Soaking it in, letting it go, and holding on

All in
All in

In the nearly seven months since I moved across the country, I’ve changed my perspective on many things and had a few come-to-Jesus moments about the things that matter to me and why. When you no longer have a full time job and you don’t have a car, and don’t know anyone around you, you have a lot of time to think and evaluate the pieces of your life — and I’ve certainly had some revelations, some more than once.

The one thing that I keep hearing from my parents, friends, and mentors is to “embrace this time” and “let things go,” and other tidbits of wisdom that you tell someone in their late 20s looking to change their life. They’re all right, of course, although as I’ve said in previous posts, sometimes easier said than done. I’m not ashamed to say that some days I’ve wondered if I’ll ever have real-life friends again, not just ones I used to see. Or that I yearn for the days when everything was routine and stable, but then five seconds later I remember that it was too routine, and too much of the same, so much so that I needed to get out of it all. I get annoyed when I don’t hear from people I expected to, and I’m overjoyed when I hear from someone I least expected to contact me. I’m bored and I’m content; I’m lonely yet okay with the extended break from the single woman’s life.

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Coffee Time Musings

I’ve been drinking out of this coffee cup for years now when staying with my parents. Of course I’ve read the words, but until now, I’m not sure I’ve stopped to figure out if I’m living them. So why not now?

Risk more than others think is safe: I’d say the last few months fulfills this one. Quitting a great job, leaving a great city, and not having a real plan in mind? Yeah, that was risky, and some people didn’t think it was safe or smart, either. I think the rewards will be worth the risk in the end, though.

Care more than others think is wise: Probably one of my most prominent behaviors. It’s both a strength and a weakness. When I care about something or someone – a job, an idea, friends/family/lovers, I’m all in. I’m invested, I’m emotional, and I’m absolutely vulnerable.

Dream more than others think is practical: I’m probably not dreaming enough right now. That was a big reason I moved to California to take this break, and my dad reminded me just the other day to think bigger and farther — and to remove the word “if” from my vocabulary. Dreams are the first step to making something reality.

Expect more than others think is possible: I have high expectations, for myself and for others, and sometimes it means I get hurt. I can be a perfectionist at work because I aim to impress and please, and for my own pride. And I often expect more from my relationships with people than they realize, or that they can or want to give. But I’m a firm believer that setting a high bar for yourself and for the people you care about and who care about you is ultimately a good thing.

What about you? Do you live these words (from a cadet maxim) often enough? Do you even believe they’re worth following?

Do we really know our friends?

best friends forever
Photo credit: keycomp123

After spending several months now with only my parents and dogs as company, I’ve done a lot of thinking about friendships. I left behind many close friends and many more acquaintances in DC, and have yet to make new friends here in California, although I’m highly anticipating meeting people as soon as I make my next move.

In the fourth months since I’ve left, I’ve heard from some friends quite frequently, through texts, emails, online chat, or even handwritten letters (my favorite!). Other people that I thought would be in touch, I haven’t heard from at all, and it’s disappointing, and truthfully, hurtful. And then there are others still that have surprised me by checking in with me, and giving me updates on their lives – people I wouldn’t have thought to hear from.

With change in location and plans always comes change in friendships. Some are to be expected, some are disappointing, and some are refreshing. But more than just accepting that friendships come and go, is accepting the substance of those relationships, and coming to terms with the fact that some of them are surface, fleeting, or specific. I read a blog post this morning about how with the evolution of digital networking, our “friendships” may seem to be deep and wide, but in fact, so many of our connections aren’t really connections at all – they are just people we met once, or perhaps even if we spent more significant time with them, they held a specific purpose in our life at that moment: they were the friend of a friend that was always at brunch or happy hour, or the former coworker that you were friendly with, but no longer see since you left the organization.

And then, what about all of those close friends that you spent hours with, over wine or beer, at celebrations and summer outings…what of them? It suddenly hits me that I don’t really know anything about these people, and nor do they know anything about me. Sure, I may know what they do for a living or that they play kickball on the weekends, and they may know what I do for a living and that I really like Corgis, but not much more. It hits me that one of the reasons I was ready to escape DC is that so many hours were spent talking about stuff that doesn’t matter, and a lot of it was negative. Commiserating about work. Gossiping about friends. Idle chatter about stuff happening in the city. It was like this giant juggling act of getting together with people because that’s what’s expected of us, when much of the time, we didn’t even really want to do it. I can barely count all 10 fingers as I think about the friends that I had real, deep conversations with – about books we read, and how our families and history have made us who we are, what our dreams are and where we’re going, our deep-seated fears and our moments of pure happiness and accomplishment.

Some of what I’m saying may piss people off, people that I hung out with. And that’s okay. I’ll say first that I’m grateful for all of my friends, no matter how close we were or weren’t – because life is full of all kinds of friendships, and some are deeper than others. But more than ever, as I spend week after week figuring out what I want to do with my life and figuring out what’s really, truly important to me, I’m not afraid to shed some layers I don’t need, and I’m not ashamed of expecting my friends to be the best they can be – authentic, caring, supportive, adventurous, and true – to me, and to themselves. Friendship isn’t about judging, and it’s not about trying to fix someone else’s problems. It’s not selfish, and it’s not about convenience.  So I’m going to do my best to be the friend that I would want to have, and not focus on the relationships that give me more heartache than joy.

There is so much more to life and to friendships than to talk about work and people on Twitter day in and day out – because there is so much more to each of us as individuals, and we all deserve a chance to really be ourselves in front of our friends.

Dreaming of the past and the future

"A connection between past and future"
Photo credit: gioiadeantoniis

The dreams keep coming. In them, people from my past filter through modern scenes – high school classmates, estranged family members, ex-boyfriends. Some meetings are awkward, some are familiar and comforting, some are wishful thinking. But almost every night for the last week, visions of my previous life have visited my dreams, making my days full of reflection and curiosity.

It’s not the first time this has happened, but why so much all at once? I suppose it’s fitting in this sabbatical I’ve been on for the last three months and counting. It fits right in with my only somewhat newly rekindled relationship with my grandparents that I hadn’t regularly spoken to or seen in more than 10 years. Or emails I’ve received from other relationships gone dry for various reasons throughout time. Or maybe because like they say, the past can be the key to your future?

For me, my past and the memories that go with it have always been a huge part of who I am. I review old diary entries, pull out photo albums again and again, and read letters and cards from loved ones that I first received years ago. A lot of what’s in my past, and who is in my past, have led to decisions I’ve made as an adult – some good, some bad. I’ve let my past run me over, and I’ve let my past remind me of what could be different in my present and my future. And like many others, I sometimes revisit my past when I shouldn’t, even though I know it will hurt me, again.

But more and more these days, I’m realizing that there’s a way to get closure with your past that doesn’t have to involve tears or fights or disappointment. And again, maybe because of this transition phase I’ve been in, I’ve given a lot more thought to who and what from my past I want to include in my life moving forward. Even if I decide that someone doesn’t necessarily need to play a role like they once did, I’ve found ways to acknowledge them and their impact on my life in a way that provides meaning to me, and makes me feel good about it, and I think and hope, for them.

But just because people appear in my dreams, doesn’t mean I’m compelled to reach out to them and reconnect. Sometimes, it just means I’m thinking about them and wish them well, or I am remembering happier times. And I know that as I continue to take the next steps in this journey I’m on, wherever I go, whatever I do, there will be even more people that are in my present life now that will end up in my past. That part I’m still a little worried about, because even now, it’s tough dealing with a loss of connection with friends I just left behind in DC a few months ago. But that’s what comes with moving and life changes of course. Perhaps they’ll be appearing in my dreams in the year to come.

Revelations on the journey to what’s next

Stopping to take a look around on the journey
Stopping to take a look around on the journey

I was in DC this weekend for a friend’s wedding, for the first time since I moved away two months ago. On the one hand, it felt like coming home, back to the place I had lived for six years. It was the city where I got my first three grownup jobs, where I ran my first races, and experienced multiple heartbreaks. It was where I learned to love sushi and wine, and that sometimes it takes four different forms of transportation to get home after a late night baseball game. It’s the place where I made friends for life, people that have seen me evolve from a naive, young college graduate looking to make my mark on the world to a (hopefully) wiser, stronger, more experienced woman… looking to make my mark on the world.

I visited favorite restaurants and bars, caught up with friends, and celebrated my friends’ marriage, but I realized that just two short (some days it felt long) months later, DC wasn’t my home anymore. And despite the fact that my parents’ house is only my temporary home, I already had that “I’m ready to go” feeling after a few days. Going into my visit, I knew I would be looking at it as a gauge on if I wanted to go back — because the thought had crossed my mind more than once in the time since I left. But as I walked around what had been my city, I realized that although I miss the people, and I’ll always go back to visit, I was indeed ready to leave and try something new.

And so what does that mean at this point? Although I don’t have all the answers yet, I feel like I’m a lot closer than I was when I got out here. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my needs and wants, my priorities, and what it will take to make me happy in my career, in my passions and hobbies, my surroundings, and in my relationships. The most important thing I’ve realized in all of this (thanks, Dad!) is that it’s absolutely okay that some of these things have changed, multiple times, even since May. Because, really, this is not the time to settle. There were moments in life when I settled, for a job, for a guy, for friends. But now, when I have my health, and family, and really, no troubles or worries, this is the time to make choices that are only for me, and right for me — not just what’s good enough, or what works.

As I look at the opportunities out there, I may get intrigued for various reasons, but I can’t jump at the first thing that comes my way. As I think about where I want to live, I can’t just go to the place that’s nearest, or cheapest, or easiest. As I meet new people, I won’t just befriend them or date them because they’re there. It’s time for purpose, and intent. And I certainly have time on my side (at least for now).

In the last few weeks as I have wavered over some of my decisions, or felt silly as I admitted feelings and desires out loud to myself, I’ve felt myself becoming more confident in this process, more content, and more excited than I was before about what lies ahead. It may end up being completely different from what I envisioned two months ago, but I’m on a path to really knowing myself and getting to where I belong.