Saturday, October 1, 2011

How Do You Measure a Year in the Life?

A few good DC moments
I've mentioned before that I am a person who values reflection, looking back on where I was at this point in time in years past. I think I've mentioned before that this often leads me to reading old Xanga entries & handwritten journals, comparing the then & the now.

It has been 365 days since I left Washington, D.C. following this super-weepy video of me waiting for my mom to come help me move. I documented the trip itself in a timeline that only superficially detailed my actual feelings about the move - perhaps because I couldn't figure out what my feelings were.

A year later, I still can't. My leaving D.C. has been, in some ways, like the death of a close friend that I never dealt with - it has affected me strongly & obviously, but I have not yet come to terms with how, or fully accepted the loss.

The day I decided to move, I cried to my mom: "Are you sure I'm allowed to do this?" I asked her. The decision to leave D.C. felt much like my decision a few years before to leave Ohio University, which I transferred out of in my junior year. I felt as though I was admitting I couldn't hack it, that I wasn't strong enough. Moving back to Ohio, into my mom's house & my dead-end hometown, felt like failure. I had no plan, no money, & no idea what was coming next.

After that day, I didn't think about it. I just did it. I made the big announcement. I told my boss I was quitting, going home. I blocked out my friends' pleas for me to keep looking for a job in the area. I didn't think about how much it hurt or what would come next. I let out my tears, I packed up my things, I tied up loose ends & I walked away.

I spent five months unemployed, sending cover letters to every social media-related job in the northern half of Ohio. I rarely wore pants. I applied to jobs at universities, corporations, hospitals, nonprofits, magazines, websites; I was repeatedly rejected & even more often ignored. Humiliatingly, I relied on my mom & my boyfriend to support me financially, supplementing my lack of income by freelancing for a local news site. I was offered a job for a company I knew wasn't right for me; I cried into Nathan's arms, feeling guilty about turning down a job when I needed one so badly. I was embarrassed. I was dejected. I grew increasingly unsure whether I wanted to stay in Ohio, after all.

And then, the job. It was a lucky break, really, an opening with the organization I'd quit in May - a work-from-home job living in New England, where Nathan was. I applied just a day short of the deadline, when they'd already begun interviewing people. During my interview, I put up a Post-It note on my desk, right in front of my face, that said "YOU CAN DO THIS"! though I wasn't sure I could. They told me it would be two weeks before they made a decision, but they called me two days later to offer me the position.

Other things happened, too. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I traveled out of the country for the first time on a life-changing trip to Israel. I fell deeper in love. And in February, I moved 12 hours away, to a town where I knew no one but my boyfriend. Some nights, I stayed awake after he'd fallen asleep, just so I could cry alone. I became one of those people who talks to strangers, to baristas & cashiers, just for conversation & human interaction. I took up letter-writing & grew more dependent on Facebook & Twitter to keep me connected to friends. I scheduled trips to places like New Orleans & New York so I could feel less alone & more like my old self. I spent more time with myself, going to movies & shopping & blogging & trying to keep myself busy. Too much time missing D.C., wishing I were a part of the events & activities I read about secondhand on friends' newsfeeds & in photos I wished I could Photoshop myself into.

And now what? I still don't know anyone here. I've missed opportunities to make new friends, & they still haunt me - the time I turned down an invitation to a party because I fell asleep, the time I was going to go to a writing group but got the time wrong. By now, I've sort of given up. Nathan will be restationed this spring, & I don't want to make connections only to break them by moving again. I'm an only child; I know how to be alone. I'm writing more, though, & I'm thinking about grad school. I am quietly contented, if not always happy. There is a lot missing from my life, but there is still plenty to fill it.

It's been a long year. A hard year. Definitely not my best year. But as always, I'm still standing.
Reflections on the last 365, post-DC
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