Whirlwind: A Timeline

Sunday, April 2: The last of my New Orleans visitors flies back to Philadelphia. I miss them immediately

Monday, April 4 – Sunday, April 10: 7 day, 80 hour work week that is exhausting and defeating. I practically crawl out of the building on the 7th day.

Monday April 11- Tuesday April 12: Existential crisis ensues. My life breaks apart at the seams, jagged pieces cascading into the darkness. Just kidding, I FaceTime my mother several times and eat too much licorice.  I decide I am moving back to Philadelphia. Another existential crisis. What will I do in Philly? And when can I go? And how? Should I go back to advertising? Wait what? Where did that come from? You have a Master’s in SOCIAL WORK. 

Wednesday April 13: I start then later stop 5 applications for social worker positions in Philly. I spend hours on a cover letter that I never submit.

I feel suddenly compelled to send a slightly frantic message to an old friend who I worked with in advertising in Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to me, she just happens to be visiting New Orleans (!!), and offers to meet for drinks that evening. We drink wine and catch up and I pour my existential crisis all over her. Metaphorically drenched, she is insightful and encouraging and exactly what I need at the moment in my life. So is the wine. I decide to (maybe) make a(nother) career change (eventually).

Thursday, April 14: I e-mail a former supervisor and former coworker to ask if they even think it would be possible for me to return to my copywriting career. I receive emphatic, confidence- boosting responses. My former supervisor (Hi Karen!) goes above and beyond: e-mailing contacts, offering up her connections and giving invaluable support and advice. My former coworker is equally encouraging. She offers to meet for drinks once I’m in town or to catch up via phone.

Friday April 15: Former coworker messages me again. Actually, she has a position open on her team and would I be interested? I am excited and panic stricken. It has been one day since I decided to maybe, possibly, perhaps uproot my entire life one vague day in the future. I FaceTime my mother several times and eat too much licorice. I say yes, I am very, very, interested.

Less than an hour later, I receive a Linkedin Message from a recruiter at the agency. I e-mail her back and we schedule a phone interview.

Saturday April 16: My long suffering mother and I discuss all of my options, ad nauseum. On our 29th face time she finally says well why don’t you just move to Philadelphia and figure it out from there? I am stunned. My mother is the wisest, most financially savvy person I know. She has always engrained in me that you must have a job before you quit a job. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush is her favorite saying. (It never made sense to me as a child – I didn’t want one bird, let alone two).

I panic and try to FaceTime my mother then realize I’m already on the phone with her. I’ve run out of licorice. We decide together that I should give notice on Monday and begin the moving process.  I am 32 years old and do not know what I would do without my mother

Sunday April 17:  I look around my home at all of the clutter I have collected over three years. I vividly recall the stress, aggravation and frustration that moving provokes.  Still, my mind is clear of doubts. I replenish my licorice supply and begin packing.

Monday April 18: I give my notice. My boss is understanding and supportive. I am the 12th person to quit in 6 months. It feels like I’m leaping onto a lifeboat from aboard a ship, slowly sinking into the churning, icy sea.

Tuesday April 19: I sit in my hot car for a quick, sweaty phone interview with the recruiter.

Monday, April 25: My first ever Skype interview. It seems to go well.

Tuesday, April 26: I announce to the Facebook world that I am leaving New Orleans because, why should Beyonce get all of the attention.

Tuesday April 26- Thursday April 28: I log thousands of steps on my Fitbit from packing, sorting, and organizing my clutter. I sell a bunch of stuff via Facebook and LetGo. I get a rush of exhilaration every time something leaves my house.  Yet so much remains. Mild existential crises are scattered throughout. I question how THE HELL I’ve moved 12 times in the last 10 years without being involuntarily committed.

Thursday, April 28: The recruiter calls and says I got the job (!). I book a flight to Philadelphia to look at apartments (!).

Friday April 29 – Death: Fame, fortune, cat hoarding, die a hero. Just my best guess.

 

My head is still spinning but I am awash with gratitude for all of the support I’ve received during this whirlwind. It’s no surprise to me that almost all of the people who have helped me throughout this have been women. We are constantly hearing about how women judge, pick apart and cut down other women. I won’t delve into the roots of that behavior because this soap box is getting wobbly, but my experience has been the complete opposite. From much-needed advice and guidance, to offers of resources and bedrooms to crash in, to just a listening ear while I staggered toward the right path, drunk on licorice. I am so thankful to have these women (and of course, Brian) in my hive. It’s a beautiful life when you surround yourself with the some of the good ones.

 

 

Missed Connection

There is a section of Craigslist called Missed Connections. There people post about encounters that didn’t quite happen or got cut short without any way to get back in touch. Like that cute guy you locked eyes with at a concert but then lost in the crowd.  Or the bike messenger who sped off before you could ask her out (and be rejected – she’s too cool for you, Bill).

When I lived in Philadelphia in my early 20s, I checked the section regularly, always convinced I would find myself. I loved the idea of a stranger being so enthralled by me that he turns to the internet in a last ditch effort to connect. How special that would be, I thought, to be so viscerally wanted. (The fact that this is my idea of romance may be partially why I’m still single). I never did find myself on Craigslist, despite being consistently enthralling. Luckily I found connections everywhere else. Friends, boyfriends, coworkers, acquaintances, I was never lacking for connections during my years in Philly. It was the best of times with the best of friends. When I moved to New York City, and later to Baltimore, I found more connections and eventually built networks in each city, but it never felt as effortless as it had been in Philadelphia.

[Editor’s note: I spent 20 minutes trying to find pictures from my time in Philadelphia that were appropriate for a blog that (only) my mother reads. I failed. Let’s just say, I really enjoyed my 20s]

Before I moved here I took a 2 month trip through Central America. Travel is the ultimate connector and during that trip I quickly bonded with people from around the world. The ease and depth of those connections reminded me of my days in Philadelphia.

I arrived in New Orleans envisioning a city full of potential new friendships. Instead, I mostly found missed connections.  The old friend who suddenly disappeared. The well-meaning classmates I couldn’t click with. The friendly but insular locals. Friendships that served their purposes but never penetrated the surface.

It took me a long time to get to the root of the problem. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a lone wolf. I love making friends but I’m also fiercely independent, perpetually single, and cherish my alone time.  I can also be stubbornly optimistic when things aren’t going my way. I refuse to believe that hard times will last. I am aware of my many privileges and how much worse things could always be. And there have been so many good times here.  Something was just missing.

Over the last few months, some of my closest friends from Philadelphia have visited. Having them here felt like being jolted awake from a long strange nap. I felt more alive and more like myself than I had in a long time.  I didn’t know I was sleeping until they arrived and shook me awake. I didn’t know I was disconnected until I reconnected.

These aren’t the people I grew up with. They’re the people I’ve grown up with. From a single recent college graduate trying to find my way, to a single recent college graduate trying…wait. Okay some of us have grown up. They are some of the deepest connections I have, and sharing a city with them again was the revelation I needed.

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At brunch before I drove her to the airport, my friend/sister wife Lisa asked me, “After all your moves, where do you consider home?” I didn’t have to think about it. It was Philadelphia.

After everyone flew back home, that old feeling returned. That dull aching for something I could never identify. But I finally recognized it. It was a longing for real connections. It was a longing for home.

So that’s where I’m headed next month. I’m packing up my whole life, and I’m moving back. To my people, to my city, to my home.

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visitphilly.com

 

 

The days we have left

As a child, I thought I was immortal. It’s common belief of children, with their underdeveloped brains. Less common I’m assuming, was my conclusion that I was the second coming of Jesus Christ*.

I was never a religious child, but during my forced church attendance, I learned that Jesus was supposed to be coming back to town, and he was due any day now. In retrospect, I may have been paraphrasing. Naturally, I wondered, “well what if he’s back already? And what if he…is me”? (My views on gender fluidity were clearly before their time)

At the age of seven I had no shortage of confidence. I saw no reason to believe that I wasn’t Jesus reincarnate. I was filled with, what I considered, timeless wisdom. I believed that I would never be smarter than I already was (because I was just so smart). And, I knew that I was immortal, evidenced by the fact that well, I was still alive.

I remember standing on the porch of my childhood townhouse in New Jersey trying to figure out once and for all if I was Jesus. I knew that if I was, I had a lot of work to do. Wars to end, Poor to feed. After much contemplation, I rationalized (this was an entirely rational process) that if I was Jesus I would have the power to do anything. I gazed upon one of the neighboring town homes and thought, “if I were Jesus I could lift that building with my pinky finger”. Knowing the limits of my prepubescent strength, I was disappointed to realize that I probably wasn’t Jesus. Just a superior child replete with infinite wisdom.

That was also the moment I realized that one day I would die.

I spent much of my subsequent childhood fascinated by death. I was constantly asserting to my poor mother that I was dying.  It was technically accurate, but not what a parent wants to hear on regular basis from her strange (only) child. I  was convinced that I would die young. As each year passed, pushing back my impending death date, I remained steadfast. It was coming.  This all seems very odd and morbid, I’m sure. Death is not something that people like to think about in this country. We like to pretend that almost everyone lives to be 97, dying peacefully at home surrounded by tearful loved ones. Other kinds of deaths are tragic, unexpected, unfair.

The most freeing moment of my life was when I realized I was mortal. Since that day on the porch I’ve been keenly aware that you only get a certain amount of time in this world to do everything you want to do. For some people that is 100 years, for others it is much less. Not knowing how many days remain makes me ever vigilant about living my best life.

In the movie Troy,  Brad Pitt utters this line:

“The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

I don’t generally like to quote movies that I haven’t seen, especially when it’s a quote that’s widely disseminated on Pinterest boards. But that’s it. That’s the sound-byte of my strongest life force.

It’s a myth that a shark must keep swimming or it will die. But I often feel like that mythical shark. I am always plotting, planning, ideating, dreaming of something bigger than my life. Because if I stop working towards something, I fear I will start to sink. The stagnation of an average misspent life, the life I fear much more than death, will drag me to the bottom.

I’ve started to feel lately like I’m floating. Not quite sinking but not propelling forward either. Just kind of bobbing in place, trying to figure out which way to go.

But Death looms nearby (or far away, I can’t be sure, I’m not Jesus) and I can float no more.  I’m going to shake things up (again) and make that seven year old weirdo proud.

Jesus may spend his days lifting houses with his finger, but this mortal has way more exciting things in store.

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This house was too heavy

*Ironically I later briefly dated a man who too believed he was the second coming of Christ. It was even his e-mail address. But at the age of 23 I think that’s just considered psychosis.

 

 

New Orleans, A love letter, part 2

Dear New Orleans,

I wrote to you nearly 3 years ago when we first met. At the time I was swelling with excitement and optimism. (I was also swelling quite literally after 3 rainy, sweaty, rum drenched months in Central America). I saw you through the eyes of a tourist. Your brightly hued architecture, your happily waving natives, your relaxed attitude.

Your motto, “laissez les bon temps roulez”. Let the good times roll.

Second line down Bourbon street. Shake your ass to a brass band. Stroll around the quarter, daiquiri in hand, singing in the rain. 

That’s what I wanted to do. The beat had been playing in my head for 30 years and I was ready to dance.

I hadn’t yet seen your dark side.  Because when you visit it’s easy to see:

The humor of navigating your pockmarked crooked roads

The beauty of your sunken homes, their sun weathered residents sitting on the porch mid afternoon.

The allure of your cozy 24 hour bars and laissez faire drinking laws.

The romance of your empty, dimly lit streets, staggered street lamps flickering your path.

The appeal of your fried, charbroiled, buttered, gooey, drenched, decadence for every meal.

Your magic.

In all those Instagram opportunities, it’s easy to miss what they also represent. Your corruption, your poverty, your segregation, your unemployment rates, your substance abuse, your lack of resources, your crime, your police shortage, your obesity rates, your health epidemics, your lifelong struggle.

After nearly three years, I can say with an odd sense of triumph, my years with you have been my greatest challenge. You have tested my confidence, my joy, my relationships, even what sometimes felt like my sanity. You have splayed opened my heart and you have broken it.

Most of all, you have laid bare your vulnerabilities and shown me that that is where true strength and resilience lie.

I was a different person when I arrived grinning at your door.  I am wiser, humbler, unfettered by the ghosts of the past. I have new burdens to carry but they are the world’s burdens and it was about damn time I started bearing my share.

I still believe you are built on magic. Your resilience and your beauty still take my breath away. I’ll be leaving you soon, my heart is ready to move on. But baby, it’s been a helluva ride.

“Y’all live longer up there but we live better down here,” A local said to me recently.

I couldn’t disagree.

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