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

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Away We Go

For almost two years now, my husband and I have lived in a place we love-- a place we both grew up visiting for sun-drenched summer family vacations. We were only acquaintances then, and part of the love of living here was our separate memories brought together to make new ones—to make a new life here together.
Unfortunately, in a city that survives mostly upon the mercy of tourists and busy summer seasons, the job market has been tough—honestly impossible. I have watched my husband struggle after 18 years in a very successful career, as he tried to navigate starting a new career path in a city that has been less than forgiving. I was fortunate to have consulting work that kept us afloat, but as I tried to add on to that in my own field, I found the same responses as my husband. Nothing. Worse than nothing. Rejection.

I have written before about my love for the San Francisco Bay Area, and part of that love was due to the career success I found there. To me, San Francisco will always be this magical place where you can reinvent yourself and take chances and find your strengths. It was that way for me over a decade ago in every way.
As we began to see that our future in the Myrtle Beach area was dim, my thoughts turned to the Bay Area. Was it still possible to go out there and strike out and make a new path? After years of recovering after 9/11 and the dot com bust- the reasons I had to leave the area in the first place- was the opportunity still there?
I still had friends and contacts to network with, and as I started to send out notes and ask about the career climate, I began thinking and dreaming about living in San Francisco again. I also thought hard about my husband venturing with me to a place that I love, but also a place that he has never been, and where he knows no one. In that same train of thought, though, I remembered how amazing it was when I first arrived in the Bay Area back in 1998, still very unsure of myself and what I could accomplish. I had taken a risk, and I had no way of knowing what the outcome would be. It was the best decision I ever made as far as career decisions go. I was able to forge a path for myself that I am certain I would not have been able to anywhere else. In the land of startup millionaires and small companies that get huge overnight, there is an entrepreneurial spirit that breeds opportunity. Thinking of my husband in that atmosphere, vs the employment climate here, made me happy. I knew that this move would be good for both of us.
Shea was ready for the adventure. Although he has been understandably scared and nervous, he knew we were going to have to move somewhere. And if we were going to move, we needed to do it once, end up in the right place, and build our future there together.
So, I networked and emailed, called and skyped, and hoped and held my breath. One phone call changed everything, I had an interview. With the hope of one interview, I was able to tell recruiters and agencies that I would be in town to meet with other prospective employers. With the help of several friends, I booked a ticket, flew to San Francisco, and over the course of three days, had five interviews. My plan was to simply add to the contracting work I have now, but in a city that pays five times what I make for contracting on the east coast. This would be enough to get us out the area, and afford Shea the opportunity to find his calling, find his path, and help us concentrate more on our happiness, and our time together, instead of constantly counting pennies to cover the bills.
My very last interview, a stroke of sheer luck, was the one where I left with my heart pounding. It was almost a fluke. A recruiter had forwarded my resume to a friend, and that friend happened to see it while I was still in San Francisco. She emailed…could we meet before I left? It was totally unplanned. I went to the agency, we all clicked. It was unbelievably fortunate. Less than a week later, after I was back home at the beach, they offered me contract work, with the promise of more to come once I was local.
Shea and I gulped, exhaled, and knew it was meant to be. We gathered our courage, talked through the logistics, got out our calculators, and began to make the pieces all fit together.
So, here we are. It is April 8, 2012, and this week—in just a few days—we will be in our car, with Bear, driving through nearly a dozen states, crossing borders, heading towards our future. We are driving almost the exact route I took back in 1998, not knowing what really lay ahead of me. I was trusting my gut, and hoping I was right.
That part is much the same now, except it is both of us hoping, both of us trusting our intuition, both of us ready to take the leap, take the risk, and see what the future holds. We are both excited and nervous. We are both prepared and completely unprepared at the same time.
We found a place to live due in large part to my friend Kim, who lives in the area. She visited locations for us, gave us the heads up on sketchy neighborhoods, and remained positive and upbeat through a very frustrating search. Our new home is waiting for us in a little town about 40 minutes outside of the city. It just happens to be the same little town I lived in before. I loved it. I know my husband will, too. And in one more sign that we are making the right decision, it turns out that a college buddy of Shea’s lives in the same town. About two miles from our new home.
I cannot wait to see Shea discover all the things I love about the Bay Area for the first time. I cannot wait to take him to Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, Carmel, Sausalito, Napa, and all the other little areas that I remember with so much fondness. I cannot wait to see him grow to love it there as much as I do already. I cannot wait to see his career confidence come back in a way he never could have imagined after such a tough year.
I cannot wait for this adventure, this next chapter in our lives.
It may just be the best one yet. 


Monday, April 2, 2012

Secrets and Lies: What is Mine to Tell?

When I first began writing this blog in June of 2007, I had a whopping seven readers. One was the original friend who encouraged me to blog, and the other six were other friends that she coerced into becoming followers. I didn’t completely “get” blogging at that point, and didn’t know if I had anything to say. I knew I still wanted to be a writer, but that dream was tucked away behind financial stress, career uncertainty and my ever present companion: depression. I remember very clearly thinking that I had nothing to say, at least nothing that wouldn’t depress the hell out of anyone reading my words. I had given up on a lot of things in life, and had resigned myself to the fact that this was as good as it was going to get.

So, the first posts were extremely mundane, even for a blog with only seven readers. I began with a posting about adopting a new kitten, who five years later is now a fat and happy member of our family, at the moment lounging on the dresser in the bedroom, staring at me, as he usually does, for hours on end. I can hear his little motor running from across the room.

As I continued to post, I took more time with each entry. I remembered that my dream of writing had come from a realization when I was young that I loved to write, and that writing came easily to me. I remembered that teachers and mentors paid attention to the words I scribbled on my spiral bound notebook pages, often almost illegible as I tried to write fast enough to keep up with the words pouring out of me. I remembered that feeling before I lost confidence in myself, before I began to doubt every word that came out of my mouth, as well as the ones I wrote.

Looking back over the history of posts on my blog, I can see that it began to evolve from the monotonous to more meaningful with each new entry. I was beginning to dig deeper, to mine for the person I once was, and to somehow solve the mystery of who I had become.

Having only seven readers, with only one of them being a person I actually had met and knew in real life, I felt safe to write anything- everything. I shared deep, dark family secrets, and my own worst fears and hidden moments. I started sharing more about the depression I was battling. I was losing the battle and I wasn’t shy about expressing that, either. It seemed harmless because it felt like no one was really reading it (even though they were). It was also incredibly helpful- to me. I was writing, but at the same time, I was working through things I hadn’t dared to delve into before. As I wrote about my relationship with my father, my pain in the loss of love, and my worries for my future, it became a type of therapy. Using my gift and love of words, I was sliding back into the past and writing my way out, one sad memory at a time. I was almost able to step outside of myself—but not too far. Somehow, through the blog posts, as raw and laid bare as my emotions were, I was able to piece together a puzzle—slowly. Things were starting to make sense to me. All along, I had believed there was something wrong with ME. That all of the things I was suffering were due to some faulty manufacturing of the person that I was. The more I wrote, the more I realized that while I wasn’t perfect, and definitely had flaws and imperfections, at the core of it all, I wasn’t irreparably broken or defective. At the heart of who I was, even with all of the imperfections, all of the mistakes, all of the bad choices, I was worthy of redemption, I was worthy of all the things we all need- love, acceptance, and most of all…hope.

How amazing is that? How powerful is that? My words alone did not save me, a fantastic therapist was a huge part of the process of me piecing together the fragments of my history, to make sense of the present. But, my blog was a large part of that recovery. 

Then, in 2009, I was selected as a Blog of Note with Blogger. In one day, tens of thousands of people were viewing my blog, commenting, sending words of love and encouragement from all over the globe. What is amazing to me now, is that in all of the hundreds of comments and emails I received, not one of them was negative. Not one. I floated for days—feeling that I was in another universe from the one I had previously resided in. My words had not only healed me, they resonated with so many others. So many beautiful emails and comments came to me from people sharing their similar experiences, some of the most powerful stating that they had never opened up before until they read my words and understood that they weren’t alone.

Somehow, in the midst of the darkness I had wallowed through, I had helped someone else. More than just one person. Many. It solidified in me the belief that I was not the worst version of myself that I had grown to accept. There was more, I was more. For the first time in a decade, I cried happy tears instead of the depression soaked weeping that seemed to swallow me whole in the dark, lonely hours when I felt the world had left me behind.

The number of followers for my blog grew from 7 to 1300 in a matter of hours. And as melodramatic as this may sound, everything changed. Some blogs that I love have a million or more followers, and their authors have gone on to pen books and see some measure of fame. Although I would love that same success, the 1300 followers that I had gave me a brazen courage I hadn’t known before. I submitted my first piece for publication, an essay that I had written the day before I became a Blog of Note. The essay was accepted, and a long held dream of mine to be published came true. I could not have done this without the 1300 supporters who gave me that courage.

As the months have passed since then, turning into years full of happy milestones for me, I have been ever thankful for the community I have become a part of and the day in June, 2007 when I created my blog and typed those first humdrum words.

Somewhere in all this, I joined Facebook, and the 1300 anonymous followers grew by a few dozen or more of people that I knew. That my family knew. People I grew up with, visiting their homes, sharing vacations and sleepovers. Most of these people were lost to me due to the passage of time between high school and real life—marriages, careers, and children. Now, here they were, reading the words that I shared so freely when it was all anonymous. Reading the words that five years ago were meant for those seven original people. It was worrisome. Not for me exactly. I had shared the painful truth of parts of my life journey and I had no regrets in doing that. No regrets that anyone could read those words and know my secrets. But, it was not me alone that was mentioned, that was affected. I grew up in a small town, and everyone knew everyone. Not necessarily the truth behind closed doors, but my Facebook friends knew my family.

My mother is the one I have worried about. Although I constantly battle within myself over her level of denial, over the way her life and all of our lives have played out, I wouldn’t want to add any more pain to her life. She has gotten more than her fair share of that. She is also insanely private (which comes with the territory of the life my father created for all of us). She knows about my blog, she knows that I write about very personal things, but she has always said that it is my private space to write what I want, it is personal and she doesn’t read it. (I know this to be true because I can track locations and viewers of my blog. She has never even peeked once).

I have family members, and I use the word family loosely here, that have threatened me, blackmailed me with this blog—telling me they will share all the “horrible” things with my mother and break her heart.

So, I have struggled. What is mine to share? Is everything I have written here true? Yes. Are the passages sometimes painful in their honesty and difficult to read? Absolutely. Are there things I should just keep to myself? Of course, and I do. There are some things that I don’t need to “write through”, that would just needlessly hurt other people. I don’t do that. What I write about is what is in my heart, what has shaped my soul, what has helped save me and  helped me to face my lowest points and survive.

I watch other writers bare their souls with brilliant words on their blogs that reach into the hidden parts of me and make me weep, rejoice, and feel I have a kindred spirit somewhere out there in the world. I can’t say that my words have that kind of power, but I know that in some small way, the collection of what I have written is important. If not to the readers and followers I have, but to me. When my husband and I first started dating, I shared everything with him about my life, but I know that reading my blog helped him understand me…SEE me in a way that I might not have been able to express just in conversation. I am extremely thankful for that.

So, all I can do is tell the truth, trust my gut and keep writing. Honestly, over the last few months, I have struggled to do that. I started second guessing what was my right, what I could say, what I should share. There were stories I had to tell that lay quiet within me. I don’t want to cause anyone pain. 

But, I was caused pain and lived through pain. I did not make the choices to see what I saw growing up, to face what I had to face at times. The choice was made for me long ago, in a small house, with the speaking of vows. My history is mine. No one else can tell my stories. No one else can see things through my eyes. And as long as I know that I am only sharing because my heart calls me to, I will keep typing, keep telling, keep sharing. There were so many years of secrets and lies. Some from my family, some of my own. This was my history: secrets and lies.

Now that is behind me. My history is mine alone to share. It is my truth and my heart. The place these words come from is the purest part of me.

The truth can be hard, painful, and unyielding. But there is beauty in the truth that outlives the mystery of secrets and lies.    

I am counting on that. I’ll take my chances…and keep writing.



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