yourself the eternal question: What is your North Star? Is it healthy relationships? Is it career, stability, novelty, exploration, money, status etc etc? Can you even answer that truthfully? Many smart people they tell me their North Star is relationships and then I watch them careen towards excellence in work, while neglecting said relationships. I do this too: routinely give up my own North Star for something else that I want that feels more urgent.
But that compromise is rarely temporary. It seeps in. I said to A the other day: Years slide by and crumble and flatten into each other. If you compromise your values in a certain way for long enough, it becomes intimate to you. You might fall into repeating this pattern for the rest of your life.
The most important thing is to find the balance between your external commitments and your internal promises. Maybe that means boundaries, more active choices. Maybe that even means more heart, less reasoning. But most of all it means looking deep inside yourself — not turning away. Attempting to understand what you value and why. What does the most authentic, whole version of yourself look like?
For a while I was paralyzed by the truth that I was making choices that were taking me further away from myself. I sacrificed who I was for who I thought I had to be. Because I wanted so badly to be a good girlfriend or a good friend or a good employee. I’m proud that recently I’ve been a lot clearer with myself on what actually feels good, authentic, real, divine, to me. Love, deep within, is an expensive thing to live for. But I’m also driven by it. And I’ll keep looking for it everywhere.
Trusting yourself is both the hardest and most rewarding thing in the world because it’s the only relationship you can’t walk away from.
More than anything, I want to be someone who trusts herself: to love the right people wholeheartedly, to be loyal to my own reality. Because it is beautiful, and I don’t need anyone to tell me that.
A small, salient promise: in 2022 I told myself I’d write for 1 year on substack. Here I am, almost to the day, exactly a year later. With any project, any love, any timeline, it’s inevitable I’ll fuck up and flop down and crawl back. But I’m trying so hard to keep my promises to myself. Not disappoint myself. I’m still just that girl on the Megabus writing in the corner seat and dreaming too much. Her. That’s who this is all for. After all this time, I’m still trying to show myself who I am.
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What I’m Reading this Week (bringing this back when I have new stuff to share)
Currently tearing through Blueberries by Ellena Savage (essay collection), finished the Scout Mindset by Julia Galef, and WOW I really liked this essay on breaking up friendships and relationships by Agnes Callard and this essay on love by Henrik Karlsson. Highly recommend and please chat w me about it I want to hear your thoughts. My highlights below:
Quote of the Week
“You say ‘amateur’ as if it was a dirty word. ‘Amateur’ comes from the Latin word ‘amare’, which means to love. To do things for the love of it.”
- Mozart in the Jungle via are.na