"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Monday, August 24, 2009

West with the Night

It always amazes me how a song can take you back to a particular time and place so immediately, even within the first verse. I hear a particular song and I am transported back to the break up with my first love, the year I started college, or a really joyous moment or event.

For me, one audio book has the same connection and feelings tied to it. It was as if it was one long song, and seeing the cover, the title, or anything about it takes me back to 1998 and my move from Atlanta, Georgia to San Francisco.

At the time, I was working in an administrative job, wondering what had become of all the promise I had when I was very young. The words teachers wrote in the pages of my yearbooks never left me. Words such as “I can’t wait to see all that you will become one day!”, and “You will go far in life.” I believed those words then-- I felt I had accomplished so much--and would continue to do the same. And then, I went to college.

I had always been an excellent student in high school, fretting over every test, every paper, and every assignment. The one place I felt confidence was in a classroom. But from the first day of college, I felt lost, adrift, and without purpose. I didn’t realize then that this feeling had more to do with breaking away from a troubled family for the first time than it did with academics. Every day for over four years, I felt I was drowning, paddling wildly, never able to get air. I finally gave up and left without getting my degree, and feeling more like a failure than I ever thought possible.

I got an entry level job right after leaving, and then some sales and administrative jobs. I was consumed with thoughts that I had let everyone down, especially myself.

And then, by chance really, I got an interview with a company in San Francisco. I didn’t dare think I would be hired, but I flew out to interview, got the job, and was told they wanted me there in two weeks. My head was spinning. I had told no one about the interview, had never mentioned a desire to move to California, and now it was happening.

My friends were cautiously supportive, but my parents were livid. They told me of all the horrible things that would happen if I left, what a terrible decision I was making. In the end, they forbade me to go. I felt shaken. It was scary, what if I was wrong?

My friend Judith, who has always been like family to me, believed from the first moment that this was something I should do. She had lived in San Francisco years before, and she told me of all the beauty and opportunity there, and all the things she saw for me. She never wavered in her belief that this was the right decision. She helped me realize that this was what I wanted to do-- I wanted more than anything to go.

I stayed at her house the night before I left. And the next morning, as I pulled out of her driveway, I saw her waving good-bye to me in my rear view mirror. I felt as if she was pushing my boat away from the dock, sending me out smoothly into this new adventure.

She had given me a gift before I left, a collection of some of her favorite books on tape. I don’t remember any of the other titles, but West with the Night by Beryl Markham has always stayed with me. This was a time when I still had a cassette tape player in my car, and there were 6 tapes, with nine hours of play time. The narrator’s voice was so ideal for the words--easing me into the first leg of my journey. The story itself-- of an independent woman taking on adventure and succeeding-- it was all so perfect. And in a way, it was the voice of my friend-- rooting for me, encouraging me, reminding me that I was on the right path.

To this day, if I see the green cover of that book, I am transported back to my little Honda, seeing the landscape change through my windshield. Each day that I got farther away from Atlanta, I was more enamored with the scenery—the flat, dry land of Texas, the jagged-edged mountains of New Mexico, the fluorescent-colored sunsets of Arizona. I knew that I had made the right decision. Whatever was before me, even if it was a mistake, I knew I was doing the right thing in that moment.

It ended up being the best decision I have ever made. The job I took there was, and still is, one of my most magical career experiences. I worked with amazingly talented, witty, and giving people, many of whom I still count as friends today. I began building a real career in that position, and felt liked and respected as I never had before. I believed I had purpose, and finally a connection with the words my teachers had written so long ago.

I know I would not have been able to see the opportunity for what it was had my friend not painted a picture for me. I am certain I could not have taken that risk without her support. I will always be thankful for that, and for the comforting words of West with the Night that carried me to my new home and my new life.

42 comments:

Kyle August 25, 2009 at 7:11 AM  

I must say that you are a terrific writer! I really enjoyed reading this, and I'm glad that I subscribe to your blog.

Steven Anthony August 25, 2009 at 9:28 AM  

I felt as if she was pushing my boat away from the dock, sending me out smoothly into this new adventure.......Thank God for good friends! Great post as alwasy:)

Claire Scherzinger August 25, 2009 at 9:49 AM  

Amazing post. Its always tough to take risks and by taking such risks we become much stronger people.

I am so happy I follow your blog. It truly is great to read. :)

Pat August 25, 2009 at 10:12 AM  

What a great friend, to see your potential and to have belief in your future. That must of been hard not to have family support.

I enjoy reading your heartfelt posts.

Eva Gallant August 25, 2009 at 10:35 AM  

What a wonderful post and a wonderful friend!

Entrepreneur Chick August 25, 2009 at 10:57 AM  

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
Anais Nin

Newly and Forever, Tamantha August 25, 2009 at 11:15 AM  

Isn't it sad how parents can just shoot you down like that? It sounded similar to my experience deciding to go to nursing school and my parents skepticism and negativity. It is truly a blessing from God to have people in our lives that give us the courage to try new things and believe in us!

Kristie Lynne August 25, 2009 at 11:48 AM  

Reading your story was so similiar to reading my own. I moved from Massachusetts to Utah, and my parents were not thrilled. I excelled in high school, and the classroom is where I too felt most confident. Everyone expected me to do great things. Right now, all I can do is a community college and the first year out here, I felt lost as well. Thanks for sharing this. It helps me know that I'm not alone in this.

Mallory August 25, 2009 at 12:22 PM  

I have been reading your blog for a bit of time now but realized I have never commented. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences of moving to San Francisco and breaking away from everything that you knew. I think it takes major guts to back everything you know into a car, drive across the country and start a new life somewhere else.

I have the same feelings towards different books, songs, pictures, etc. and it is always interesting how much our brain remembers and makes such complex connections.

Great blog! Keep up the good work.

Ekanthapadhikan August 25, 2009 at 12:45 PM  

So very true. Music does have that capacity to transport us. Talking about music, I think it's the only thing which is going to stay with man kind for an eternity. Everything else will change.

Judith August 25, 2009 at 2:03 PM  

Kim, I'm astounded, honored and very touched. I'm glad I was able to be there like that for you. In truth, I had no idea my small gestures had such a big impact. You inspire me back. I love the comment by Anais Nin, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage," from Entrepreneur Chick. At every phase, we need to summon that courage. Hearing your stories is helping a lot of people to do that, me included! Write on!! p.s. I think I'll go back and read West With the Night again.

nikgee August 25, 2009 at 2:55 PM  

I too have a passion. It brings you up whrn you are feeling down. When you are up it's there to rejoice with you.It adds dimensionto any story teller. more character to a movie. I don't think there is one thing music doesn't touch in our lives.

It has been a constant conpanion most of my life. I guess you could say it's like my security blanket. kind of dumb. Anyway.

I applaud you in having the courage to venture out on your own. I'm sue it took a lot. So often people don't take the chance. Leaving the nest so to speak. And they never find themselves and true happiness.

There they sit a shaddow of the suroundings. don't get me wrong most of my family has been successful in their own right. But it was not for me . As long as I stayed around home I would be seeking their approval. Struggling to live up to their expectations. The expectations are always too high. and you never quite acheive that goal.

Wondering why I was miserable . I took a good long look. I realized I was going here and there trying like hell to live up to everybodies expectations. They were all happy. I was miserable.Every time I looked in the mirror all these other images were looking back at me. Frantically looking for nick in that crowded mirror was difficult. finally I caught a glimpse...A dimly lit shaddow of a man fading fast. I had to go . Right or wrong I made the choices. If I failed that's ok I made that choice. If Im succeed all the more .I made that choice.Through the years there has been success and there has been failure. All I can say I've made those choices.

I will stop now >I wasn't intending to be so long winded. Sorry if I bored anyone on the way. I guwess there are certain things that get me going. thanks nick

Christina August 25, 2009 at 3:12 PM  

I agree with all your readers, as Ive become one also, that you're a fantastic writer and like 2 of your other posts I could identify with what you went through even the post of 8/24/09. I went & finished college and had the chance to work at IMagnins [ I might not have spelled correctly, a very fine women's store in LaJolla, California] but my family lived on the EastCoast & I didn't want to be so far away!

UnderneathTheSheets August 25, 2009 at 4:21 PM  

Kim,

I've been browsing your blog since you were made a 'blog of note'. Your writting is so thought provoking, I look forward to each post.

This particular post finally gave me the motivation to do something I've been promising friends a long time, I've begun organizing a book club. Not exactly a move accross the country, but something that will hopefully keep all of us college friends connected longer than weddings and other get togethers.

I chose West by the Night as one of our first posibilities. Even if they don't choose it, I'll be reading it next.

Keep writing!

Lynn-Briggette

Heather August 25, 2009 at 4:24 PM  

Kim, I've never written a comment before but felt compelled to write one this time. I can't begin to describe the connection I felt with your post. I am just now embarking on a similiar adventure from Bellingham, WA to New York City. I just graduated college and for a while was so scared that I was making a mistake, and now am learning to embrace it with excitement and know that it is right for me in this moment. Thank you for sharing your story and I will most assuredly be looking into West with the Night, as it sounds inspirational.

Many thanks,
Heather

http://justanother-perspective.blogspot.com

DianeSS August 25, 2009 at 5:16 PM  

My bold move took me halfway across the world from South Africa to a new life in Canada. I wasn't alone but perhaps it was even more scary with three children depending on us. Those steps into darkness are the ones that eventually lead to greater light. Thankfully there are those that are willing to shine a flashlight for us.

caroldiane August 25, 2009 at 8:30 PM  

Kim, the comments above perfectly articulate my thoughts on reading your blog - thank you! You are a skilled and clearly passionate writer. We, the readers, are immediately drawn into the emotion and drama of your piece. You speak for us and to us. Another well done blog - I am so glad that I subscribe!!

Sandra August 26, 2009 at 2:27 AM  

I can relate to this in may ways. I remember making a move across country to pursue love and everyone told me it was a mistake. When I got there it ended up being quite a challenge but I know that it was the best thing I ever could have done for myself.

I love the way you reflect on your memories. You have such an honest way of writing. I enjoy it.

THEVOICE August 26, 2009 at 3:10 AM  

ok so i suppose i should say that i was taken with your blog right away. i feel like this last entry you were talking about my life. i'm a vocal performance major. or atleast that was the plan and then i went to college and found out its hard! so i got and internship at disney did that came home and went back to florida months later only to be there a month fail and have to come home, live with my parents, work a crummy job, and have no direction to go in. the other day i had to say good bye to my friend she was venturing off to her school in chicago while i stay in my small texas home town that i was born and raised in. i feel like being here i have to make choices how everyone else would like me to make them. i'm not living for me but for them. she told me that she was looking to get a room mate in jan. and now i have a direction again im moving to chicago and my family doesn't like that all ready and its only august. i applied to columbia college and i hope to enroll as a vocal performance major. i'm sooo scared but your blog put me at ease just now as i was making lists of things to do before i leave. my parents aren't happy but i have a gypsy soul that needs experience, life, and new chapters so thank you for your blog you really gave me a little more hope for whats to come.

Rainysoul August 26, 2009 at 5:02 AM  

Thanks for sharing such a personal experience. I'm not familiar with the book at all, but will have to look for it.

I just noticed you have a few more blogs...I'll have to get reading...after I stop neglecting my own. lol

Dimple August 26, 2009 at 8:07 AM  

I have read West with the Night. It is an excellent book; I recommend it. Thank you for sharing how it supported you in your journey.

jms August 26, 2009 at 10:07 AM  

Nice article. This reminded me of my sister who's a fond of love songs and music.

Daphne August 26, 2009 at 11:28 AM  

Kim, this post was wonderful and perfectly timed! I just finished helping my sister move to the San Francisco area for a new job and she and I both experienced the terrifying and exhilirating process of doing something completely new and unexpected. Your courage is admirable and I'm so glad you had a friend to support you. Congrats on listening to yourself and not letting anyone hold you back. Three cheers!

Thunderroad79 August 26, 2009 at 2:40 PM  

This is beautifully written. All kinds of art - music, books, etc..have that power to transport us back because they reinforce emotions at the crossroads in our life. Also, having a friend encourage you when no one else was is incredible. I sometimes feel like people tell me I should go for my dreams, but they really deep down don't want to face the changes that may come with it. Good for you and your friend!

kristen August 26, 2009 at 4:03 PM  

I just LOVE your blog! The title fits perfectly. Your experience with college and moving is similar to mine... I left college early, moved away, and have always felt my parents have been disappointed. I'm glad you have friends that support you and helped you take the risk for something great. Thank you for writing, you inspire me!! :)

Joe August 26, 2009 at 10:04 PM  

Kim,
Really cool that Judith saw and commented on this post...
You've done it again. You've drawn us in, pulled us through the story, and helped us feel your experience. I have NOTHING in common with you, and this is not my story, but I COULD NOT STOP READING.
Bravo!!!

Penny Manning August 27, 2009 at 2:10 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Qoshni August 27, 2009 at 7:58 AM  

Could you visit my blog http://qoshni.blogspot.com/, in order that the flag of your country, will be added to the index of my visitors?
Thank you for your support.

sphan August 27, 2009 at 11:08 AM  

you have a lovely blog.

~samantha

Anonymous,  August 27, 2009 at 11:24 AM  

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Shannon August 27, 2009 at 11:39 AM  

West with the Night played a similar role in my life experience. During college, as I was struggling to discover what I wanted to do, who I was, my boyfriend's mother suggested reading this book. Though she probably doesn't know it, she was and is a great inspiration to me. (http://www.maraleveritt.com/) And so was Beryl's story.

Hey, and you are pretty inspirational too, chick!

Betty Mann August 27, 2009 at 12:02 PM  

I liked so much your post,
and your writing style.Nice to meet you.
I'd be glad to check out:cutand-dry.blogspot.com

Betty Mann August 27, 2009 at 10:27 PM  

Hi Kim,
I think you don't read your comments, because i commended on your posts so many times...
I follow you.
Hope you get a chance to check out some of my latest blog posts at:
cutand-dry.blogspot.com

Kim August 27, 2009 at 11:03 PM  

I so appreciate the encouraging words and notes- every comment inspires me. There are some amazing stories within these comments of different risks and chances taken throughout life. Thanks so much for sharing your stories!
I too love the quote that Entrepreneur Chick shared, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
I hope all of you have a "Judith" in your lives!

Betty Mann August 28, 2009 at 10:32 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paula... August 29, 2009 at 12:02 AM  

What a beautiful story and a great friends for helping you feel good about moving forward.

Anonymous,  August 29, 2009 at 8:51 PM  

Oops, deleted my comment:

Just wanted to say how handsome your blog is. I love the layout against the black and that header is too fabulous! Penny

Adrienne,  August 30, 2009 at 8:44 AM  

Kim,
I don't follow many blogs buut I faithfully follow yours. The content is always amazing. Keep writing...you are on the right path.

Phoenix August 30, 2009 at 9:47 AM  

I really enjoyed your fascinating narrative.. I am starting to follow your blog now.

RMBPcola August 30, 2009 at 5:05 PM  

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

rmbpcola.blogspot.com

Beryl September 2, 2009 at 11:21 AM  

hello kim..:) i have read some of your blogs just a month ago. I will not dent that you have an amazing mind of creating stuffs like this. When I read this blog, what catched me more was the picture with BERYL MARKMAN's name below..same with my name! :D You're one of my inspirations to become a good writer as well. I'll gonna follow every thing you'll gonna write. INSPIRING. ENCOURAGING. Keep blessed and good luck to your work. GOD BLESS YOU ALL THE TIME. :)

Cheri Pryor September 6, 2009 at 8:20 AM  

Feeling like I need to read this book....but heading west for me? I already live in CA so I guess I'm going to have to move to Hawaii. Damn.

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