Recently, I was reading Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”, a well-written memoir of an ordinary guy’s life journey that almost accidentally ended up finding direction via food. I really like Anthony Bourdain, because he reminds me of more than one person I’ve been close to in my life. Perhaps his stories even remind me a little bit of me, although I typically can’t make brownies, much less a souflee.

In any case, his memoir inspired me to think about my own life, and my own crazy journeys, as well as where I am now, and where I might be going in the future.

Looking back, I think I will always remember 2010 as “My Year Of Becoming Respectable”.

It was a rather unplanned and unexpected journey, and one that involved an awful lot of “No” along the way. I’ve discovered that being respectable, at least by society’s standards, is somewhat defined by the ability to behave with moderation and choices that reflect a certain level of self-respect and consideration for others, rather than with unabashed hedonism. Let’s face it, all things considered, I’ve probably never been “respectable”. It’s something that no level of intelligence or talent, high-priced education, connections, or culture can provide, and I’m not sure it’s even positive. It’s more a stamp of approval from society that says, “Thank you for taking the time to conform. You will be rewarded with a regular paycheck, a healthier lifestyle, and less derision from those around you.”

At the same time, becoming “respectable” is also something that’s helped me become a more secure, self-aware human being. I’m no longer that person everyone defines as an unemployed actress or restless 20-something trying to find herself. I don’t have to go crawling home, asking my mom to pay the electric bill because I ran up a $200 martini bill over the weekend. I’m also not that odd, irresponsible person who can stay out all night on a Sunday, get on an airplane because I had a fight with my boyfriend, or move to a different city because I got bored. I have friends that haven’t had to bail me out of jail, seen me naked at a party, and are not concerned that I’ll become a little bit too interested in their spouse. For the first time since puberty, most of those I spend my time with are people I haven’t dated or involved in a crazy situation that’s never to be talked about again.

I’m still not thoroughly convinced I’m a monogamous person by nature, but I’ve managed to spend two and a half years in a happy and thoroughly monogamous relationship, and I haven’t run too far in the process. Although I struggle with the ability to trust any person the way I’d ideally like to, I’ve discovered that there are things about me that are very “relationship-oriented”, and being happy with one person for a long time isn’t out of the realm of possibility for me.

This year, I learned what it’s like to work 8-hour days, and to be accountable to people who aren’t me. I learned about just how hard and challenging it can be to have a relationship with one person, and not go running off when things get hard, or look for someone else when I need something new and different. I learned that you can’t order everything off the menu if you’re wanting to lose weight, and you can’t drink 8 martinis in an evening if you want to be productive the next day. I learned that you have to deal with your fears and the scars the past has left behind if you want to have a future, and no matter how painful that process might be, you can’t forego it or replace it with something more fun. I learned that you can say you don’t care about what others say about you until you’re blue in the face, but at some point, you have to let people in and admit you care more than you should. I learned that it’s not only OK to plan for the future and to expect those close to you to be in it for the long haul, it’s probably a good idea.

I learned that probably around 1% of the population ever meets anyone even slightly good for them at a dance club, and I don’t really miss going there that much at all. In fact, most of what I observe consists of lonely, desperate, and lost people behaving in ways that demean them. Not that all of that doesn’t have a time and place in a person’s life—but I suppose I’m past the point where it fits into mine.

I learned that I’m happier when I like me than when I’m consumed by the need for others to like me. Ironically, it’s since I started caring about that approval and admiration a little less that I started to find more kindred spirits in the world, more people who truly like me for who I am, rather than an image or idea of which they’ve become enamoured.

I learned that moderation doesn’t have to be restrictive, it can also be healthy and normal. That being said, it can also be boring and restrictive. There is definitely room in every life for adventure, for watching the sunrise with friends, for unexpected romance, for forgetting to be “respectable”.

I’d be lying if I said that sometimes, I didn’t miss certain bits and pieces of my old lifestyle. I don’t miss the chaos, the rollercoaster ride that was so often my life, but I miss the spontaneity and sheer good times that are more likely to happen when you’re not thinking about paying the bills, planning for the future, or having balanced relationships with other people. I’d definitely like to put a bit more of the unexpected back into my world, a bit more freedom.

Perhaps 2011 will be my year of “balance”, the year that I continue to work towards some of the goals that inspired my newfound journey toward “respectability”, but recapture some missing pieces of myself—or, rather, pieces that have been put on hold so that I could concentrate on other things. For the first time in a long time, I’m accepting that there probably is going to be a future, and rather than avoiding it or seeing it as a limiting force, I’m looking forward to both success AND adventure.

I think it’s going to be a good year.