I feel like a loser but you don't have to

Everyone says you just feel your brain finish developing suddenly at 25. Is this it? If so, whew chile.

I think the time came that ya mind changed, ya understand?
Life is like a chess move
You need to make the next move ya better move
Keep it pimpin,' ya understand?

from Why You Wanna x T.I.

The Loser at the Lake

I probably looked crazy.

Against the relaxed buzz of GasWorks park, where children played, their parents dodged geese poop like hidden mines, and planes landed every few minutes on Lake Union, I paced back and forth with a posture riddled with concern.

My boots dragging through gravel in tight pirouettes, I wandered about the beautiful greenspace less enamored by the glimmer of the lake than I was frustrated by a problem I had not realized fully until that very morning.

“I’ve got to get a grip,” I said to my mother on the phone, to myself, to God, to the bird sitting nearby, to anyone who could hear me.

My priorities were shifting, but my behavior was not. And, as if I finally plugged in my earphones fully into my life, the dissonance between what I wanted and what I was doing became blaring in my mind so suddenly. The misalignment demanded to be addressed right then and there. But instead of using the moment productively to seek facts, I turned inward and sunk deeper into my feelings.

It was my last few hours in Seattle, but I hardly was looking forward to going home. I felt ashamed of my oversight and discouraged at how far I still had to go to reach my goal. And with a dash of comparison facilitated by seeing an acquaintance on social media doing the things I had only talked and prayed about, one feeling became increasingly clear to me as a fact:

I was a loser at the lake.

Lake Union

Let me be clear. Though I know I’m not a loser, I certainly felt like one when I got home from Seattle. But after a handful of difficult conversations, plenty of hot tears, and a perspective-shifting podcast episode, I’m well on my way to making more aligned decisions and feeling more focused on all my goals, not just the ones that feel easy.

The truth is that goals do not achieve themselves, faith does indeed require work, and we have a responsibility to do right by our future selves.

All bark, no buy.

When I graduated from graduate school, I had two goals: travel and move out of my mama’s house. I could've done both. I only did one.

I don't regret that decision, as the travels of these last few years have changed my life for the better, and staying home allowed me more disposable income than if I paid for housing.

And it wasn’t just travel. The last two years have been filled with wonderful, productive, and joyful things! I learned new skills, achieved a ton of other goals, got a few more passport stamps, met new people, grew my blog, started dating people I liked, gained powerful insights, curated new interests, deepened my faith, and invested in my community. All beautiful things that got me closer to a better life, but no closer to the apartment I’d been talking about for years, but had been too afraid to pursue.

But what I know now is that your goals are not something you can sow into the ground, just turn away from because you’re too scared, and then come back to a few years later expecting to reap the benefits. They must be tended to regularly, bravely, and intentionally or else they will not grow.

I wanted an apartment. But did nothing to get it. I wanted it, but never made it a priority. Why?

I was a punk, my career got off to a bit of a rocky start, and I fell victim to some of the oldest cognitive traps in the book.


Neuroscience and macroeconomics aside, I was just scared to move out. I feared increasing my fixed expenses so drastically, the weight of a legally binding lease, and the unknowns of living on my own. I made my return to tech the benchmark for all other goals, from partnership to moving out. I felt if I didn’t feel stable in my career, how on earth would I succeed in everything else? I feared failure, making an irrevocable mistake, and going broke if I lost my job again.

So instead of facing my fears, I made the Pinterest board, went on a few tours, and started casually looking on Facebook Marketplace for antique dining tables for my dinner parties. I never actually prepared myself financially, mentally, or emotionally to make the move. I was a punk about it and used whatever logic I could come up with to delay it for as long as I could.


Just as I was getting my start as a grown person in the workforce, we had a borderline recession and I lost my job twice in less than a year. All of that was outside my control, no doubt, and I do think I did well given the circumstances. But when I made it to the other side of that season of my life, I finally looked up, looked around, and had to face my reality for what it was.

I wasn’t making what I used to. I landed a wonderful job in a different, less lucrative field than I thought I’d be in. I was just in a different place professionally due to factors beyond my control and that grieved me immensely. I used that lapse in occupational wellness as a sign to delay because that’s what responsibility looked like to me. The unfortunate part is that I simply forgot to imagine an alternative way forward could exist.

Failure of imagination

Failure of imagination is failing to plan for something avoidable that could have unpleasant consequences. An example could be not bringing your portable charger with you on a busy day because you didn’t think you’d be out for so long. It’s failing to prepare for something because you never thought you’d need to.

My failure of imagination? When I chose to focus on travel and divest from apartment savings, I didn't consider that I might want to prioritize the apartment in the future. I didn't consider that my focus would be different one day. I didn't prepare for a change I didn't imagine being a possibility. I just thought I’d move out eventually without ever really imagining what that’d look like or what I’d need to do in the moment to prepare for it.

A brief note on faith

Now before the church folks get fussy, cuz I know y’all like to tussle, this is not a faith crisis. This is not me doubting God or trying to make my own way or depending on my own wisdom and abilities. What James say??? Faith without works is what?? Dead.

The gag is I had a whole lot of faith, but I was doing absolutely nothing to back it up. I believed for an apartment, but I was doing nothing at all to prepare for an apartment besides watching videos on how to style a certain light fixture or researching how to import a custom couch from Amsterdam. I was so hung up on the things that would go in the apartment that I never thought about or put any effort into getting or even living in the actual apartment.

But I’ve learned my lesson. I’m pivoting. I’m making different decisions and adopting healthier perspectives. I’m, *deep sigh,* canceling some trips so I can spend the rest of this year completely locked in on achieving my goal.

Make Your Next Move Your Better Move

Changing course, locking in, and pursuing something new doesn’t have to be scary and doesn’t require self-deprecation. On the contrary, it requires you to get out of your own head long enough to focus on doing better now, not next time. Here are a few ways I’m doing that.

When, not whether

My issue was that I was not considering balance as an option. I felt pulled between saving for an apartment and gallivanting the world with my friends. To my credit, there’s so much cultural messaging that promotes dichotomous, either-or thinking. So much is reiterating that you can do this thing or you can do that thing, but for some reason doing both isn’t an option.

But what that framework fails to consider, and I too overlooked, is that many things that we want to achieve are not a question of whether, but of when. It was never whether I would travel or move out, for I certainly would do both. It was more about deciding when it makes sense to travel and when it makes sense to move out.

This framework was described to me by Hal Hershfield, psychologist, researcher, and author in the “You 2.0: Your Future is Now” episode of Hidden Brain by Shankar Vedatam. I felt it weeks before I heard it, though, at the lake in Seattle.

I felt pulled between a fall European tour and my newly rekindled commitment to moving out. I was deeply torn between the two, especially because I hate canceling trips I’ve already partially booked.

But the fact of the matter is that London and Lisbon ain't going nowhere. It's not a question of whether I should get an apartment or gallivant in Western Europe. I will do both. The better question is when. Perhaps I won’t travel this fall, but with adequate allotment and financial planning, why on earth could I not go next fall? Certainly, they’ll still be there. But who will I be next fall and how can I possibly make a decision for someone I’ve yet to become? Turns out I’ve been doing it from jump.

Our future selves

When I was in middle school, I spent many precious hours of my youth researching homes and schools in Los Angeles where I was certain my partner (who in my head was Patch from Hush, Hush) and I would raise our future children (who I was going to name after Twilight characters???). I found realtors, school bus routes, class schedules, my commute to work, and where we would grocery shop.

I was 12.

And what 12-year-old Thalia didn’t imagine is that when I did indeed grow up, I wouldn’t want the same things. She couldn’t fathom that I wouldn’t want to be a First Assistant Director for a film studio in LA anymore. She certainly would’ve never guessed I wouldn’t like the city very much at all. In her plan, she didn’t leave room for the possibility that I’d grow out of my obsession with the film industry and, honestly, the West Coast altogether. Thankfully, that kind of planning didn’t affect future versions of me. But I’m grown now; that’s no longer always the case.

Since my youth, I’ve been making detailed plans for a distant version of me based solely on my interests of the times, assuming the Thalia of 10 years from now will still be down. That’s fine when those plans are nothing more than a page in my old journals, but I’m not 12 anymore. I’m now making decisions that have real-life implications and plans that have more potential than ever to be realized. I have to start leaving room for my future selves to grow. It’s only fair.

Shankar and Hal discussed some interesting research that suggests that our brains view our future selves as entirely different people than who we are today. In fact, it responds in the same way it would to a stranger. Their advice? Turn your future self into a close friend rather than a stranger and watch your behavior adjust to make space for them in your decisions now.

My mistake when I was 12 and again in my early 20s was what psychologists call an “end of history illusion,” a common misconception that we won’t be too different in the future from who we are today, despite knowing how much we’ve grown from our past selves in the same amount of time.

When I deprioritized moving out at 23, citing a stronger interest in travel, I didn’t imagine that my priorities would change in just two years. I assumed that I wouldn’t be too different than who I was in the moment. But I’m sure you, dear reader, can relate to just how different we all are from who we were in 2022.

Now I’m not saying to not make plans at all. What I’m hoping to highlight is how this demonstrates the benefit of self-awareness and living based on core values and principles rather than fleeting interests. While sometimes, like with the apartment, I miss the mark on what my future self will want, most of the time I’m not too far off.


I practiced decentering the areas I was struggling in and worked to see them, and myself, in a more holistic context. I did some reality testing to check for any unproductive or inaccurate thoughts that I was having. I called on trusted people who saw me clearly to help me see myself as I am, not as a loser.

I did some serious reframing about what this all meant for me. I concluded that just because you would’ve done things a little differently in the past doesn’t mean you did horribly or you were a bad/dumb/whatever person. I can give myself grace and honor where I’ve been while still deciding to move differently now. This time, not next time.

Who is she?

I used to be a punk, but then I decided to grow up and live courageously. When I got home from Seattle, I felt like a loser. But then I decided to believe that I am blessed and destined for great things. I decided to seek God first and put some work behind my faith. I decided to live like a winner and pursue my goals even when it’s scary, difficult, or boring. I decided to have empathy toward my future self and treat her as a dear friend.

In the depths of those negative feelings, I made the decision to write when I wanted to hide, speak when I wanted to silence myself, listen closely when I wanted to block everything out, and engage my reality when I wanted to ignore it. I made the decision to honor my future self in my choices and stand on my word to myself and others. I made the decision to focus on my own goals and tend to them with care and attention, instead of mourning what I can’t control and what isn’t working out. I will tend to my immediate goal of moving out diligently, no matter how I feel or what happens around me.

In spite of. Anyway.