Somehow, without my consent, the madness of March bled into April, and my own birthday snuck up on me this year. I’d known it was coming, made plans, went to Disneyland thinking about it…and still, when I woke up on the 15th, I couldn’t really believe it was already here. This is the peril, I think, of getting older. You have so many things to do—usually fun things, sometimes boring things, but always something—that anticipation slips away from you, and time no longer crawls. So I turned 28, and now I’m just getting a second to sit down and think about it, what that really means, and what I want to accomplish in the next year.

If you get my newsletter you’ll know that I don’t really want to add more things to my to-do list. Pushing myself to be productive, to get things done, sometimes comes from a place of frenetic insecurity as I worry that I am not measuring up to some arbitrary standard. I think I’ve written about this before, but I’ve often thought I’m a little bit lazy and undisciplined, and so I’m hard on myself any time my mind goes wandering or I yearn for time with nothing to do. But I’m beginning to understand that lazy is the collapse of the mind, and mine is never collapsing: I often find it expanding to fill whatever room I allow it. Rather than beating myself into a shape that might not fit me, I want to give myself the room to grow and stretch into whatever form will fit me better. This year I want to offer myself gentleness, grace. This year I want to prioritize the pause.

Every year I know myself a little bit better than before, and that makes me feel proud. I feel like I’m doing something right as long as I can say that I’m trying to be the very best version of myself, and each year I’m getting a little closer. This year I think the little fragment of wisdom I’m gaining is that I need blank space to be creative, lots of time to let my mind stretch and my heart settle. Productive doesn’t always mean word count, work is not always a measure of time spent in front of a computer. It can be equally important for me to go for a walk and watch the birds as it can be for me to sit and answer emails.

I’m pretty sure these are not going to be gentle years for me, going into my thirties. I think they’re going to be hard years of growing up and navigating change. And rather than muscle through it with a tight fist and iron will, I want to be water to every mountain I encounter. I want, more than anything, to go lightly.