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Having Doubts, Being Scared, and Moving Forward Anyway

10 Apr

The last time – actually, the only time in my life – I completely ignored a Mental Plan and went with my gut, I was deciding where to go to college. I’d been accepted to my top choice; I’d told all my friends and their parents that that’s where I was going. Yet, there was something holding me back from signing the acceptance letter. When I received the acceptance from Gettysburg, it all clicked.

I sent in my deposit without a second thought.

In that moment – which has defined a huge portion of my adult life – I knew I had to trust my gut, despite the fact that it was entirely at odds with what my head had been thinking for months.

Since then, I’ve taken some pretty great risks and succeeded beautifully. I completed a semester with a full-immersion language program in France, even though I was “only” a French minor. I flew to California to visit a boy I’d met just one weekend, just to see what could happen. I went to London on two weeks notice for over two months without knowing a single person in the city.

I’m good at pushing myself, I think, but only so far. I never really actually leave my comfort zone; I just sort of tiptoe around the edges of it. The risks I take always have a very clear safety net, so even when I’m nervous or scared or anxious, I know that no matter what happens, the landing will be soft.

With my whole “I’m moving to LA” THING, I’m completely on board. But I think Amber’s brain hamsters got annoyed at how much control she has over them lately, because they are running rampant in MY head now.

“Where will you live?” They ask. “How will you afford to move with no income?” “Do you even know how to buy a car?” “When was the last time you even drove a car?” “You won’t make any friends, you know, because everyone there already has their friends.”

Seriously, they are being such assholes to me. They are starting to drown out all the support of my friends and family – and there’s a lot of support there! They are forcing me to dwell on all the scary stuff that comes with ignoring a Mental Plan and listening to my gut.

The hardest part, right now, is pushing forward. I know this is the right decision for me, even though it’s totally different from anything I’ve ever done. I know it’s the right decision because it’s totally different from anything I’ve ever done.

Almost 10 years ago, I went with my gut and ended up having a blast for four years. What makes me think this will be any different?

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A Message From the Universe, or Why I’m Abandoning Mental Plans

9 Apr

Back in October of last year, I finally admitted to myself that I was ready to leave Manhattan. Well, that I was ready to start being ready to leave. Baby steps, you know?

I created this grand Mental Plan involving quitting my job at the four-year mark and moving out to Chicago. The timeline for this Grand Mental Plan had me staying with my job through May 2012 and peacing out sometime this summer.

But then I got laid off in December.

So I adjusted my Mental Plan. I decided the universe didn’t want me to follow through with the plan and that I was meant to stay in New York City for another year. I got a new apartment and found a new job by the end of January and committed to spending 2012 right here in NYC. I even wrote an essay about the experience – that’s how well I convinced myself I’d be satisfied with the new direction my life was heading in.

Anyway, I continued taking baby steps. The new apartment, new neighborhood, new roommate, new job and all that came with it? Those changes satiated my restlessness for, oh, about five or six weeks.

My mind kept wandering, though. I felt that itch to leave, but this time it was even stronger than before. And when I let my mind wander, it didn’t go to Chicago. It went farther than I’ve allowed it to go – all the way to Los Angeles. So I created a new Mental Plan. I’d continue at my (new) job through the end of the year, finish out my lease, and then hopefully relocate and keep my job. I vocalized this plan to a close friend on Wednesday night, on March 28.

The next morning, I posted this – alluding to a big life change that I couldn’t yet disclose.

An hour later, I got laid off. Again.

The world swam before my teary eyes; my head filled with cotton; I lost my footing once again as the floor was ripped out from under me. Panic set in as I felt myself floating through my life, again with no control over anything.

But after a few hours of deep breathing, lots of tears, and several blubbering phone calls, I forced myself to gain a little perspective. I forced myself to face the brutally honest gut feeling I’d had from the moment I knew I was losing my job:

Relief.

I was relieved! I was freed from the ties keeping me here; I could do anything, go anywhere.

Messages from the universe – fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it – are nothing more than your own perception of your circumstances. Sometimes, though, your perception of the circumstances aligns perfectly with that deep-down desire you’ve been too scared to act on.

That’s what happened to me. I don’t believe I can be laid off from two different jobs in under four months and NOT create a life that is a total departure from the one I’m currently living. Mental Plans just goad the universe into challenging them; I feel like I’ve been dared to take the giant leap.

Here’s the thing about baby steps that no one tells you: They don’t get you anywhere. They’re certainly safer and far less scary than a big jump, but even babies learn to run eventually. Most recently, Doniree compared it to ripping off a band-aid; there’s a mental disconnect between picking up your foot and actually leaping.

Well, some of us learn important life lessons by pole dancing. I get laid off.

Either way, I’m ripping off the band-aid, taking a giant leap forward, abandoning any pretense of having even a clue as to what I’m doing. I’m leaning into the utter terror I feel at uprooting the life I’ve known for years – and I’m moving to Los Angeles.

Lightbulb Moments & I Deserve More Respect From Myself

6 Jan

Not too long ago, I was really struggling with the curveball called Being Laid Off. It kept hitting me on the head, in the gut, my shins … everywhere that hurts the most.

Then my best friend got a job offer before I did.

My reaction – an unfamiliar one of envy and self-doubt – really threw me for another loop. I’d never not been happy for her many amazing accomplishments! It was time for some serious life-evaluation.

I wondered why her success meant my failure. Why anything positive for her didn’t immediately lend itself to positive support from me. Why I was suddenly unable to share in her excitement and instead wallowed in my own self-pity.

It wasn’t a pretty sight. I didn’t like that part of me that I didn’t even knew existed.

I really thought I was one of those secure, confident people with happiness oozing from within! I thought I was making me happy, rather than my circumstances. That impression fell apart when the curveballs kept pelting me.

What really struck me was that it wasn’t the job that was making me happy. It was being on what I viewed as equal footing with my closest friends.

Um, WHAT?! I’m sorry, did I not just write an entire post on how I hate competition between friends? Since when was Life in General a competition, then? Since when was my self-validation based on being “equal” to my friends?

See, with my realization that I need to uphold my Rabbit Hole Standards also came a Lightbulb Moment of Self Clarity. I deserve friends who respect me – but more than that, I deserve my own respect.

Maybe that sounds really obvious and maybe you’re all like, “Well, duh.” But I’m gonna bet you’re more like, “Shit, that’s true but that’s hard!”

And you know what? It really is. Just because I’ve realized that this is something I need to seriously work on doesn’t mean I’m suddenly all happy-from-within and don’t care about the fact that not everything is going my way quite yet.

It does mean, though, that when my best friend recently accepted a new job (her second offer, actually), I was genuinely thrilled to share in her excitement. I’m different from her – I’m different from everyone else – so things happen differently for me.

Also? I don’t think it’s about simply trusting that things will work out. They will, but that’s because I’m working really hard on figuring out what those things are and how I can make them work out for me.

Yay, self-empowerment!

 

Friendship Rabbit Holes

5 Jan

When I was in 8th grade, I was called into my homeroom teacher’s classroom along with my four best friends. We strutted in, knowing we were oh-so-cool, and got a lecture I’ve never forgotten.

“You girls are being mean,” Mrs. D told us. “You’re being exclusive and clicque-y and it needs to stop. You need to be nicer.”

See, my little group was that “popular” crowd of pre-teens that hung around with some high school boys (read: older siblings) and snuck out during lunch period to smoke cigarettes (newsflash: smoking’s not cool). I didn’t have any older siblings and I didn’t try a cigarette till most of the way through college, but I’d been friends with these girls for years. So I was part of them. So while my naive little self honestly thought I could be – and was – friends with everyone, that lecture during recess illustrated just how wrong I was.

Don’t get me wrong here – I wasn’t wrong about the “popular” kids being able to be friends with “everyone else”. That’s totally possible and after our budding egos were appropriately cut down, the dynamic changed noticeably.

Where I was wrong – and where I continue to stumble to this day – is the notion that I can be friends with everyone.

When I meet someone new – and we’re gonna stick to girlfriends here, since it’s most relevant to me currently – it’s pretty easy for me to jump down the Friendship Rabbit Hole.

I mean, it’s usually a lot of fun! New Friend gets to be introduced to all your other Rabbit Hole Friends. New Friend comes to girls’ nights and brunches and gym classes and sometimes even vacations.

You know what I’m talking about, right? I mean, the same thing happens when you get a new boyfriend, only then it’s called the Honeymoon Phase.

And what happens after the Honeymoon Phase? The same thing that happens once you hit the bottom of the Rabbit Hole: you’re granted a clear look at the type of person you’ve invited down there with you.

Overall, I’ve been lucky with my Friendship Rabbit Hole. Or maybe I’ve been foolish. Once I bring you down there, it’s hard for me to accept that you might not belong there after all. Hopefully you’re just as great as I initially thought and I’m thrilled to keep you! Sometimes, though, your true colors are revealed and instead of Friendship Rainbows all you have are Friendship Graveyards.

So then I have a choice. I can allow to you dwell down there with me and disappoint me over and over again. I can allow you to disrespect me and to break my trust. I can choose to make excuses for you.

Or I can kick you the fuck out of my Rabbit Hole.

It’s really disappointing when someone doesn’t meet my Rabbit Hole Standards. That’s never the desired outcome and when it happens with more frequency (as it has recently), it makes me doubt my own judgment.

So here it is, one of my 2012 Life Goals: Upholding the Standards of My Friendship Rabbit Hole. No more excusing the girl who forgets to offer support because she’s “spacey.” No more overlooking the discomfort that comes with the girl who makes every guy into a competition. No more accepting the fair-weather friends who suddenly become too busy to be there when it’s most needed. No more 5th, 6th, 7th chances to “make it up to me.”

Be a good friend, or get the hell out of my Rabbit Hole.

Not So (F)Unemployment

21 Dec

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a conversation I had with an old coworker when I was in London. He was in the process of quitting; I was shocked to learn he’d given 60 days notice. Along the same lines, he was horrified to learn that, should I choose to quit, I would give two weeks notice, required not by law, but simply out of culture and courtesy.

After learning of these drastic differences in our work cultures, he asked me:

“But if you can quit whenever you want, can’t you also get fired anytime they want?”

That’s the thing about at-will employment. Unless you’re part of a union, in America, you have the right to leave your employer at-will. The part that most of us take for granted is that it goes both ways.

When my colleague exhibited some serious anxiety at the mere thought of not having legally required job security, I scoffed.

“My company is stable and I’ve been there forever. They wouldn’t just fire me out of the blue.”

Well guess what happened? They did.

 ***

I try really hard to appreciate the little things in life. When I’m feeling stifled by New York City, I deliberately take note of beautiful architecture on the corner; I engage the Dunkin Donuts lady who pours my coffee; I smile at strangers.

Apparently, though, I’ve been falling short at appreciating the big things in life. Having a nice place to live, all of my immediate family members being alive and well, being employed.

Suddenly, I don’t have a paycheck on the horizon. My checking account is what it is; it won’t get replenished at the end of this month.

Suddenly, I don’t have any kind of structure to my day. I can do whatever I want whenever I want to, which maybe sounds appealing to lots of people, but I don’t function well this way. Even self-employed, workers-from-home have deadlines to meet and goals to accomplish. My freedom is endless and it’s suffocating me.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m one of the most adaptable people they know. What they might not realize, however, is that I need prep time. I can take on Life Changes with a vengeance as long as I can convince myself it’s on my own terms.

This? This is not on my own terms.

And I guess that’s the lesson I have to learn here, right? I don’t get prep time for every Life Change. I have to learn to dodge the curve balls, or catch them, or at least not let them smash me in the face.

It’s proving to be a real challenge to prevent this curve ball from smashing me in the face.

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