To Boldly Go…Emphasis on “Go”

Relocate

Of all of the disparate parts that float in and out of focus, making up my ideal vision of myself, one of the only bits that continues to remain absolutely clear for me is my desire to relocate. I currently live in New Orleans, a place I’ve called home since over half a lifetime ago, but if all goes according to plan, I will be living somewhere new in 18 months or so.

New Orleans became my home base in 1999, when I moved here to attend college. After my undergrad studies were finished, I stuck around not because I loved living here, as many people seem to do, but rather because I simply didn’t know where to go. Moving back to my hometown in North Carolina was out of the question, and I’d never been anywhere else, really. After Hurricane Katrina, I moved to Chicago for a few months and fell in love with the city. I came back to New Orleans to complete a graduate degree, and planned to move straight back to Chicago, but then I met a man (of course).

We started dating, and I lived in New Orleans for another two years before he eventually agreed to move back up to Chicago with me in 2008. But things didn’t work out for him there, and he couldn’t find a job. Eventually he moved back to New Orleans for a job opportunity, and for the next three years, we dated long distance. Though I was loving my life in Chicago, our relationship was slowly falling apart under the strain of distance. We saw each other nearly every weekend, but it really wasn’t enough (or maybe it was too much, who knows?). In retrospect, I should have just called things off, but instead I decided to try harder, and moved back to New Orleans. We were together another three increasingly unhappy years before I finally threw in the towel.

I wanted to move back to Chicago then and there, but I was broke, living paycheck to paycheck, and couldn’t afford the move. So I moved out, found a crappy little apartment, and started over. A few months later, a new man entered the picture, and life in New Orleans seemed less shitty. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in years, and I started to picture New Orleans as a long term option, thinking that as long as he was with me, maybe I’d get used to the daily disappointments of living here. Maybe the magic that everyone else seemed to see would start affecting me, and I’d somehow find a niche here. But the relationship wasn’t meant to be, and three years later, here I am again – single, still living paycheck to paycheck, in the same crappy little apartment. With one huge change…

Two years ago, I went on a spiritual pilgrimage. I dropped everything, went to Spain, and walked about 500 miles over the course of a month and a half. When I got back to the States, I knew that I didn’t want to go back to what I’d been doing before. After taking some time to consider my options and what I was passionate about, career-wise, I made the leap and changed careers. That decision paid off. Within a couple of months, I was working as a front desk clerk at a small boutique hotel. A year later, I was working as an event coordinator at a larger hotel, for one of the best hotel companies in the world. Now, a year after that, I’ve moved up the ladder a bit, and am in a position where, as long as I apply myself, I will have the option to move up again in 18 months or less. If I’m lucky, when I make that move up, it will also be out (of the city).

I’m not sure yet where I’d like to go, though I’ve compiled a list of possible destinations. One of the only other passions that I’m very sure about is my love of nature and outdoor sports. I love to backpack, hike, and camp. I love woods, mountains, and deserts. Regular access (long weekends are fine) to dark night skies and plenty of wildlife are major pluses. So wherever I go next, there have to be plentiful opportunities for me to live my ideal life, with options for year round natural exploration, but also plenty of access to the city and cultural opportunities, mostly museums, movie theaters, and music venues. It also needs to have big hotels, with extra points for a busy convention center. So far, I like Austin, Chicago, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, San Diego, and Portland (OR), though obviously some are better suited to my ideal working criteria than others. I’d also be very interested in Canada, perhaps Vancouver or Toronto. Honestly, if they were to give me an option to get out of North America, entirely, I’d be open to that possibility, as well. Guess we’ll see what opportunities present themselves in the coming months.

 

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Self Love

My apologies for the radio silence. I started my new job two weeks ago, and have been devoting myself fully to getting up to speed with my new duties as an event manager at a large hotel. It’s going well enough, though there’s still so much for me to learn. I’m sure with time, I’ll be much more confident in my role.

Of course, I’ve also been turning over a larger, more personal problem in my mind – chewing on the cud, so to speak. In my professional life, I’m usually decisive and quick to act. When it comes to problems of a personal nature, however, I often find myself slogging through molasses. I’ve spent years on relatively simple decisions. If there were a championship in sitting and mulling, I have no doubts I could win it, hands down. Most of all, I hate giving up. It feels too much like losing, and I really hate losing. I hate losing so much that I often don’t even play in the first place. Yes, I’m aware of how that sounds. I’ve missed out on a lot of things in my life because I was too scared of fucking up, so I didn’t even try to begin with. But it’s time to give up on some ideas while simultaneously embracing others. Moves must occur, and they must occur NOW.

These facts all come to me out of this particular period of rumination. I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to improve as a human being – to be truly bold this year – is to give myself permission to give up on the idea of romantic partnership, and to focus solely on myself for awhile. I can’t afford to waste energy on others for the time being. All of that energy that I spend worrying about everyone but myself must be pitched into a new project: me. And once it’s just me (and me), we need to get down to the business of figuring out just who we can be together. What are my interests, passions, strong suits? What makes me unique, worth knowing, worth loving?

Giving up on seeking love is a very difficult concept to wrap my head around. But I’ve realized that I spent the last 11 years using two back-to-back, long-term romantic relationships as an excuse to ignore myself. I tend to pour all of my energy into loving and taking care of someone else instead of having to confront the fact that I have been actively avoiding loving myself – the only person who desperately needs my full support. And twice now, it’s led me to a disastrous end in the “relationships with others” sphere, while my relationship with myself has continued to disintegrate, as well. It turns out that it’s impossible to really be there for another person if you aren’t all there for yourself, so when they don’t love you as much as you should love yourself, but you also don’t love yourself all that much either, what a shitshow! I think I’ve learned my lesson there, thanks.

When I see this in writing, it seems incredible. It’s hard to explain how I can set half of myself away, treat it so shamefully, give it no room to grow and breathe. I’m not sure where this comes from, exactly. Perhaps it’s from growing up in a fundamentalist Christian community, where women were subtly encouraged to think of themselves as second-class sinners nearly beyond redemption. Perhaps it’s from growing up in a society where a woman’s true worth is measured in how well she fulfills the desires of others. Perhaps it’s just a simple lack of self-confidence that created a loophole, a way for me to feel valid as a human if only I pushed most of myself away, out of sight, out of mind. I don’t have an answer; I only know that it’s time to fix this, and it’s going to be an uphill battle. Saying “me first” feels like the pinnacle of evil, even when I know in my heart that I don’t mean it like that. I need to put on my proverbial oxygen mask before helping anyone else with theirs. That’s not evil – that’s survival.

Since my boyfriend broke up with me a few months ago, I have struggled even more with my sense of self-worth. Leaving aside all of the other reasons that I’d be heartbroken over that particular ending, losing my partner has had deep repercussions on my relationship with myself. Without a significant other in my life, and only myself to think about (or ignore, as the case may be), it’s difficult to focus on what’s important. I’ve been thinking that it’s a lot like in Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, where the the main character, Richard, can see a street person splayed out on the sidewalk, but to Richard’s girlfriend, the person is literally invisible. There’s some small part of the girlfriend that senses that something is there on the sidewalk, but it’s of so little importance that her brain doesn’t register an entire being. I feel like I’m the person on the sidewalk AND the stranger walking by. I know I’m here, and I know I need help, but I also don’t care enough to stop and open my eyes to myself.

So where to go from here? The first step is to see myself. To step into the light, holding my own hand. Then we’ll go from there.

Hits & Misses

So it’s 12 days in, and I still do not have a solid plan with measurable goals. That is not so great, but I’m going to rectify it in the coming week. For now, though, I’ll highlight what I’ve been doing differently (good and not so good).

New Job (Good). It took four interviews and some good words from colleagues, but I got the job! I’ve got one week left at my current workplace, and then I’ll be starting a brand new gig at a much larger hotel. It’s a major step for me at my company, since I’ll no longer be just an associate, but a full-fledged manager. The job comes with a 10k pay increase, yearly raises, quarterly bonuses, and best of all, the opportunity to learn a ton with an amazing team.

I got very lucky with my current position, getting to work with some of the best and brightest in this market, and through amazing luck, it’s happening again. I’m getting set up to succeed, and I’m very grateful for that. I’m particularly excited that I was told at the final interview that I was expected to excel and move on to the next position within 18 months, maximum. For me, “next position” means “moving to another city,” so I can’t wait to put my everything into this job, and hopefully be rewarded at the end with the ability to finally get out of New Orleans for good.

Diet (Good). I decided to significantly cut back on ingesting negative energy in my daily diet. Yeah, I know that sounds hippy-dippy, but it’s the best way to explain it. I want to take a break from eating animals. Since I’ve had such a hard time with this every other time I’ve tried, this time I’m allowing myself to cut back instead of going cold turkey. I’m still eating seafood, but no mammals or birds. I’m also trying to supplement with as high of a vegetarian diet as possible, but I’m not making any other strict rules right now.

So far I’m doing well, though a friend did give me a bite of a pastrami sandwich the other day. But if that’s as far as I went towards screwing up, I’m happy with me. Otherwise, it’s been surprisingly easy. It helps that I love seafood, and have been letting myself have bread and fried food when I want it. But mostly I’ve just been eating a lot of sardines and avocado. Boring, but true.

Alcohol (Not Good). I gave up drinking for the month on November 1st, and allowed myself to drink on my birthday. That was a terrible, terrible mistake, but it goes to prove to me that alcohol and I should remain estranged. I ended up drinking a couple of drinks too many (which is wasn’t *that* drastic, but was poorly planned out, given that I had work the next day), and drunk dialed my ex and had a perfectly civil and friendly conversation, then when I got off the phone with him, promptly freaked out, couldn’t stop sobbing, and called an old friend from high school with whom I have a complicated relationship.

Luckily, even though it’s complicated, he gives a shit. So he talked me down (I blacked out at some point during the conversation, so I’m going on blind faith that I managed to only make a partial ass of myself). As I told him via text tonight, I know that alcohol and I don’t mix when I’m sad, and I’m very, very sad right now. This breakup has gutted me, and the only way that I’ve made it through is by working a lot, so much that I don’t have free time to dwell on being alone and feeling absolutely cut off from anything that used to make me feel human and alive. It’s really fucking me up to write this, so I’ll end it here. Basically, no more drinking. The end.

Social Life (The Worst). I went to the movies with a friend yesterday, and couldn’t bring myself to talk about anything important. And he’s just as painfully awkward, so we ended up talking about Pokemon and he showed me like all 5 million different little characters. I hate Pokemon. Like, with a passion. Hate. And I’m so fucking polite, and didn’t want to hurt my friend, so I sat there and suffered through it.

So after that trainwreck (movie was good, though), I met up with another friend who was going to go to a gallery opening. A photographer friend of hers was showing, and I’ve met him a few times, so thought it might be fun to tag along and be supportive. But she didn’t really explain the show to me, and when we got there, it was huge. There must have been 50 or 60 different artists represented, and the gallery was very large, and just packed with people. I looked at every piece of art there, and only liked a few. Not that it was bad art – there was good stuff – just that it was all New Orleans-themed, and related to music and party culture here. It was just not my cup of tea.

I took a turn about the gallery, realized I didn’t feel passionate about anything, and then proceeded to realize that I was surrounded by people who DID feel passionately about these pieces. I felt so out of place. My friend is a social creature, and knew tons of folks. Luckily, she’s English and very nice, so she introduced me to everyone, which was proper and appreciated, but also mortifying. I was ready to go, but then I felt like I needed to stay to be supportive, but I didn’t want to meet new people or be surrounded by people I didn’t know, and it was loud, and hot, and I hated the art…in the end, I had a very minor meltdown and told her that it was time for me to leave, which hurt her feelings a little, but she saw that I was very uncomfortable, and she gets it.

The Train. When I left the gallery, I walked home. It was only about 8 blocks, but I had to cross the train tracks at Press Street. When the train is going through, the street is impassable. There’s no pedestrian bridge, so no way over the train tracks until the train is gone, which can be ten minutes or an hour. In this case, just as I was getting to the tracks, the train went across and came to a stand still.

I proceeded to stand there for the next half an hour as the train moved forward a few cars, back a few cars, forward quickly, sloooooooowwwwly back, slowly forward, quickly back, whatever the fuck it is that trains need to do to be complete dicks and ensure that half the town is cut off from the other half. Anyway, as I’m standing there, eventually, all of the rest of the pedestrians who are standing there decide, one by one and in small groups, that it’s time to climb over the train. Some people go under. Some help each other hand bikes across. This happens in between moments of movement, for which there’s no warning. Sometimes the train is stopped for minutes at a time, and other times it just starts up and goes forward or back. There’s no way to tell what’s going to happen next, and every time those couplings that connect the cars slam against each other, I’m reminded how easy it would be to get crushed to death under this train. Just one slip and you’re a mess on the tracks.

So I watched people cross, and did nothing. Tightrope walked down the abandoned tracks alongside the train. Walked back a few blocks to a burger joint to get a beer and a burger, then decided that this didn’t qualify as an emergency, so no meat or alcohol required. Stood and stared at the train. Got closer. Envied those who crossed without a second thought. Got closer. Examined graffiti. Walked away. Kicked rocks. Looked back. Assessed the different types of ladders and hand grips and platforms on each type of train car. Saw that some cars had steering wheel type things at the ends that you’d have to scoot your body around. Those cars also had the best ladders, so even though you’d have plenty of handholds, there’d be an obstacle once you were walking across the short end of the car. The cars without wheels at the end had less ladder rungs. So clear path of movement, but much more difficult to get up without arm strength, and less places to grab if the train jerked and started moving. “Which way to sudden death,” I asked myself.

Eventually, I walked down the path of the tracks until I got to a place that was darker than the street had been there at Press Street and St. Claude, so if I wasn’t strong enough to climb up, all of the people there at the intersection couldn’t see me fail and laugh. I chose a car with only one ladder rung, so it would be tougher to get up, but no wheel, so a clear path all the way to the other side. Crossing was a breeze, no problem at all. I’d been standing at the intersection for well over a half an hour, trying to figure out what my safest, best option would be. Trying not to get hurt. Trying not to be laughed at. Trying to do things simply, with no fuss. And all I did was waste 30 minutes that I could have been doing literally anything else with my life other than feeling trapped, like a complete failure. I hefted myself up that rung, slipped across the car, and back down, then walked the last couple of blocks home, as though there had never been an impediment to my journey. Talk about life in microcosm.

Easing In

Samhain was last night, and marked the new year for me. Today I’m starting my life over. I meant to have a solid plan mapped out by now, with lists and mind maps and assignments by the day, but I have nothing. I did make a mind map that only went to show me that it’s no wonder I’m feeling a little scattered whenever I try to look at the big picture. There’s A LOT going on in my life. I tend to think that I’m pretty simple and straightforward, but then I start writing down all of the things I have do to, and want to do, and plan to do, and suddenly I’m a massive, crazy yarn tangle.

So instead of freaking myself out, I woke up this morning and decided to let this be organic for a little while. My first big, bold move was deciding that I was going to go to Walmart and buy some household things I’ve been holding off on for about two years now. Then, I upped my game a little by deciding to go to a Walmart I’ve never been to, in a neighborhood with which I’m unfamiliar (this was entirely based on Uber pricing – it was $5 cheaper to get to Gentilly than the LGD). I should probably mention that I haven’t been to a Walmart in nearly three years, and they tend to be emotionally exhausting for me, so this was quite the quest. It all worked out, though. I’m still alive, and I found new sheets, cleaning products, and even a new doormat for a particularly tricky front door. It wasn’t the most fun experience, but I left feeling like a winner.

I had already planned to clean my apartment today, but after getting home from shopping, I decided to begin throwing out anything that made me unhappy (as close as I’m currently able to get to the Mari Kondo method). I culled about half of my closet, but could probably stand to throw some other things out. I got rid of my ratty old ottoman that I kept planning to recover but never did, and the throw pillows that I’ve hated for three years. I’m going to keep going through and getting rid of every single thing that doesn’t match who I am or what I want to be. Every little thing that I’ve just picked up, pointlessly, along the way. All of the crappy little knickknacks that mean nothing, and the books I’ll never read, and the toys that the cats will never play with, and the art that I actually hate, but can’t bear to part with for who knows what reason. I’ve spent the last few years paring down my life, but I could do more.

There’s no good way to end this post, since I didn’t even properly begin my plan. But maybe all beginnings don’t have to be spectacular and earth-shattering. Maybe I can just say, “Hey, this is me. I’m weird and I’m doing something I don’t quite understand yet. Wanna hang out a while?”

 

 

An Exercise in Conflagration

I live a small, quiet life. I am steady, loyal, faithful to a schedule that does little to excite or enrich. I have two jobs, and work too many hours. I have three cats, and live in a too-small apartment. Lately, I feel bland and colorless. I spend 99% of my time out of work alone; I have yet to find a tribe. I’m well on my way to being outmoded, voiceless, trapped in cycles that I don’t understand, hurtling towards an ending when I didn’t even get off to a decent start.

The thing is that it’s difficult to find a circle of compatriots when you don’t know anything about yourself. I have all of these vague ideas of what I think I like, and who I think I am, but overall, I am sure of so very few things. I know that I have a dark, wry sense of humor. I’m an Anglophile, and adore BBC programming. I believe in magick, ponder the Fae, walk labyrinths, and watch Star Trek. I love animals of all kinds. I’m happiest when I’m outdoors, and would gladly spend much more time hiking, backpacking, and camping. I am a world traveler, a pilgrim, a fan of Rumi, St. Francis, and Stephen King.

I am scared of many things, but of those things, failure is foremost. With that fear at the forefront, I neglect my duty to boldly go forth into this wide universe, collecting new experiences, growing and thriving as all humans should. I stay small, rotting in my cocoon when I should have long since spread my wings.

Not long ago, my boyfriend of three years dumped me. Before that, a relationship of eight years fizzled out, too. Neither ending surprised me. Who wants to stay with someone who’s stopped living, who refuses to dig deep and find new ways to reach out to the world? Of course, it went both ways, but I’m only interested in mending myself now. The upside of not having a significant other for the first time in 11 years is finally having the ability to marshall all resources inward, to fully embrace yourself, to stop worrying about how your actions impact your lover, and only worry about how your actions can be tailored to build a better life for yourself.

After some reflection, I’ve decided that the best way forward is to follow the words of my favorite poet/teacher, Rumi: “Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”

Samhain is next week, and I’ve taken two PTO days to celebrate and enjoy the New Year. It’s my intention to spend those days cleaning the house from top to bottom, throwing out everything that doesn’t suit my life moving forward, and setting my intentions for the year ahead. I have a week and a day to sketch out some basics for how to proceed, though I think that most of the concepts have been growing in my imagination, unspoken, for years. It’s time to buy a box of matches and set this life ablaze.