I’ve been back in Albuquerque for almost nine months now. Sometimes this realization makes me dizzy. It still feels so recent – packing up my life in Portland and preparing to drive 1,400 miles on my own in a U-Haul, with my dog as co-pilot.
I turned 35 in November, and I feel like that was yesterday. How am I less than four months away from 36?
To phrase it mildly, it’s been a whirlwind. And truthfully, not an easy one. I was so incredibly relieved to be returning to a place I desperately missed, where I’d be close to a giant support network, but I was not returning as the best version of myself.
I was broken, and exhausted, and in a heightened state of stress, panic and anxiety. The past few years had kicked my ass to hell and back, and I was feeling the depths of that defeat.
I was in a very deep, dark place.
I was aware and accountable for this; and I remember having conversations with a few close friends, apologizing for the mental state I’d be arriving with.
“I’m so sorry, but I’m a fucking mess.”
It’s an odd paradox… feeling unbelievably grateful for a fresh beginning in a place you truly want to be, while also feeling so depressed and weary, it’s physically painful just being awake during the day.
Taking all of the above into account, I have no clue how I was able to dive headfirst into a new job. I had to hit the ground running – my life (at least financially) and wellbeing quite literally depended on making a successful transition into my new position.
By the grace of God, there I went.
I don’t know if it was divine intervention, desperation-fueled adrenaline, or my stubborn, unstoppable will – perhaps a combination of them all – but I managed to prove my worth to my employers.
I realized that I had landed. I had won. I was an exhausted, mentally tapped-out, emotional basket case, but life had finally given me a break.
It was going to take time, patience, and self-care, but I realized I was going to find my stride again. One day at a time, little by little, slowly but surely, I was going to reemerge from the ashes and spread my wings.
As the stress, panic, and anxiety have begun to dissipate, there’s been more space in my brain for self-reflection. I try not to over-analyze everything in my Brenda Chenowith way (ten points if you know that reference), but truthfully – I’d rather be introspective than unaware.
I’ve been reflecting a LOT on where I am in life, regarding my age, where I thought I’d be, and my close relationships in the present in comparison to how they were in the past –
I genuinely miss the days (10-15 years ago… ish) when my best pals would call me and say, “Hey, are you free tonight?”
We’d meet for dinner, or a movie, and that would often turn into an entire evening spent just enjoying each other, nurturing the relationship.
Going out at night was a norm, and not just on the weekends. I remember how many nights were spent out dancing and clubbing ‘til late, and then we’d be up in the morning for work. Granted these were jobs with much less pressure and responsibility, but still… How in the name of exhaustion did we do that?
Those kinds of spontaneous evenings don’t typically happen anymore. Spouses, children, and much busier schedules all-around are the reality now. Even for me as a single, childless woman, my schedule can be nuts.
If my friends and I want to get together, we plan in advance. For my friends with little ones, those gatherings tend to have a time limit.
To be clear, these thoughts aren’t stemming from a place of resentment or bitterness. It brings me joy to see contentment in those I love, and I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant taking away their daily happy.
Even though time with each other is nowhere near what it used to be, the loyalties and the trust between us is just as strong – if not more so.
You know what I’ve come to realize?
I enjoyed and appreciated every moment spent with my friends during our earlier years. We loved and lived the heck out of being young together. I have regrets in many areas of my life, but I have no regrets when it comes to what my friendships have looked like over time.
I remember an amazing night with one of my best friends – we went dancing with a couple of coworkers, one of whom was a boy I had an insane crush on. Most of the details have faded with the passing years, but I do remember that the night was pure magic.
I spent my 21st birthday in Vegas, with two of my closest friends – the stories they recount about that trip are a combination of embarrassing and hilarious… Which I suppose is exactly how your 21st birthday in Vegas should be.
I remember spending an entire day with one of my besties, sitting on her couch in our pajamas and watching all three Lord of the Rings movies (extended editions). We ate pizza and talked about which realm of Middle Earth we’d live in if it were real… For her, it was The Shire – for me, Lothlorien.
I remember my Maryland friends coming out west to visit, whether they were flying or making the journey as a road trip. That’s what Spring Breaks and summer holidays were for – hitting the road for spontaneous adventures and leaving reality behind for a while.
Those visits included new experiences together as legal adults, day trips to explore corners of the world we’d never seen, hiking, horseback riding, white water rafting, and many late, late nights spent simply being present with each other.
When I graduated from college, one of my oldest buddies traveled west to be there. At the time, he was nursing a broken heart. The relationship he thought was ‘it’ had ended abruptly; and he was more shattered and devastated over a break-up than I’d ever know him to be in our twenty years of friendship.
As much as I wished I could’ve taken his pain away, the idea that I was his safe place to land – that has stayed with me in the decade that’s followed. He gave me such a gift with that visit. When I remember it now, it’s followed by thoughts of his life in the present – his sweet, beautiful wife, their amazing daughter, and the happiness that radiates from him with a brightness I’ve never known him to have.
It reminds me that everything happens for a reason, and all will be revealed in time.
As much as I miss those years and the irreplaceable experiences that came with them, that period in our lives isn’t meant to last forever. It’s what being young is for – to live like we did during those precious and pivotal days.
Those were the years that strengthened and deepened our bonds with each other, which is now the foundation that keeps us connected and devoted to one another when other commitments often take priority.
In the core of my being, I know that every single one of my closest friends would be there in a heartbeat to catch me when I fall, hold me up when I want to crumble, and love me fiercely when I struggle to love myself.
I’m far from perfect, as both a human and as a friend – but I’m a good human, and a very good friend to have. I know this, because it’s reflected back at me when I look into the faces of those I call my own.
If you can look at your life and see that you have those kinds of relationships – you are blessed beyond belief.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have moments of sadness and longing surrounding these thoughts. I think it’s part of being human – part of the journey – to miss what used to be that no longer is.
When I feel this way, I acknowledge it, I hold space for whatever emotions move through me, and I feel immeasurable gratitude for each and every moment I’ve spent with people I love over the course of my life.
To honor the years we’ll never live again, we continue to make memories when we can, and where we can. We make new friends, with new individuals who come into our lives and surprise us. A connection sparks and there’s a moment when those famous words come to mind, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
We also continue to make new memories with old friends – those friends we were once young, wild, and free with. I smile when I imagine us in our sixties and beyond, looking back on the stories we’ve written together. It will be inevitable… “Do you remember when we were in our thirties…?”
It’s true, my transition into a new life in the Land of Enchantment hasn’t been an easy one. Nine months later, and I’m still exhausted and nowhere near where I’d like to be – mentally, physically, emotionally.
But, I’m finding my stride again.
This is where I was, here in Albuquerque, during those earlier years. That was my first decade here – my twenties, my coming of age, my journey to awakening and embracing myself exactly as I am.
I left for five years, never thinking I’d be back for good, and now… Here I am. Nothing has changed, but everything is different.
Still, the tapestry is beautiful. Messy and imperfect – but beautiful.
My comfort, my solace, is knowing I can view each piece of the tapestry – each memory – as new colors, new pictures, and new stories continue to weave, stitch, and take shape.
I’ll close with a quote from one of my favorite shows:
“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday. And then quietly and without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And that someday is yesterday. And this is your life.”
Time is fleeting and precious, especially time with the people we love.
Viva La Vida, my friends. Live it well.
*This blog is dedicated to the friendships that inspired these thoughts, which led to the words. The friendships I grew up with in Maryland, the friendships I’ve made here in Albuquerque, and the friendships I will continue to make on my journey. You are my tapestry. You are my safe harbor. You, are my chosen family.