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.

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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.

So it begins…life in the country

The view from the back of the house
The view from the back of the house

I’ve been on the West Coast for exactly a week, and in my (parents’) new home in Paso Robles for less than 24 hours. A slight hiccup means my stuff still isn’t arriving until Monday, but when it all gets here and I start a new work routine, it’s going to start feeling a little less like vacation and more like reality.

corgi signBecause so far, it hasn’t quite hit me yet. A weekend in Napa to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of my friend followed by a couple of days in San Francisco with another dear friend who moved out here in 2011 has been a stellar introduction to my new life as a California girl. Imagine trying to answer people when they ask, “So, where are you from?” I used to have trouble explaining my Louisiana to Ohio connection, but now to throw DC in the mix, especially right at the transition, is another story. Because I did in fact end up making DC my home, and I felt more in tune to it than I ever did in Ohio, despite living in the latter for nearly three times as long.

First order of business upon arrival to the “farm” was greeting the Corgis of course. My boy McGee is the same as always, and it’s wonderful to be with him again. And Abbey, oh Abbey, she’s a just a little ball of fluff and cuteness that I can barely describe. To be with puppies again is so much fun! And exhausting, for sure. Leftovers for dinner and a glass of wine topped off the first night, and I went to bed with the windows open in my room, all decked out already with some personal touches from my parents.

New coop door!
New coop door!

Today started with a great long walk with Dad and the dogs in the neighborhood, and I got to see just how many great hill workouts I’ll get in. My runs won’t be boring around here. Life on a farm has its duties — I helped Dad build a door to the chicken coop, and later I’ll pick some tomatoes from the garden, and maybe we’ll go to a wine tasting nearby.

But what’s most important is what’s happening right now: the dogs are laying on the floor, I’m in a chair writing, and my parents are nearby doing their own work. Beautiful scenery is all around us, and I get to wear stretchy pants and drink Dad’s fresh coffee. Life’s pretty good in the country so far.

As I settle in to my new home and figure out this journey, I hope you’ll stay tuned. Readers of my blog know I’m not really a daily update type of blogger, but I did want to share this first one with you from California. And if you really can’t get your fill of the Corgis, you can start following corgisandwine.tumblr.com, for lots of updates on… well, Corgis and wine.

A day at the new office
A day at the new office

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.