Finding oneself

“I’ve stopped waiting for that magical moment when adulthood is conferred and you’ve got it all figured out, because it never comes. Mostly, I’ve gone from being the girl who stayed close to home because it’s safe and easy, to the girl who dropped everything and moved 250 miles away to find herself … and actually did.”
— Tiff, the sage. (Go read the BRILLIANT entry behind that sentiment!)

The aforementioned thought bears repeating. Not just because, well, I hopped on the bandwagon and moved from Pittsburgh to D.C. with Tiff back in 2002, but also because I’ve been looking all over creation to find myself, only to realize that she was here all along.

But first, tunage!

Tiff’s thoughts were in response to a friend asking her how she’s changed during the past decade. And that gave me some pause, too, and I wondered if those of you out there who have known me that long would even recognize me on the street if you saw me today. Similarly, those who have only recently had the pleasure of making my acquaintance — would you have liked the 20-year-old me better than the 30-year-old? Or would you say that I’ve improved with age?

Now, knowing that I love to observe humanity and write character sketches based on people I’ve met, you have some important information about me — you know that I absorb everything I can from people who cross my path. And this is a Good Thing, because my mind and my heart have expanded to see and appreciate beauty in all of its myriad forms.

The bad part, though, is that someone else must’ve handled my luggage at some point, because they slipped in some things that I really would much rather have NOT tossed onto the moving truck — things I so totally could have done without.

For example, there is this woman from my professional past who gave me a real chance to succeed — I mean, took me out of a dead-end situation and insisted that the only thing I was allowed to do would be to shine, from that moment on. Her intentions were good, of course, and I like to think that I made magic happen, when given the opportunity. But, at the risk of biting a hand that used to feed, she went and broke me when I wasn’t looking. Now, let’s face it — I know that people can only annhilate your will to live if you let them. But whether or not it was intentional, she corroded me. She made me second-guess myself at every turn.

Now, it wasn’t just me — anyone who was in the line of fire had their coping mechanisms (whether or not those worked). I coped by being everyone’s comic relief — to me, no mistake was so fatal so as to elicit the daily wrath. I was always strong and always knew when I’d done good, honest, constructive work — work that saw fantastic results.

But the comic-relief schtick? Made things worse. I was told (and say it with me, Tiff) that I was CAVALIER. (Per “Marked by or given to offhand and often disdainful dismissal of important matters.”) That yes, in fact, my work was life-or-death. (Even though, to quote the original “Bridget Jones” movie, I truly WAS the girl who “fannied about with the press releases.”) That I needed to be more serious, which was frustrating, because I was serious as a heart attack about my performance.

So, I learned that I fared better if I didn’t derive any pleasure out of life — I found that, if I worried about absolutely everything, then I would be totally prepared for the firing squad. I second-guessed every word that would come out of her mouth; I anticipated every flaw she could ever find with my work and with ME. I thought that made my life easier.

Not so much. Now, I second-guess everything and everybody. I figure that, if I just go ahead and punish myself proactively, then nothing they say or think will ever destroy me again. I learned to apologize for things I didn’t think were wrong or that bad in the first place. It’s reflexive.

And it’s a hard way to live. And it’s also got to be frustrating to those who expect the world of me to help me to fix what they didn’t break.

I miss my cheerful oblivion. And I do have an overall cheerful disposition, but I feel like Pavlov’s dog — waiting for the electric shock when I’m just happily licking myself in a corner. 😉

I don’t blame this on her … completely. Nor do I blame myself completely, because I had sense enough to run screaming at the first opportunity.

When Tiff decided to move down here, she had asked if I would want to make the journey with her. I resisted at first — I *never* thought I could run away and start over. But, I did it — we both did. It’s fair to say, though, that most of our energy went into survival until maybe January of this year, but neither of us ever thought, “I should have stayed in Pittsburgh.” We’ve just tried to hang in there and be good people and hard workers and all the other roles we’ve chosen to play. And I never really say it often enough, but I am so glad that we’ve had each other throughout the tumult and that we will probably always have this friendship that has lasted — and strengthened — across the miles that we’ve traveled.

And maybe I’m just full of myself (for once — please let me have my moment here. LOL), but I think we’re doing very well. We’re happy. We love our new jobs and are intent on making careers where we are — no more of this “till something better comes along” mentality. Better things have come along. And we’re smart enough to hold on and make the most out of them. She’s found her great love and I hope that mine is soon to follow. Maybe the American Dream isn’t such a myth after all — it might not be just around the corner, but it’s out there, something to which to aspire and eventually to reach.

So, 10 years ago, did I have this sagacity? I believe so — I knew that I would eventually be happy and would eventually find myself. It’s just that, today, I realize that I have achieved exactly that. I have always known who I am and what I wanted, and it’s unfortunate that I allowed people to puncture the spirit that has always defined me. And I was constantly trying to patch up those holes with bandages when they needed to be sewn shut — it’s like the commercial where the girl plugs a leaky boat with a tampon as a temporary fix. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve pulled the bandages off the wounds and am dumping some peroxide into them. And it stings right now, but it feels good to acknowledge my scars and not hide them anymore.

My cheerful oblivion may never truly come back, but then again, maybe it never really left. But instead of simply having moments wherein I sparkle and shine the way I always used to do, maybe those moments will turn into hours, weeks, days, months, years. And, finally, I am surrounded by the people and places who will help me to make that happen.

So, thanks for believing in me. The “Dawn” I presented to you originally is going to be the “default” setting once again (and not just like the “good China” that people pull out to impress guests).

Look out, world. You haven’t seen enough of me yet. 😉 Tiff’s and my “No Bullshit ’05” is in progress, as are we. And we can’t WAIT to see what we’ll be like (and have) in 2006!

On iTunes: Jane Siberry (f/ k.d. lang), “Calling All Angels”

One Lonely Response to Finding oneself

  1. apollonaire :

    I really wish I could get to the place you are in….I’m still pretty bitter.

    Props to you.

    I enjoy reading how your journey has gone. It gives me hope that mine will be equally as victorious.