It’s equally miserable, trust me.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

August 4 will mark two and a half years since I became a widow. With that impending milestone, I’m finding myself in the midst of a grief wave.

It’s like I’m in the early days of loss: I’ve had several sleepless nights, made one too many impulse purchases, dwelled on various hopeless thoughts, cried countless tears, and felt bitter and angry about the way that my life has turned out.

I’m embarrassed to admit this. It’s been a while since I’ve written about grief, and to do so now feels like a defeat. I’ve been working so hard for things…

We’ve completed 32 miles so far, and have only 2,158 miles to go.

As of last Sunday, I’ve hiked 32.4 miles of the Appalachian Trail. I’ve hiked those miles over the course of two weekends, two consecutive years in a row, with three other incredible women. And I couldn’t be prouder of us.

Teammates and friends since high school, from left to right: Katie, Sarah, me, and Yasirah.

Katie, Yasirah, Sarah, and I all played on the same high school soccer team in Georgia. Although the four of us were in three different grades, we became close — drawn together by a similar determination to root for our underdog team, and motivation to keep spirits high when tensions soared higher. …

This essay might suck … and that’s ok.

If I don’t write, anything I don’t fail. Or do I? Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

This essay might suck.

That’s not because I’m about to tackle anything controversial. It’s because there’s no way that everything I write will connect with every reader. More so, it’s because I’m not writing this essay from a particularly confident or clear-headed place.

I didn’t want to write this. I debated excuses for why I couldn’t publish an essay this week. I sat at my desk, feeling increasingly frustrated as I stared at a blank Google Doc, all of my half-starts hidden in the history of document changes.

Finally, I wrote this line as a joke: “This essay might suck.”

Connecting with nature is the first step.

On a Saturday last March, I joined my friend Josie and dozens of other volunteers at a nearby beach to pick up trash. Josie and I chatted as we walked along the shore, scanning the ground for garbage. After a couple of hours, she and I picked up hundreds of cigarette butts, dozens of plastic bottle caps and straws, and other debris — four pounds’ worth of trash in total.

It felt great. Spending the morning at the beach with a friend was, of course, lovely. Doing that while also doing something good for the environment? Even better!

Later that…

An important message. (Photo by Katie Hawkins-Gaar)

I had surgery on my right ear four weeks ago. The operation involved a mastoidectomy, to remove a cyst called a cholesteatoma; and a tympanoplasty, to repair my eardrum. The two procedures are often done in tandem, which means they’ve earned their own cute celeb mashup name: Tympanomastoidectomy.

(I promise those are all of the overwhelmingly technical words you’ll have to read this essay.)

I wasn’t too worried about the procedure itself. I was anxious about going under general anesthesia, and being in a hospital-like setting, which tends to bring back difficult memories for me. But I didn’t give much…

Photo by kate.sade on Unsplash

It’s hard for me to admit this, but here goes: I don’t want to return to a full-time job.

I left my salaried position at the end of 2017. It was a decision I fully believed was a grief-fueled whim, one that I’d snap out of sooner or later. I figured I’d eventually return back to a demanding office job, one with a respectable salary and benefits, and that my friends and family would breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Last weekend, I went down a social media rabbit hole. I was feeling nostalgic, and wound up exploring my Instagram…

Photo by Martin Burdon on Unsplash

The opening scene of Netflix’s new series “Dead to Me,” is pitch perfect.

Christina Appelgate, who plays newly widowed Jen, is standing at her front door. She’s clad in all black, and looks emotionally spent. Her well-intentioned but ultimately clueless neighbor, Karen, proudly offers her a homemade casserole.

“Jeff and I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” Karen says, solemnly shaking her head.

“Well, it’s like if Jeff got hit by a car, and died suddenly and violently,” Jen responds, without taking a beat. “Like that.”

Karen gulps, and makes a hasty exit.

I watched that episode with my mom…

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Birthdays are complicated. The milestone of turning another year older usually prompts me to obsess over signs of aging and whether or not I’ve accomplished enough in life. And, believe it or not, I don’t usually wind up thinking, “Wow, I do look young and I have accomplished a lot!” Nope. I veer far in the other direction, landing myself in a mental rut that doesn’t exactly sync up nicely with a day of celebration.

The year that Jamie died, I didn’t celebrate my birthday at all. I retreated to a cabin with my dog and told friends and family…

Photo by Julien Riedel on Unsplash

Last week, I stood in a circle of mostly strangers in the middle of the woods. We all held hands, introduced ourselves, and each shared something we were grateful for.

“Hi, I’m Katie. I’m from St. Pete, and I’m grateful for traditions.”

My partner and two of my closest friends, John and Josie, were the non-strangers in the circle. Everyone else was either a guest or staff member of The Hostel in the Forest, a no-frills retreat in Brunswick, Georgia, that’s built on environmental sustainability and communal living.

The gratitude circle marks the start of a nightly tradition at the…

Will I lose my sparkle as the candles on my birthday cakes multiply? Photo by Nikhita Singhal on Unsplash

Dear Katie,

I’m aging in an industry that values youth, and I’m struggling with my next move.

I started at my current company working in advertising at age 24 and always felt I was “over performing” for my age, reaching big goals by the time I turned 30. Now that I’m in my late 30s and balancing raising a family with trying to get to the next level in my career, it’s hitting me like a ton of bricks: What do I do if I’m not on a senior vice president career track and my colleagues and managers keep getting younger and…

Katie Hawkins-Gaar

I’m a writer and journalist. I’d be lost without gratitude.

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