The Goodbye Girl (thoughts from my younger-ish self)

I wrote this post back in May of 2012. Someone recently came across it and enjoyed it, and when I reread it I realized that everything I said two years ago is still true now, maybe even more so.

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The Goodbye Girl

There are a couple of different levels to the whole “saying goodbye” thing. The older you get, the closer you come to the realization that you’re going to spend your life saying goodbye to people, whether temporarily or permanently.

The first round of goodbyes came when I graduated high school. Realizing that everyone is going their separate ways, but still be grounded in the fact that you’re from the same hometown. To all of you, “coming home” will always mean coming back to the place where you all grew up together. So you say goodbye, but you realize that it isn’t really permanent. You’ll see each other again. There will be summers and Christmases, always time to catch up. On the one hand, this realization is wonderful, on the other hand, it can also be infuriating. Because you realize that some people will just always be a part of your life, whether you want them there or not.

The second round of goodbyes came after college. Those are a little tougher. Because you’re not all from the same place, and you’re all heading someplace different. This time, without a timeline. It’s not “I’ll be gone for 4 years and then I’ll be back”. It’s just “I’ll be gone.” It takes more effort to keep up those college relationships, because you have to travel. You have to write, or text, or call, and wonder if this is something you can keep up for years and years or if it’s something that will eventually just fade away. But at the same time, you always have your school. The time you spent together – that common place that’s always there if you want to take a trip down memory lane.

Then there’s the third set of goodbyes. The ones that happen in the real world. The first time you say goodbye to someone and realize that you might actually never see them again, regardless of whether you want to or not. I find myself constantly saying goodbye these days. It seems that if you’re not leaving, someone else is. And things change a little bit with every goodbye, whether for better or worse.

I hate goodbyes, of course. I don’t know anyone who particularly likes them, unless you’ve got a flair for the dramatic and a thing for recreating the last scene from Casablanca (“If you don’t get on that plane, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow. But someday, soon and for the rest of your life”). Real goodbyes aren’t usually terribly theatrical, unless you’ve decided to live your life like a romantic comedy and have one last chance to tell Joe Shmoe that you’re in love with him (Because God forbid you’d actually told him when the two of you could’ve done something about it).

It’s just that it’s very odd to say goodbye and realize that you mean it. That everything is changing, and there isn’t that much time left. Because we always want more time, don’t we? Whether you’re forced to say goodbye to someone because of a tragic event, or it’s simply because life is moving you in different directions. There is no “see you later”, because you don’t know if you will. And maybe that’s the scary part – suddenly you realize that whether or not you see someone again is entirely up to you. Life isn’t going to toss you together anymore – it’s already done its job. After goodbye, friendships can’t just be reactive anymore, they have to be proactive. And that’s when you figure out how much people mean to you.

And maybe one day you’ll find yourself standing in an airport, wishing desperately that you could buy a ticket to see somebody and knowing that whether or not you do is entirely up to you. And you’ll think “If I don’t get on that plane, I’ll regret it. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow. But someday, soon and for the rest of my life”.

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NaNoWriMo, Round 2 (or) Stuff I Keep Learning

Generally speaking, I lack discipline. I’m constantly late for things, my house is a mess despite promises to keep on top of those pesky dishes, and I haven’t blogged since I got back from Europe despite numerous assurances to myself that I would.

The one time I do have discipline? NaNoWriMo. This is year two, and I’m currently sitting at 42,511 words. I’m feeling good (or at least not feeling like I want to lay down on the icy pavement and never get up again). When I did NaNo last year, it was a big deal. Up until that point I had never finished one single piece of long-form writing I’d started. I had pretty much given up on the idea that I was capable of writing a novel, deciding that instead I was only capable of thinking about writing one.

But then I did it. And after you do something once that you never thought you could accomplish, it’s surprisingly easy to do it again. Well, maybe not ‘easy’, but certainly not the insurmountable vortex of self-doubt and terror that it was the first time.

NaNo continues to teach me about just how much time I really have in my life. Last year I figured I was primed to do it – my work commute was all of 15 minutes, getting me home by 5:45. I lived alone, so I had no distractions. I buckled down, I let it become my life, I swore to myself I would finish. And I did. But this year was different. My commute is an hour, I live with someone who would probably appreciate it if I actually speak to him in the evenings (although all he ever asks me now is “Have you written yet today?”). Life is busier, things are things, stuff is stuff. I didn’t have a story in mind, at least not the way I did when I started last year, with pages of notes and a carefully constructed plot arch. But I had an idea, and I just figured, with a little bit of encouragement, why the hell not?

And that’s when I discovered that I have time to write for an hour a day. It doesn’t matter if I’ve got less time in the evenings or other responsibilities, there is always time to write. Always. I didn’t realize how much time I spent not writing until I started using that time to do it. And it doesn’t matter that I don’t necessarily have a plan, because I’m proving to myself every day that I can still sit down and write. I can keep a story going, no matter what. As one fantastic quote goes, “If the muse is late for work, start without her.”

I used to spend a lot of time sitting around for inspiration to strike. I even did that last year, setting my mind on NaNo months before it happened so there would be plenty of time to allow inspiration to flow into notes and ideas. But this time around, I’ve realized that if inspiration doesn’t show up, it’s your job to make it. And you can absolutely make it.

So once again, I’m learning lessons from NaNo, and if nothing else, I think that’s what makes it worth doing. Because ultimately, it’s a lot like life – you can either sit around and think about what you’ll do when the circumstances are right, or you can make your own circumstances, and make it happen.

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Setting the Course

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”- Mark Twain

In less than 10 days, I’ll be embarking on a European adventure that I’ve been planning for over a year. It’s hard to believe it’s actually here, and to say I’m excited would be a ridiculous understatement. It’s taken plenty of sacrifices and a lot of saving, but every dinner out, new dress and big event I’ve said no to has been worth it. And honestly, I think it couldn’t come at a better time.

While out to lunch with a friend of mine yesterday I realized how long it’s been since I’ve really stopped to reflect on my life. Everything moves so fast that there hasn’t really been a minute to stop and smell the roses, and travel can be a wonderful cure for that sort of thing. Nothing gets you reacquainted with yourself quite like wandering through the streets of a foreign city, with nowhere in particular you need to be. It’s just you, removed from all of the usual daily distractions that lead you to defining yourself by what you are to others, instead of what you are and want to be for yourself.

The first time I was in Europe, I was 18 years old. Just about to start college, my whole life ahead of me (as they say), completely oblivious to anything but the present moment. The second time I was 19, studying abroad and getting just about as crazy as you would expect while trying to figure out one of the most intense burdens life had ever placed on me. But no one expected me to have my entire life figured out. I was still free of the responsibility that I carry now at 25. The expectation that the way my life is now is the way that it should be for the next 50 years – as though I’m already locked in to a certain path, from which deviation is impossible. I think that’s all too common of a fate. A trick of society that makes you think your life now must be your life forever, and every decision you make from now on must be based on your current set of circumstances You will never leave. You will never change careers. You will never find new passions. You have already made the choices that will set the course for the rest of your life.

What a terrible lie to believe.

I don’t know that I’ll come upon any particular epiphanies while I make my way through the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul or have a liter of beer in Munich, but the point is simply that I’ll have the time to think. To remind myself not to believe the lie. Because really, our lives can change at any moment. You can reset your course at any time. It’s up to you, in the end, not the unseen forces of the status quo. So if you’re happy, keep your course. And if you’re not, well … vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime when one would rather be someplace else isn’t exactly a recipe for satisfaction, is it?

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Live Like Jazz

Live like jazz. Not smooth jazz. Not elevator jazz. Real jazz.

Live like the music of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis and Etta James. Live with an unexpected rhythm and a good piece of sound that doesn’t need words but sure as hell sounds good with them. Live a slow song that steams and one that wears out soles of your shoes dancing. Don’t live ignored or muted down or on a loop in a room full of people who don’t notice you’re even happening. Live loud and surrounded by hundreds when it suites you, live as a deliberate solitary note that rings through the streets of an empty town. Live like jazz with a thousand unexpected twists and turns, with a sultry hum and a cool beat that doesn’t have to be for everyone. Because it’s for you.

Live like jazz.

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The Anatomy of My Quarter-Life Crisis

A few months ago I wrote a post entitled “Anatomy of a Quarter-Life Crisis”. At the time, a lot of my friends were going through that in one form or another – whether because of issues with jobs, relationships, finances, or even all three. And I looked around and thought to myself “Thank God I dodged that bullet”.

There I was, about to take a big step up in my career, planning an upcoming trip to Europe, safe in the knowledge of my fledgling 401(k), spending time with my amazing boyfriend and moving into a fantastic new place. I was certain I had avoided the quarter-life crisis, or at least  gone through it far earlier at the age of 21 when I almost (and luckily didn’t) get married. I got all of that stuff out of the way early, I thought proudly, It’s smooth sailing from here on out.

Oh dear me, how are the mighty fallen.

It turns out that you can have everything checked off on the “success list” and still find yourself floundering at the ripe old age of 25. It seemed to me, up until this point at least, that the reason for such crises was the result of not feeling like you were “where you should be” in your life by your mid-twenties. But technically speaking, I’m exactly where I should. Arguably I’m even better off than plenty of others my age. I’m one of the lucky ones. And perhaps the problem I’m having is that right now I’m perfectly on track for a perfectly ordinary life. And I always promised myself that I would not lead an ordinary life.

Of course the dreams you have for yourself at 16 and the dreams you have at 25 are very different, but at the core, my dreams haven’t changed very much. I still want adventure, I still want to do the sort of things that most people only ever talk about doing. I still want to live outside the norm. And none of that is to say that I’m not exceedingly happy right now, it’s just to say that I’m also extremely aware of how quickly time passes, and how easy it is to save up your “somedays” for so long that they become the “what ifs” of a life that has raced by without you even realizing it. Suddenly the idea of moving abroad for awhile is absurd, because you’re established now. Suddenly the idea of taking a huge risk in your career is impossible, because there are children to consider. Suddenly you look back at those big, crazy ideas of yours and just shake your head with a rueful smile, thinking that it was all naive dreaming while still, in some corner of your mind, wondering if you really could have done it if things had just gone a little bit differently.

This is the anatomy of my quarter-life crisis.

 

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Stress

The topic of stress has been coming up a lot recently in my circle of friends. Jobs, relationships, finances, big moves, family drama … stress is everywhere, and the truth is that it’s unavoidable.

When I was younger, I had my fair share of stress and anxiety problems. I was an intense worrier, and easily able to imagine wildly unlikely scenarios about which I would inevitably get myself worked up. I displaced worry about big things onto worry about little things – because the little things I could control. The big things I couldn’t. But through all of that stress and worry, I learned a lot, and what I learned then – from my awesome parents, good books, guidance counselors, friends – still holds true now. Stress is hard to handle sometimes, but the following steps always help me:

1. DON’T PANIC. This was one that came from my parents. Our first reaction when we get stressed is often to panic before we really assess the situation. If we start out in a panic, it will be a lot more difficult to handle whatever situation is causing the stress – and it will inevitably make it seem that much worse.

2. Don’t let stress snowball. This one goes along with “Don’t Panic”, and I found it in one of the many books I own by Richard Carlson (author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff). The issue here is that we often let one stressful situation compound upon another one. Rather than dealing with just the present issue, our minds race to everything else that has caused us stress recently or may potentially cause us stress in the future, and we simply can’t handle what appears to be an insurmountable heap of horrors. In reality, what we are facing is one situation, at one moment in time, and in truth that is the only thing over which we have control – our reaction in this moment. It’s easier said than done to not let stress snowball, but even just being aware of the fact that our brains are doing that can be helpful.

3. Maintain Perspective. This is another tough one – in the midst of crisis, it can be difficult to look beyond the present. Stress grows from a tiny angry animal into a giant monster that stretches infinitely into the future. But this is closely tied in with the “Don’t Panic” rule. It’s important to look at stressful situations and ask if the stress will matter in a week, or a year – knowing that it won’t matter doesn’t take the stress away, but it’s a helpful reminder that it isn’t permanent, and it’s not something to lose too much sleep over. If the stress is larger, then it’s important to be aware of that, too, and figure out the healthiest way to manage it if it’s coming from a long-term situation. Stress is something we all have to live with, but it shouldn’t take over our lives.

4. Have a Laugh. Stressed at work? Take thirty seconds to watch a funny video, or go online and read an article on The Onion. If you’re elsewhere and have more freedom, take a walk. Look at the world around you and find one wonderful or funny or interesting thing about it. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own stress that we almost refuse to leave it behind. But as long as you can still laugh about something – a joke, a movie, a tv show – you can remember that stress can be managed.

What do you do to help relieve stress?

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My New Blog Launch: Rust Belt Wanderlust

I’m excited to announce the launch of my new blog, Rust Belt Wanderlust! Dedicated to life, style and adventure on the north coast of America.

Check it out for style and fashion photography that highlights all of the hidden gems and popular spots the Cleveland area has to offer.

http://www.rustbeltwanderlust.wordpress.com

 

 

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