Monday, December 29, 2008

The last stop on the campaign trail

A few weeks ago I watched a movie about several girls in college. It was one of those glorious fictional stories where the characters are just starting their lives, and the potential and possibilities before them are almost tangible. In the end, everyone figures out what they want and begins to follow their dreams toward becoming an actress, artist or anthropologist.

Instead of getting the high-on-life feeling I'm certain the director intended, I started to cry. I cried to the point of convulsions. I cried until I had a snot-covered t-shirt and a painful case of the hiccups.

I wasn't crying because I regret my own college experience. College was a crazy montage of all the emotions associated with the novelty of freedom and the fear of not quite knowing who you're going to become.

I cried because I suddenly understood my recent loneliness.

In this moment, I have a successful business, a great apartment steps from the beach, a loving family and meaningful friendships. Without a doubt, I'm a lucky girl. It seemed like I had everything I could possibly want, and I mistakenly thought the only thing missing was a life partner.

As someone who has lived life as if progressing along a never-ending campaign trail, I've worked hard to adapt according to my audience - I've perfected renditions of the devoted friend, academic, peace-maker, patient roommate, cheerleader, obedient daughter, court jester, homecoming queen, ambitious business woman and girl next door.

A whirlwind of nervous energy and campaign promises, I fell into my major, and subsequent career, through a series of decisions made to compensate for personal shortcomings and make my parents happy. I've learned how to present myself to achieve, accomplish and win votes, but I've never learned how to accept myself or trust my own intuition.

I value the flexibility and autonomy of my job, but I've never had any sincere interest in my work. I've created lifelong friendships with people I respect and admire, but I don't currently have anyone in the same place in their life to connect with on a daily basis. I love being close to the beach, my family and childhood friends, but I feel suffocated by the inaccessibility of this city.

The cruel combination of traffic, parking and having to drive after a few drinks, keeps me from going to new bars, taking salsa classes, seeing shows, or going to concerts and museum exhibits as often as I would like. Instead, I remain within the convenient bubble of my beach town. I go to the same bars and hang out with the same group of people; all very nice, but lacking my interest in life and learning.

Some people know who they are and what they want to do with their lives by pre-school graduation. But most of us aren't that lucky - we have to solve the mystery ScoobyDoo style through a series of experiences, mistakes and disappointments. The past year has been a crazy roller coaster ride with some tummy-turning drops and loops. Somehow, through all the jolts and jerks, my death grip on the safety consult has loosened, my eyes are open and I'm ready to trust that I'll get where I need to go.

This may seem like standard, post-chick flick introspection, but it's more. Assuming I can figure out the logistics without going broke or ending up homeless, I'm going to move back to New York for awhile. Hopefully I'll be able to live alone, take some continuing education classes and dance lessons, and meet some new people. This is not an attempt to run away from everything and everyone I've known over the past 28 years. Instead, I feel like I'm running toward something. I'm not doing this to win votes, meet a life partner, or make my parents happy. I'm doing this for the woman behind the 100-watt campaign smile.

4 comments:

D. said...

I'm proud of you for knowing that this is what you need and actually doing it. Looking forward to reading all about your new experiences in NYC and of course coming to visit!

Your Ill-fitting Overcoat said...

This is a beautiful post. Good luck to you-- and be happy you made this realization at 28... and not 82.

gillian said...

WHAAAT?!?! awesome!

Anonymous said...

So many people never have these realizations or "make time" to follow their hearts and dreams. Kudos to you. I admire your strength and think you deserve to finally live for you.