What a decade.
10 years ago, I was 27. I was just barely awakening to who I was, acknowledging what I’d experienced and how it had shaped me, and identifying what I wanted from life.
I left Albuquerque in 2012, in the hopes of moving abroad to Ireland. I spent an incredible five months there when I was 15, and I’ve always dreamed of going back. I fell in love with the culture, the people, the scenery, and I felt my Celtic heritage come alive in my spirit.
Likely for the best, that dream wasn’t in the cards. I will return, someday.
In 2013, I fell insanely, completely, and unexpectedly in love. I felt certain I’d stumbled upon the person God had put on this earth for me to find. Even though this individual made it very clear he wasn’t in any way ready for what I wanted, I pursued him (like an total idiot). I knew he cared about me, and I believed he’d wake up one day and be ready.
But real life isn’t a rom-com. In real life, he does not wake up one day, realize he let her walk out of his life like a fool, and track her down across multiple states and thousands of miles. In real life, people move on when timing intervenes.
About a year ago, I saw that this person had gotten married, via a tagged photo on Facebook – he’s not on social media, but we have mutual friends who are. There he was, standing next to a stunningly beautiful woman who looked like she should be walking the red carpet. The exact opposite of me, to say the least; and both of them were shining with happiness.
To be honest, the sadness I felt in that moment wasn’t about him. Several years had passed, and I’d indeed moved on. I thought of him fondly when memories surfaced, and I genuinely wished him well. I hoped he was happy.
My sadness was more about how I continue to perpetuate a pattern of falling for unavailable men. A pattern I’m determined to break, once and for all, in this next decade.
In 2014, I drove solo across the country – from Maryland to California – feeling like I was heading towards my ‘forever.’
I was in the Bay Area for about six months, working in San Francisco, and I learned very quickly that the lifestyle wasn’t for me. Too loud, too fast, too crazy, and too damn expensive.
I packed up, again, and moved to Portland. I thought surely, this was it. I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest very quickly. Things went well, for a while.
In 2015, I rescued Hippo (I thank God every day for this decision), and I traveled to Greece with a gal pal. I’m beyond grateful for the 10 incredible days we spent in Mykonos – the memories have been a warm, shining light on many dark days since.
2016 and 2017 were unbelievably hard. I struggled to find permanent work (that paid a livable wage), and I watched my financial situation spiral downward so rapidly it made me dizzy.
Everything fell apart. I was desperate, and as close to rock bottom as I’ve ever been.
But… As 2017 came to a close, I was offered a job in Albuquerque – which would ultimately change everything. I was offered a chance; and I seized the opportunity with a grateful heart and a determined mind.
The past two years?
They’ve mostly been about rebuilding what was lost. They’ve been about feeling safe again, slowly but surely. They’ve been about waking up each morning, and realizing that the roof over my head isn’t going anywhere. I’ve learned to trust that I’m secure in my job, and that I’m a valuable employee. I’m within reach of close family members, and many of my dearest friends.
To me, that’s home.
I’ve learned many lessons as an adult, but one of the most profound (and frustrating) truths – is that life is unpredictable and rarely turns out how we imagine.
If anyone had told me 10 years ago that I’d still be on this crazy journey alone, that I’d choose to end up back in Albuquerque for the foreseeable future, that I’d still be unpublished, that I’d realize being a mother wasn’t in my cards, and that I’d still have yet to let go and experience so much of life’s joy – I’d have said, “No way. Just watch me.”
It’s easy to feel consumed with regret and sadness when I reflect on this. It’s easy to identify where I could have made different, seemingly smarter choices over the past decade – and it’s very easy to romanticize the potential outcomes of those choices.
The reality, though, is that playing the ‘What if’ game serves no worthwhile purpose. It ties my thoughts to the past, when they need to be here – in the present. And truthfully, there are genuine friendships I’d never have found, places I’d never have seen, and wisdom I’d never have gained – had anything been different.
I’m still a mess. My self-confidence is hovering a breath above non-existent. I want so desperately to feel hopeful about the next decade – and if I have one resolution, that’s it. To open my heart to hope again.
Gratitude is different. Gratitude is easy. Gratitude is with me always; and I could write page after page about everything I’m grateful for.
Especially being an Empath, and not only seeing – but feeling – the experiences of others, it’s impossible for me not to recognize what I have to be thankful for. It’s impossible for me not to acknowledge the pain so many are feeling, everywhere in the world, and think, “I’m really, truly blessed.”
Hope is harder. Hope is opening myself up to absolute vulnerability – which is not my favorite thing.
I remember reading that ‘Joy’ and ‘Hope’ are the two most vulnerable emotions we experience. I believe it. It’s terrifying, but one thing is certain –
Over here in the safety of my epic fortress of self-protection, nothing will ever change.
37 is not too late to make extraordinary things happen. It’s not too late to be published. It’s not too late to fall head-over-heels in love with someone who’s ready – and willing – to make that leap with me.
It’s not too late to be surprised by life.
It’s not too late for unbridled joy.
It’s not too late to let go.
It’s. Not. Too. Late.
Cheers to 2020, friends. I love you. I see you. I will be rooting for you all to experience the extraordinary in this next decade.