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.

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Adjusting the journey is part of the process

writingI’ve been in California for nearly a month. Some days it feels like I left DC ages ago, other times, like I just left yesterday. These are the times I’m grateful for technology like social media, where I can check in to see what’s happening with my friends and in my former city. And I’m grateful to the friends that have been so great about keeping in touch in these first few weeks, texting me, emailing me, reminding me to stay strong and that things will all work out the way they’re meant to.

When I made the decision to come out to California and start this journey, even though I knew the first few months would be a transition, I was already running all the scenarios in my mind of how to immediately get consulting gigs, and how to get my writing published. I’m a planner, always have been. And it honestly scares me to think of not having a steady income after being so fortunate to have one since I’ve been out of college. It scares me to think that I could sit and write every day, all day, for years, and nothing ever come of it. As my dad said, I was looking for the silver bullet, and couldn’t stop planning, as opposed to just using this time to do what I wanted to do, which is relax, write, and reflect.

And yet, in the last several weeks, as I’ve split my time between part-time work for my job in DC, writing, and spending time with my parents, I’ve realized a few things about myself that I guess I didn’t think would be so important and immediate.

For one, living out in the country with my parents is a great way to spend time with them, to focus, and have some solitude. But it’s not for me in the long-term. And I’m not even sure I’d be ready to move to the nearby city of SLO … which means that I very likely may end up in San Francisco, where I can be around more people, more things to do, and more variety. And that’s okay. As my aunt said in a lovely note to me, I’m at a different place in life than my parents, and what’s right for them right now may not be right for me. So if what I need right now is to be in the city, that’s okay.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about of course is what I’m doing out here and what I want to be doing. As I’ve been outlining themes to write about, one common thread kept popping up  — connections with people. Whether it’s through food, health and fitness, technology, or family, all of the things that interest me and make me feel fulfilled involve interacting with people directly and either helping them do something they love, or telling their stories. It’s one of the reasons I enjoyed journalism so much several years ago, and why I loved meeting supporters for the campaigns I worked on at my second job. That personal interaction is key for me. And once again, my dad helped me sort through some scenarios; and I always chose the one that involved people, rather than writing in isolation.  So what does that mean? I crave being around people more than I thought I did, as much as I do cherish my time alone. It means that I need more structure to my day than I imagined, and that maybe writing isn’t the end all be all, maybe it’s just a priority, rather than the priority.

And that is okay, too.

There are lot of different routes I could take – I could do teaching, or coaching, or mentoring, and I can figure out how to incorporate writing into any of those.

I spend a lot of energy (too much!) trying to prove to others and to myself that I am capable of something, or that I will follow through based on the original plan. But life doesn’t work that way, and people don’t work that way. If I’ve changed the context of what I want to do a month after getting here, so what? I’d rather do that and be true to myself than force myself to make something work that I’m just not feeling. If I’m more suited to live with my parents for a few months and then move to the city instead of sticking it out here, so what? I’m still near them for frequent visits, and if I need that for my heart and mind, then that’s what I’ll do.

A friend of mine told me to think about things I wanted to accomplish while I had this time. Whether it’s reading 10 books, or trying 10 new recipes, or writing 10 blogs, if I focus on that, then the other things will fall into place in time.

And that is okay.

All the feelings

A moment in time still rings true
A moment in time still rings true

Two weeks from today will be my last full day at my job. Three days after that, I get on a plane to California, and I’m not using my flight back. Whoa. (Catch up on the situation here.)

In the last few weeks, the emotions that accompany a giant leap like quitting your job and moving across the country to the unknown have been all over the place. Mostly anticipation and excitement, but also fear, sadness, nervousness, and doubt. Some mornings I wake up ready for the world, and ready for this new adventure, but within hours I’m freaking out about health insurance, not having enough moving boxes, and not being able to have a spontaneous happy hour with my best friend after work anymore.

As I’ve been cleaning out boxes and papers and stuff in my apartment, I came across an old journal I kept for a few years in high school specifically about my interests. My dad recommended it so I could narrow in on what I wanted to major in at college, and really start thinking about my career. It was hilarious to see how despite some phases of thinking I wanted to be a forensic psychologist or a counselor, I would charge back with notes about how I couldn’t stand math and science, and how I loved writing, reading, theater, and helping people. “Is there a job that pays well where I can just sit and read all day?” And the best: “I love writing. But it might not fulfill my wishes to help people.”

Today, I can look back and realize how those interests and passions we have in our youth are often the most real and true even after years of school and different jobs. And you know what? I feel pretty good about the fact that my work to date has both involved writing and helping people, or helping to do good. And now, I am going to do more of that, but just in a different way. I’m going to do what I wanted to do all those years as I sat in my room trying to write the next best-selling young adult series, and I’m going to help people, too  — maybe to be better writers, or readers.

Just now on TV, Madonna was being interviewed about a daring, yet very classically Madonna outfit she wore to an event. “There are no rules,” she said. “Just go by what you want.” I’m reminded by something my dad told me when I was struggling with an article for a magazine during an internship. It was a very dry piece, and I didn’t know much about the topic. Despite this, my dad said, “You can write it as is, or you can write it Madonna-style.” Over time, I’ve tried to remember that with my writing, no matter the topic, and with my life — to be true to me, to forget the rules, and to do what I want. It’s not always easy, but it is possible, and it’s worth the risk. And that’s what I’m doing now.

IMG_3955I’ve realized that in the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to set rules for myself, and unnecessary deadlines. I’ve tried to force myself to come to decisions about my work, my relationships, and my future, all by the time I step on the plane on May 24. But what I also realized, with the help of some friends and my parents, is that I’m under no one’s deadlines, and nothing has to happen, except of course the basics, like packing and getting out of my apartment. I can sit around for two months and not do any work, or I can have as much work as I want. I can embrace love and see what happens, and I can change my mind about any of it, whenever I want.

My apartment may be getting emptier as furniture is sold and boxes are packed, but my life is feeling more full by the day. I have been so fortunate to have all these wonderful friends and family and colleagues whom have been supportive and caring and proud and happy for me — and yes, sad — and that have been there for me to be all of those things with them, too.

In the next two weeks, as I’m thinking about spending time with my parents and Corgis and being able to pursue my dreams, I’m also thinking about leaving behind an amazing city that has provided me with opportunity, adventure, and the best friends I could ask for. As an only child, I always treasured my cousins and extended family so much in place of siblings. But these people here have become my family, too. They’ve watched me grow and evolve, they’ve seen me at my happiest, at my lowest, and all the in betweens. And I hope that you are all still there in the months and years to come, so I can be there for you, too, and we can share all the feelings, whatever they are, together.

Guest Post: Synchronized Skater to Social Media Director

An acquaintance from college is the author of Lagniappe’s first guest post. I met Sally-Anne Kaminski in a journalism class, and loved to hear stories about one of her passions — synchronized skating, as well has her dream to be a news anchor. Welcome Sally-Anne! Leave her a comment here or find her on twitter @socialskipper.

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When Jenna sent out a tweet looking for guest bloggers for Lagniappe, I jumped at the opportunity to write. Not long ago, Jenna was writing about me. About a year after I graduated from Miami University in Ohio, she was tasked with interviewing successful young Miami alumni for her job in Miami’s Marketing Communications department. A few emails and a phone call later, she had everything she needed to do my profile. And when it went live on Miami’s site, it was pretty freaking cool.

Those that know me well would agree that I have a pretty expressive, bubbly personality. So all those years ago, I gushed to Jenna about how much I LOVED my job. In fact, I even referred to it as “my dream job.” Cringe.

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