And here is the next segment in my end-of-year, musically-framed, retrospective of my life. (That’s a mouthful!)
That last post took me to my just-post-college period, when I was trying to figure out what to do with myself.
I actually knew what I really wanted to do – and that was travel. Just GO. See, do, explore, experience.
My parents were very much against this idea, however (single woman, alone, etc). And they were very vocal about it.
I know they meant well. They love me, and they worry. But the fact of the matter is: they were wrong. And it’s not right to clip somebody’s wings that way.
Of course, I didn’t HAVE to listen to them – but I did. That makes me a million times more culpable in any dream-quashing that took place at this time – because I was the one who made the very critical error of allowing myself to become convinced that my ideas were unrealistic…pipe dreams. A little bit foolish. That’s my own fault.
Going after what you want because you want it, regardless of other people’s opinions – this takes spine. And it requires connecting with yourself on inner levels, reaching for self-knowledge and, with that, cultivating the kind of confidence and faith in yourself that is absolutely essential to achieving the things you most need in life.
I didn’t grasp any of this then. Maybe I just wasn’t ready to…I don’t know. But it was something I was destined to learn at some point; I see that now. To be the kind of person I want to be, to live the life I want to live, I need to follow myself. It was a lesson that would have to be heeded at some point or other.
As it’s turned out, it was another fourteen years before I realized this – and acted. And that changed absolutely everything about my life.
I don’t exactly have regrets about this. I mean, on one hand it would be nice, perhaps, if I’d learned that particular lesson sooner. I’d have saved myself a fair amount of grief.
But on the other hand, if you like who you are and you think you’ve reached a good place – how can you regret what brought you here? Maybe this more roundabout manner in which I learned to stand for myself taught me other things in the process, important things, that I don’t even realize yet.
There’s no escaping pain in life. There’s no way to sail through smoothly, unscathed. You can only do the best you can do at any given moment.
And maybe you learn the things you need to know when you’re meant to learn them.
I don’t know.
Anyway, I ended up moving back in with my parents, getting a job in a bookstore, and then entering a graduate program. It was in Arts Administration – which seemed like a useful thing to study, as I’d been an Art History major.
And it was BORING AS HELL.
My bookstore job was somewhat fun at least – energetic, lively, and intellectual enough (talking books and music all day) to be stimulating.
I had an on-off boyfriend who also worked there who was, like me, fresh out of college and living with his parents and trying to figure out what to do with himself. I wasn’t particularly attached to him (nor was he to me), but he was fun and funny. We had a good time. And there were other boys here and there, other flirtations. It filled up the time.
Basically what I was doing during this time was moving from overtly floundering (being anxious and insecure about the future) and into a kind of blase superficiality. I still didn’t know what I was doing with myself – but for a while I didn’t greatly give a shit. The quashing of my travel dreams made me feel stifled if I let myself think about it – so I simply shoved it aside.
It was all about avoidance at this point.
I haven’t mentioned any music because I don’t think I was listening to anything particular at this time. I think I was more inclined to just flip on the radio and mindlessly play whatever was on that wasn’t too annoying. That was more in line with where my head was at.
I liked Oasis’s music – but I was just as much, if not more, attracted to their image. I liked their arrogance and their boldness – and the way that their music wasn’t overly insightful. It wasn’t so superficial as to be stupid – but its strength was in its attitude.
At least, that’s what appealed to me in it. It suited my mood.
“Don’t Look Back in Anger” is my favorite Oasis song by far. But I think songs like “Rock ‘n Roll Star” were most to my liking about now:
Another thing that is pretty clear in hindsight: all that superficiality and depthlessness that I was living in (fun as it was to a degree) was setting me up for a crash.
I’m just not naturally a person who can survive hovering at the surface of things. I need to KNOW things. I need to understand things. I need to feel connected to things. And I need to live in a way that is true to me.
I wasn’t doing those things…not at all. It couldn’t sustain.
I didn’t know it, but I was poised to take a very, very wrong turn.
My dad at this time transferred to another division of his company – which meant that he and my mom needed to sell the house and move from northeast Ohio to upstate New York.
I went with them – happily. Leave my boring grad program (that I was still in the first semester of)…gladly! Leave boring Ohio for a city three or four hours from New York City…very, very happy to!! It had been a longstanding dream to get to know New York City; I’d never even been there before. I was sure this would be so great!
I almost immediately realized that there is an enormous cultural difference between upstate New York and downstate (one that a lot of upstate New Yorkers are very proud to fan up too, in my experience.) Geographical proximity to NYC (unbelievably to Ohio-grown me) did not in any way up the “coolness factor”of the area. NOT AT ALL. I really, really hated living there.
But I ended up staying there for a few years anyway, even going to grad school there. This was because I’d met the person I eventually married.
My parents even left; they didn’t live there two years, I don’t think. But I stayed.
For a long time – as the marriage fell to pieces, and then in the aftermath – I was very bothered by the fact that I’d made such a wrong choice in him. How had I made a mistake of this magnitude? What was wrong with me for not knowing? How could my instincts have been so utterly wrong?
But I slowly realized the truth: and that’s that my instincts hadn’t been wrong at all. The problem actually was that I’d buried them. I wasn’t listening to myself – to that “little voice” that tells you what’s right for you. And that was because I’d shoved it down, buried it already – before I’d even met him
It’s so simple and so awful. And so very, very clear to me now.
I was so rootless when I met him and floundering around so much for something to give me the feeling of LIVING that I craved so much. I was existing so entirely at this superficial surface of things – so when I met him, when my deeper (as in not superficial) emotions got involved, it didn’t just feel like “Wow, this could get serious.” It felt like a monumental world-changing shift. It felt HUGE. It felt dramatically important.
It felt like IT.
And so I went with that – just full-throttle forward.
And the thing that really sealed our fate? He was going through a rough personal time of his own and really needed somebody. I was (as described) looking for something to focus on; it felt good to be needed. And so when we found each other, we tangled ourselves up very quickly – and it was NOT for the right reasons.
I do think though that this is why, in part, we’re able to stay friends now, post-marriage – and that it’s actually a real friendship. It’s because nobody broke anybody’s heart. We couldn’t, because our hearts were never really meshed together to begin with. It was more like they (we) ran alongside each other for a long time…like, parallel. And we never really could quite get them to touch.
The fact that this “not touching of hearts” bothered me much, much more than it bothered him doesn’t, I’ve realized, indicate so much that he didn’t care about me, but that he truly didn’t want the same things out of marriage and intimacy that I did. We were just so unsuited for a long-term relationship of this nature.
When we finally faced up to this, we freed ourselves up to accept the natural state of things. And what we’ve found? “Parallel hearts” is a perfectly nice position for a friend. It’s a really great position for co-parents.
So that’s where we’ve come to now; that’s where we’re at in the present moment. Not emotionally intimate. Not romantic at all. Just friends whose paths run parallel. And it works.
This is what it should have been all along. We do great at the “friend” level – and really, really NOT at the others.
To return to the timeline:
We almost split up at one point, pre-kids.
We had just moved from NY to Kansas, as he was starting a PhD program out there. I wasn’t at all sure that I was going to stay. There were no jobs for me out there, our relationship was really rocky. It would have been a good time to end things. I knew it on some level.
But I wasn’t sure. The idea of “freedom” was tantalizing in a way; I was so tired of struggling with the same issues. But I really did care about him – and the stuff we liked about each other was still there, peeking out around all the angst.
I kept thinking that we just had to work harder.
And that was the quicksand of it all. Our relationship was such a puzzle. I think (in hindsight) that I was somewhat obsessed with figuring it out. I couldn’t understand why, when there were plenty of good things about it, we couldn’t bridge our way over the bad things.
It really was like a puzzle – the kind that drives you crazy and you kind of hate in a way – but yet you can’t put it down.
That was us for a very long time.
So we stuck it out together – and after a little upturn in our general relationship-happiness-level (fueled by him going away for a few weeks to do fieldwork in Antarctica, and our missing each other a bit), I got pregnant.
Wilco’s “California Stars” brings me back to this time. I believe that was my favorite off of a disc my brother had burned of random songs he liked and given to me when I saw him at Christmas.
The Antarctica trip was over Christmas and New Year’s of that year (2005); so that fits.
Here’s that one:
This seems like a good place to end this segment.