Monthly Archives: April 2017

Choosing Goodbye

I’ve gone through countless transitions in my life (we all have, haven’t we?), and I even feel like I’m starting to get the hang of them. As routine-dependent as I am, that’s saying a lot. My recent cross-country relocation, however, has a different flavor to it than previous transitions. I knew things would change when I graduated from high school, and undergrad, and grad school. I knew I would say goodbye to my partners in crime at camp once the summer ended, and I knew I would eventually leave my village in Peace Corps. Most of my transitions have been scheduled and predictable, following something of a pre-planned timeline. Since this most recent transition didn’t occur on a pre-planned timeline, I’m not quite sure yet what to make of it.

My time in North Carolina was remarkable in many ways, and what stands out to me most is how deeply I was able to put down roots in the 3.5 years I was there. I moved to North Carolina with no definite timeline in mind, thinking I would stay for a few, or several, years and eventually return to Colorado. Without imposed time limits, I set about making friends because I knew they would be essential to my ability to thrive. Upon reflection, North Carolina seems to me the first place in which I was successful at doing this. The deep, supportive friendships I made not only sustained me through the ups and downs of my years there, but helped me grow immensely as a person. I gained confidence in myself which helped me dive into my passions headfirst and continue to pursue them even if I missed a goal. The laughter, support, and genuine connections I felt in the communities with which I was involved helped me find balance and authenticity in how I approached life. I don’t have adequate words to describe how wonderful it feels to be part of groups that are so connected, supportive, and alive.

In addition to my social support, I had plenty of logistical roots to keep me in North Carolina. I bought a house and was just coming up on the one-year mark where home ownership stops feeling like you’re throwing money into a bottomless pit and begins to feel like it was actually a reasonable investment. I had all kinds of house and yard projects I intended to do myself. I had started my job 4 months before. And, of course, my preference for routine and predictability would have stayed in tact had I stayed in place. Everything about my situation indicated that I should have been there for longer than I actually was.

As many factors as there were rooting me to North Carolina, there were equally compelling factors pulling me to Colorado. A better job market in my chosen professional field. Another house with untapped project opportunities. Similarly supportive, albeit notably smaller, social networks including friends and family, among others. Childhood roots that had always been and would always be calling me home to the mountains. Less compelling was the multitude of unknowns that come with starting over.

Whether I stayed in North Carolina or moved to Colorado, there were myriad positive factors at play. I wasn’t running away from a negative situation. I wasn’t leaving at a pre-determined end point. I was choosing between something good and something good.  I had to make my own decision and live with the outcome. Can I mourn a loss that is a direct result of my own choices, made with full awareness of what would happen? Yes. Change, even positive change, and even change made on purpose, is difficult and comes with a sense of grief for what used to be.

Although I miss so much about my life in North Carolina, and although I still have much to figure out about my new life in Colorado, I am choosing to move forward while holding and embracing all the contradictions that come with this transition. I have chosen goodbye, and I have also chosen to pursue many great opportunities. Mixed in with the sadness is a strong sense of hope for all the new possibilities that await me here.

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You Can Go Your Own Way

I am a fairly independent person (those who know me well would probably say that’s an understatement). I have a propensity for taking initiative, I work well under minimal supervision (can you tell I’ve had job interviews lately?), and thinking outside the box feels more natural to me than staying in the box (ask me about my forward-thinking fashion choices). In a lot of ways, independence has helped me distinguish my individuality – a unique, tropical fish if you will. What has been harder to learn is how individuality and solitude go together.

Although I have spent my entire life as my own person, it has been harder to learn to enjoy my own company. In a society that allocates social value based on prestige, being highly visible tends to mean you have more worth as a person, and for a long time I thought I had to do everything with other people. Over the years, I have discovered that not only can I engage in social activities solo, but that I also really enjoy it. Make no mistake – friends, family and social connection are critical to my well-being. But other people don’t always share the same interests as I do, or they may be busy during the performance I’m dying to see. I want to do the things I want to do, and sometimes that means I’m doing things on my own. A couple experiences come to mind that helped me learn this lesson.

16 years old: I’m spending a month in Germany with a family that I kind of know. There is a lot of downtime. In the States, I’m used to downtime, but right now I’m traveling, and most people expect that trips – and especially overseas trips – are packed so full with tours, sightseeing and local adventures that there isn’t even time for sleep. I spend a lot of time reading. I enjoy reading, but I feel like I’m not living up to expectations.

23 years old: I’m spending Christmas in Australia. I’m halfway through Peace Corps service, and everyone else in my group is either back in the States or headed to  New Zealand for the holidays. I could go to New Zealand, but knowing that other people will be meeting up without me makes me feel left out, and I’d rather not spend an entire vacation with “Fear Of Missing Out.” Instead, I wander aimlessly around town, stop at places that pique my interest, and make up my schedule as I go. My only goal is to enjoy myself.

27 years old: I want to see a movie that is only showing at the theatre for one more weekend. Everyone else is busy. I sit in my car for a few minutes gathering up the courage to enter the theater, steeling myself for the social judgment comes with doing things alone. Once I make it to my dimly lit seat, I sink into relaxation with the realization that – nobody else cares. Or if they do, it doesn’t matter. I want to see this movie, and now I get to.

Giving myself permission to wear mismatched shoes is easy. Giving myself permission to be alone in public is much harder. My independence only goes so far. But I keep stretching it, and the more I learn that I can do on my own, the more I enjoy it. I find so much freedom and joy in pursuing my interests and whims because I can. Doing things alone means I’m not responsible for entertaining others, or agreeing to compromise on Italian food when I’d much rather have Indian. I get to enjoy things at my own pace and in my own way, which is often much slower and more low-key than anyone else’s Facebook feed. You should try it sometime!

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