What If I Run Away to Mexico?

I could, you know. I could do it. I could quit my job to go teach English in Mexico City, or get my MBA from Ibero. I wouldn’t be fluent, but I could learn enough Spanish to get by if I studied really hard for a few months. Or I could keep my lame job, and just work from home…in another country.

Or I could stay. And keep working at the job I’m slowly starting to hate and will only grow to hate more. Maybe I could find a different job here, one I’m a little better at, and I’ll just continue to be mediocre and boring and I’ll marry someone boring (probably someone my dad actually likes) and have a nice, tastefully boring wedding and I’ll have kids when I’m 30 and I’ll retire peacefully when those boring kids are in college.

If I go, I might miss some things. But I’ll miss those things if I stay. My grandparents will grow old while I’m gone, but they grow old every day and I’m only a couple of hours away now. I’ll be back before they get too old, I’ll tell myself. I might miss my youngest brother B as he grows up, but he grows up every day without me. He’s 10, and about the enter the awkward phase I’m probably better off missing anyway. I’ll miss my friends, but I miss them anyway. When I tell them I’m leaving, they’ll say “But I’ll never see you!” and I’ll want to say You never see me anyway but I’ll try to bite my tongue the best I can. Because the ones that will say that will be the ones that never try to see me now, and I’m barely an hour away. I’ll still see them once or twice a year when I come home, and that’s about as often as I see them now. Nothing will change. They won’t be jealous of my lifestyle because they couldn’t imagine ever leaving. They might even think I’m crazy or fucking stupid for “disrupting my career.” And all of that is fine, because I think that’s how things are supposed to work. They’ll buy house and get married, and I’ll keep traveling. I will continue to disrupt my career until I’m doing what I love.

But I think I might actually go. I won’t love every second of it, but I would regret not going a lot more than I’ll regret going. If I stay, I’ll regret every second of that boring life.

I want and need good stories to tell. A writer needs to live to have something to write about. Staying in a Midwestern suburb my entire life isn’t going to give me enough to write about.

So what if I really go to Mexico?

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Stagnancy is hazardous

A very, very close friend of mine got married last weekend and after his honeymoon he’s headed back to his new home in Denver this week. One of my coworkers just announced her first pregnancy. A new but semi-close friend of mine returns to California today; he graduated college so now he’s going to take some time to figure out what to do with his life.
And then, me. I’m just… here.
I don’t want to get married or have babies quite yet, but after more than a year at the same job I feel stagnant. And not just in a “this is real life and you don’t get a promotions every six months the way you change classes every semester in college” sort of way. It’s been a year and I don’t feel like I’ve learned all that much with this job. Everything I learned in the first 3 months is all I’ve learned so far. And it may be all I will learn for another year, at least. I’m not moving forward and I think I might even be moving backwards in some ways.
And ok, so I have things like this blog. Like my coaching, like the instagram I made for my dog (yeah, it happened, I’m not sorry). Weird side projects that I can’t even fully commit to – just look at how often I update this! It started as a weekly thing and has slowly drifted to more of a monthly pace. Which is fine, probably. Maybe I was too ambitious with the weekly goal in the first place.
But seriously –
What.
Am.
I.
Doing!
I went to a new dentist for the first time today, and my hygienist – who’s probably in her late 40s or early 50s – is telling me how she sort of wants to look at new career options. The problem is she’s even more stuck than I am. She’s been in her position for 20 years, her two kids are about to start college, and her retirement is looming on the horizon. She can’t see how it would make sense to go back to school, so what else can she do? Many of her friends, she tells me, feel the same way she does. They aren’t really happy in their careers but they’ve waited too long and it doesn’t make financial sense to make a drastic change. So they just wait to retire.
That’s exactly the position I don’t want to be in 25 years from now.
There are days where I’m totally comfortable in all the limbos. My dating life makes no sense, I don’t know what I want to do with my career, etc. Then the stagnation gets to me. It’d be fine if I didn’t know what I wanted, but was still moving in some direction. Any direction! Not knowing and not moving though? That’s too much to deal with.

Sometimes, Life Isn’t Fair.

Once upon a time I was drunk and feeling defeated about my current situation, so I wrote a letter. I almost even posted it, or sent it, or something – but I guess I was sober enough to realize it might have been a bad idea. Just to give you an idea…

Dear Fuckface,

I gave you the best four years of my life. Four years of college and I stayed faithful to you. I was surrounded by boys in their prime who hadn’t yet let themselves go, by boys willing to shower me with compliments and free drinks. Boys who would’ve maybe even given me more than that. Boys who would’ve given up so much for me, for my dreams, for my bullshit whims. Given up things the way I did for you.

I fucking hated leaving my friends behind every goddamn weekend to come see you when all you did was sit there with your roommate and play video games. Great, that’s exactly what I wanted to miss the big game or the party for, to watch you play some stupid fucking game.

And ever since he broke up with me, that’s all I would think about when I thought about that relationship – the fact that he took the best four years of my life. Like he was some sort of thief, he took them from me without warning. I could get over the fact that he would choose his smoking habit over me if there was ever an ultimatum; the fact that I was essentially worth nothing to him. Because those are his issues, and not mine. He has to live with that for the rest of his life. The relationships I had been in since then have been enough to boost my self esteem and get over that. It’s the wasted time I couldn’t get over.

But now that I’ve been an adult for a full year now (yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds), I think maybe I was wrong.

I think I have yet to see my best four years. Even this past year, I’ve crammed enough blackouts into one summer that I’m not upset about missing out on those in college. I’ve done a lot of things I never thought I’d ever get to do. Basically – the rest of my 20s could be like college, except with more money to burn and less Thirsty Thursdays. Or I could use my twenties to build an incredible career for myself. Or I could travel to places that would be impossible once (if) I have kids. The possibilities are only limited by my meager income and student loan debt but otherwise completely limitless!

So, he didn’t take my best four years. He got my stressed-out, broke-ass, freshmen-fifteen years instead. I got some of his worst years, too. We saw each other at our worst, and now someone else will get to see me at my best. Without him weighing me down I feel like I can do anything.

Despite this new revelation, it still doesn’t seem fair to me that I missed out on a lot of things in college because of him. But, as my father would say:

Life.

Fearless.

I’ve only known this guy for a couple weeks. We met online. We’ve played bar trivia a few times, I’ve met his dog. I went with him to run errands last weekend. I give him shit about his busted bracket (who the hell picks Northern Iowa to play in the National Championship game?).

Friday afternoon, he texts me and asks if I want to come with him to a wedding reception the next day. It’s two friends from his hometown that got married, so I would be meeting his parents. Probably staying at their house. It’s about an hour away, and he says the wedding is super casual; he’s just wearing his “regular clothes”.

I had no plans for the weekend. I need to go shopping, but that requires money. I need to clean my apartment, but I know I won’t. I could go see my mom, but I do that almost every other weekend.

I’d seen this guy seven out of the previous 11 days. Neither one of us knows many people in town, and we both like drinking and he’s just easy to be around.

But still – I’ve known this guy for less than two weeks, and I’m supposed to meet his parents? I haven’t even begun to think about what I want from him, but I guess what better way to think about it than to see what his parents are like. So I say sure, I’ll go. Why the hell not. In true hedonist fashion, I just say “fuck it! free booze? hell yeah!”

Whether it was the wanderlusty adventurer or devil-may-care hedonist, I’m glad that part of me was making the decisions. I explored a new city! I drank, which made the introverted part of me more relaxed. We had amazing pizza in this tiny little restaurant in his hometown. We went to a bar that only serves canned beer, and I almost kicked his ass in pool. His parents are even really, really awesome. Luckily, they didn’t ask how we met at first. Then they finally did, and I was hoping he would answer so I didn’t have to, but he was in another room. So after a pause I said, “well, online actually…” and his mom just says “Oh that’s not so bad, I met his dad in a bar! And he was too shy, so I had to pick him up.” We played drinking games on the Wii, and it turns out I’m a lot better at Wii golf than I am at real golf.

So no, I didn’t go skydiving or finally decide to move across the country. But this small leap, this extra ounce of ‘fuck it’, this spontaneous decision… means I can only move up from here. I still don’t know what I want from this guy, I still don’t know what the fuck I’m doing on a daily basis, but each step like this is getting me back to the fearless girl I used to be; the fearless person I want to be.

It’s been a year.

Even before Timehop reminded me, I knew today was the day. Even in it’s last days, March has never been kind to me.

A year ago today, I drove an hour to get dumped. Apparently around 10am it happened, and by noon I was already back in my college apartment planning a party for that evening. I drank tequila. I went to a bar I’d never been to. I danced. Some of my friends who live far away showed up for the occasion, proving they were still there for me, even if he wasn’t. Not that they had to prove anything, but it truly meant everything to me that they were there. I needed them that day, and they had my back. He never did shit like that for me.

I couldn’t even remember the last time I had been truly broken up with. He would occasionally break up with me for a week or so, but this was nothing like that. So the last time I was dumped would have been in high school, I guess. But I was usually the one to end relationships… so maybe eighth grade was the last time. Almost a decade ago.

I still don’t really know if I got my heart broken that day, though. Of course, I’m older now, but this didn’t feel like when my heart was broken the few times in high school. It hurt, of course, and I cried whenever I would try to talk about him, or think about him, or have to break the news to someone else… but after a few days of that, I just felt free. The anxiety I’d had for weeks or months that I thought was about graduation and job searching, was really about him. That relationship should have ended years ago.

It felt like I got divorced. It felt like I wasted the best four years of my life on someone who didn’t want to share anything with me, let alone give up anything for me. I missed legendary weekends with my  friends, because of him. It meant my dad was right, again. That this boy wasn’t willing to sacrifice anything for me, and yet I was always bending over backwards for him.

I judged the shit out of other people’s relationships. I thought I had the healthiest, most functional relationship, and thus the right to judge. We never fought, we had fun together, we liked the same shows. We had some hobbies in common, but also had our own interests. I thought those were all good things, that we didn’t need anything else, that he would eventually stop smoking. But it wasn’t that we didn’t fight because there was nothing to fight about – instead it was because we stopped communicating a long time ago. Those couples who always fought, at least they were telling each other how they felt. The ones who spent every waking moment together were obnoxious, but at least they knew each other.

I had plenty of things that were his, but none of them with any sentimental value. Always practical things – an old TV, some sweatpants I’d never seen him wear, a fucking wireless router. The normal things a girlfriend would have, things I always wanted, he barely let me touch. His college hoodie, mostly. I did have jewelry from him, I guess, but the chain to the necklace he gave me broke, and he never bothered to find me another one even though he promised he would.

I told him I didn’t want any of my stuff back. I still don’t know what he did with it. Maybe he threw everything away. Maybe, since he never cleans, those few possessions of mine are still there. I wonder what he thinks when he stumbles upon them while he’s looking for something else. I wonder how he told his parents. I wonder if they still ask about me the way my aunt or my grandparents will occasionally ask about him.

Months later, I was still breaking the news to people. Half a year later, I will have a bad day and be insanely mad at him, and myself, for putting me where I am now. About 10 months later, I was headed back home, driving the same roads I’d driven with him so many times. The weather had finally broken, I was driving with my windows down, and “Breakin’” by the All-American Rejects came on my iPod and it about killed me. I put the song on repeat and belted it all the way home.

All your tears
Couldnt match the bitter taste of all these wasted years

You take take
Everything that wasnt even yours
Wait wait
You dont got a hold of me anymore

And that’s the truth. He doesn’t get to me anymore, I’ve lost all romantic feelings for him months (maybe even years) ago. But it’s all those wasted years that still have the tightest hold on me. It’s the feelings I have about myself that still get to me. It’s the anger; the hot, burning kind of anger I thought I left behind with teenage angst, that gets to me.

So, it’s been a year. One hell of a year. I learned a lot. And I could have spent this weekend feeling bad about it, but I decided to be fearless instead. (More on that tomorrow…)

(Dirty) Blonde Ambition

Date: How would you describe your hair color?

Me: Dark blonde… dirty blonde?

[…]

D: What would your dream job be?

M: Something more creative than what I’m doing now. I’m not really sure. Something where I could write more, I guess. I honestly don’t know if my dream job actually exists… even if I was getting paid to write, and writing stuff I enjoyed, I’d always want to find something else, something I haven’t been able to accomplish yet.

D: Must be that blonde ambition… so you like to write? What kinds of stuff do you write?

Are you okay? What do you want? Why aren’t you happy?

After months of not knowing, maybe I’ve finally figured it out.

I just want one goddamn thing in my life to make sense. To be a constant. Something reliable, something I’m good at, something that makes me feel good.

I had that, I had a rock (a stone, maybe only a pebble), for four years. As much as I hate that rock for dragging me down during college and then letting go at the worst possible moment, I don’t know if I could have make it through the uncertainty of college without that rock. The longer I had my rock, my pebble, the more I relied upon him. And sometimes, honestly, that rock wasn’t very good at being solid, at being there for me. (Maybe he was really more of a squishy, flaky pebble) But at least the pebble was predictable and made sense. I knew what to expect. I knew where my life with this squishy pebble was going, even if I didn’t know where other parts of my life were going. I had this squishy pebble to hold on to, even if he wasn’t always holding on to me in the same way, or wasn’t capable of being in love with me the same way all the time. At least he was there. So since he left I still haven’t been able to get solid footing, despite being over him. It was the constant he provided that I’m still trying to figure out. Up until now I’ve been trying to figure out my dating life, find a replacement squishy pebble. What I need now, though, is more than that – I need a solid rock this time.

Maybe my rock this time doesn’t have to be a relationship. It probably won’t be my job, not for awhile, but it could be something else. There’s more to life than boys and careers, right? I suppose friends and family are constants – but not in the same way. There’s a sort of obligation for them to stick around; rocks by default aren’t the same as rocks by choice.

In that same vein, I don’t believe in doing things like taking a year to “work on myself”. I don’t believe I should avoid dating just because I need to find a constant that doesn’t involve a boy. I don’t believe in forgoing one thing because I need to focus on something else. Maybe it’s my “I can do it all” mentality or the fact that I wouldn’t know where to start with something like ‘focusing on my career’. But regardless, I don’t believe in exclusion.

The rock doesn’t always have to be a boy, but it could be. It doesn’t have to be a person, really. I just need a constant, a more solid rock this time. No more squishy pebbles.

Maybe this blog is a start. I think before the squishy pebble, writing was the thing for me that made sense. Maybe this time it’ll be my ever-growing love of wine and food, or the ever-more habitual exercise routine. I don’t know. I just know I need something, a rock to orbit my life around. Something, anything – that makes the rest of my uncertain life make sense.

Life Advisor?

What’s the adult, real-life version of an academic advisor? Ya know, the person who tells you that you’re doing awesome, and then tells you exactly what classes to take next semester? They look at your resume, and tell you you’re awesome, but give you small tweaks to make your resume reflect that awesomeness, and make you seem even more awesome? Is there a life advisor somewhere I’m not aware of?

About a year ago, when I was sitting through Alumni Days – listening to successful, graduated alumni talk about life after college – one of them said something that just recently sort of hit me.

There are no semesters, no constant evaluation in life. There’s nothing, and I mean nothing to break up the monotony. In college – while it could be brutal – there were breaks. There were finals (brutal) but then you were done, and then you went to new classes with new people and new professors and new topics. Now, there are intense deadlines (brutal) but no breaks, and on Monday I return to the same tasks, with the same people, working on the same project. Nothing actually changes, nothing moves forward…

In college, once you pass XYZ1000, you move on to XYZ2000. You fail that class? Oh it’s cool, just take it again.

In life, you manage to complete something, and then you have to do that thing again. And again. And again. Maybe some small things are different, maybe after a year (or several…usually several) maybe, maybe, you get promoted and get to make more money to do those things. But fuck something up? You could get fired. You don’t get to try it again.

Essentially, the consequences for fucking up are greater, but the rewards are lesser. And there are no life advisors to tell you you’re awesome, or which projects to take on, or what the hell to do about your resume. Instead, the other adults just… let you flail around out there, watching you squirm. They probably enjoy it, too. Buncha jerks.

23 Is The Worst

23 Reasons Why 23 Is The Worst

I picked this one because it’s the most recent one I’ve seen. On my 23rd birthday, I received a bunch of Facebook posts/messages with links to similar articles…all essentially ‘Why Everyone Hates You When You’re 23’ but there were a few ‘Why 23 Is Awesome’.

This one, however, also pointed out something I was told a long time ago, and have since forgotten:

15. Your brain is nearly done changing

The “use it or lose it” theory is at major play here. Your prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, the regions involved in emotional control and higher-order cognitive function, is fully maturing while other regions have reached their mental peak.

I even remember who told me this. I was 16 or 17, and my high school physics teacher told the class something to this effect. It absolutely blew my mind at the time, that I only had a few more years of my brain getting better before it started getting worse.

As someone who’s strong suit has usually been intellect, this is really terrifying and frustrating. I’m at my mental peak? What kind of sick joke is that? In theory/On average/Most likely I still have a solid 70+ years I have to stick around… and all while mentally declining? Who the fuck’s idea was this?!

Even worse, I spend my time doing nothing that takes advantage of this. If I’m at my mental peak, I should be doing some cool shit with that. Instead I make spreadsheets or fix other people’s mistakes or whatever the hell else I do at work. Then I come home from work to further rot my brain by watching stupid shows or buying shit I don’t need. Then there’s my drinking habits.

I already have this sinking feeling, from time to time, that I’m already losing what I thought was my most valuable asset. I think to myself, when playing Trivia Crack or reading something that’s probably over my head: I used to know this. What the fuck happened? And it’s probably one of the most frustrating things, because it’s out of my control and yet completely my fault. When other people do stupid or annoying things that frustrate me, I can at least blame them. But this is all me, and I don’t know how to stop unlearning all of the shit I’ve already learned. Clearly if I haven’t retained something it probably wasn’t that important to me on a regular basis, but it’s just the principle of the thing.

I should be doing something with this gift while I still have it. But what? As an occasional perfectionist, I can’t do just anything, it has to be the best possible thing to use my peak years for. I should learn a language, or go to law school, or solve some big fucking problem – but what problem? By the time I figure it out, I’ll have grown out of my peak years.

I don’t even know where to begin. Shit, I don’t even know where I want to end up, in order to try and work my way backwards. Geographically, career-ically, none of it; I just don’t know where I want to be.

“Mental peak” my ass.

“So, what do you do?”

Every time I see someone I haven’t talked to since I got my job, of course we ask each other what we’ve been up to. I tell them I graduated, got a job, live in a different part of the state, etc. Then they ask “So what do you do?” and I tell them my title, which like most titles, essentially means nothing. Sometimes they actually accept this as an answer, which is awesome, and maybe they ask what company I work for. Which, again, most people haven’t heard of most B2B companies so me telling them means nothing. They’ve heard of the main client I work for, but I can’t exactly tell them that so I continue being vague. If none of this is acceptable, they then ask something to the effect of “Soooo what does that mean? What do you actually do all day?”

Here’s the weird part for me. I have no idea. I mean yeah, I know what I do on a daily basis. I know what my job description is, vaguely. But, for example, I don’t know what to put on my resume. I never do. I mean, I know the tasks I do and what they’re used for, and in theory what the client uses them for. However, to anyone not in the industry, anything I say isn’t going to make sense. So I either ramble out some jargon about panels, verbatims, reporting specs, and testing scenarios, or I just say “I sit at a desk all day.” Neither of which actually answers their question, and it doesn’t sound the slightest bit glamorous, but neither is my job. And I get that I’m entry level, I really do. I understand that I’m just a glorified intern. And yet…I constantly feel like anything I do has no significance, no impact, and no value whatsoever.

That’s not exactly selling myself, is it?

Maybe if I was less ambitious this would all be ok. I would sit in my cubicle, put in my time, and wait until it was time to retire. Follow the suggested path, keep my head down, etc etc. I just can’t do that, though. On the other hand, I’ll be the first person to admit I can be a lazy piece of shit. Motivation eludes me for the better part of the day and maybe even week – but only when I’m not interested. If I can find a task or project that is challenging and interesting, then I also find it motivating. What I do now, is neither of those things. Some tasks, occasionally, yes. Any new things that break the monotony of my normal job routine, I will jump at the chance to tackle those projects on my own and I’ll spend all day trying to figure it out and how to do it well.

But how do I do that on a daily basis? Where is this magical job that makes me passionate about my work? Of course I understand there will always be good days and bad, but where’s the job that motivates me to do more than just kill time in my cubicle?

I love that I know things about economics and I even appreciate that I had to suffer through a few accounting classes, but that is what I really wish they would have taught me in college. How to find my perfect fit of what I’m good at and what I’m passionate about. I don’t know even how anyone would have taught such a thing…but I wish someone had. How do I figure out what I want? Once I do, how do I get there?

“Give it time,” they say. Maybe patience has just never been my strong suit, because I’m only 23 and I couldn’t be more restless.