Joy.

Change overpowers me lately. My life has consisted of two major components in the past couple of weeks: networking and drinking.Or, more often, a combination of the two. I’m not proud that drinking has again become a favorite pastime, but when in Rome, do as the Romans do: Get drunk. (Right?)

Sleep has not been a priority. Nor has eating healthy meals. Or eating much at all, really, except when I binge on party food. Like the soggy sushi and subpar Chicago-style pizza I inhaled last night, desperate for familiar flavors and a little satisfaction of the culinary sort. As for exercise…well, I don’t even know what that is anymore. How I managed to do all my drinking and networking a couple of years ago and still kept in shape is beyond me. Absolutely beyond.

I keep telling myself that once this transition is over, I’ll continue in pursuit of those healthy habits, sleeping and eating and exercising. Things my therapist calls “self care.” I’ll be that work-from-home badass who gets it all done and makes it look goooooooooooooood. Yep. A girl can dream.

In truth, these things are never as easy to accomplish as it seems. Becoming a badass of the sane assortment will take more dedication and presence of mind than I’m capable of now.

But there’s one sanity I have left, one I’m unwilling to let go of in my haste to hurtle myself into this new professional realm of self-employment. And that is joy. Joy in the smallest increments, in moments so tiny they’re imperceptible to anyone but me.

Alone in my little apartment with NPR in the morning; familiar voices as I step into the shower. The first of the day’s business news at 6:50 a.m. as I finish breakfast, switch off the A/C, slip into my shoes and lock up the apartment. Knowing that won’t be the case for much longer.

Peering over the shoulder of a fellow Metra rider, conservatively clad in a blue polo and khaki pants, and noticing that he’s on his laptop updating his Adult Friend Finder profile. I wanted so badly to ask him about it. But he was jumpy, nearly got off at the wrong stop. Your secret’s safe with me. Kind of.

Howling fighter jets over Lake Michigan, the oohs and ahhs of onlookers packed like sardines along the shore. Dragonflies hovered in droves over the searingly hot flat rocks near the water; darting in and out of one another’s flight paths, they blended seamlessly with the Blue Angels as the Air & Water Show screamed to a glorious finish. Squealing with glee, not caring one bit that the show is barely disguised military propaganda. Where do I sign?

A penthouse apartment that stares out at the John Hancock building, the lake sparkling beyond it. Little white sailboats casting tiny shadows on the water as the sky turns orange, then pink, then violet and deepens to nighttime navy. The first chill in the air as fall stages a coup.

Buying vegetables for the first time in a week at a downtown grocery store, nearly colliding with a chef desperately seeking as many jars of marshmallow Fluff as he can gather. The restaurant is running low on supplies needed for Nutella crepes. Suggesting aisle 5 and hearing a breathless thank-you behind me as I bagged my broccoli crowns and he rushed toward the registers with 15 white jars. He cleaned them out.

A small crowd of strangers perched on countertops and blue plastic coolers, red cups in hand. Nick Drake on vinyl at 2 a.m. An old velvet sofa in a foreign apartment in Lincoln Square. Girlish goosebumps as hands trace lines alone my neck and shoulders, genuine affection for the first time since, well. Since then. Not knowing if I’m ready but easing out all the same.

Big, wet kisses from an oversized golden retriever puppy on a walk with his owner. Well worth the 30-second setback during my commute to stand there on the corner, stroking his soft yellow fur, feeling loved before the morning dew had even evaporated. Retributions for the previous day’s frustrations, when all I wanted was “flowers and puppy kisses.” Someone was listening.

The solid eight hours of rest, the balanced diet, the morning jogs and weekend yoga. They’re a ways off. But the joy won’t stop. It rushes at me, overwhelms me more than the stacks of business cards that litter my apartment, is more dizzying than the nights of free drinks and the next-day vertigo. Change overpowers me. But somehow, this flood of joy keeps me grounded.