Chapter 3: Finding Life

Image Description: girl walking on the beach towards a lighthouse in a white dress. She’s carrying cowboy boots.

The whole world has it a bit backwards.

If we look at Marley and Me and look at Jennifer Aniston she had a list. Get her fancy editing job. Fall in love. Get married. Move some place warmer. Buy a house. Have a baby.

It all seems so easy.

Every little girl supposedly has some box some where that her and best friend growing up had all their dream wedding plans in. The costumes they wore while playing a game of bride and groom. The fake little tiaras. Maybe some dried flowers. And suddenly we’re all grown up and we’re supposed to find that.

We’re supposed to have this idea of what we’re supposed to do and who want to be but never are given an opportunity to branch out and actually experience life.

We narrow in on some idea of what we want life to look like. My leadership teacher posed the question my Junior year: “In 10 years from now where do you see yourself in this moment?”

New York City. 2025. It was about 7:30 AM so I’d be waking up, sun glistening in through the white sheers. I’d open up the sheers to look over the constantly bustling city from my penthouse. Coffee would be brought in by me any second. Maybe even some scrumptious breakfast in bed, fruit or waffles, paired with orange juice in a champagne glass.

I don’t know about you but that still sounds like quite the lovely way to wake up in the morning. And it’s true that we need to envision the future and focus in our “why” down to the minuscule details of our lives, but what if that’s the only detail I can create?

Who at 16 or 17 has a why?

You know, I knew some pretty important things back then. I had grasped onto the idea that I didn’t have to be friends with people I didn’t like or who didn’t appreciate me. I understood that I didn’t have to tolerate blatant disrespect even if it came from authority figures. I knew I didn’t want my life to look like some picturesque white picket-fence Desperate Housewives scenario with kids on the swing-set out back. I knew that people weren’t meant to stay in our lives forever. I knew that smoothies were not a viable breakfast and green smoothies left in the freezer turn brown as they warm up to room temperature and that is a less than pleasant aesthetic. Because no one drinks smoothies for breakfast for anything other than the aesthetic.

I knew that I was falling away from the “norm” and wasn’t creating fantastic relationships with people over the phone. I knew that I valued real human interaction, face to face, no radiation emitting devices to be found.

But all I had was that brief picture. Which led to a brief list of top degree programs to get me the salary that would allow me to have that penthouse vision.

Which led to the application to three schools – Duke, Clemson, and University of South Carolina. Clemson had the best offer for one of the top Architecture programs available.

You know what I got out of that program?

Carpal tunnel. A deep understanding that creativity had no application in this “art” field. And a desperate need to get as far away from all of that as I could.

But, I was really good at architecture. I probably would have been really successful had I stuck with that path, but I don’t think I would have been happy.

Image Description: Left – architecture model made of metal screening and pathway analysis above. Right – House In A Plum Grove architectural analysis display.

I mean you can glance at the photos. On the right, I was thrilled to be pinning up my project that I’d spent over a month on and was finally finished with. I’d never have to look at this house ever again. On the left, I’d driven up from Charleston that morning because I’d taken a vacation before finals week and strongly considered skipping out on the whole presentation. I’d pushed to make a creation that was different and really met the ideals of the proposal, and I did but if we’re being honest while the rest of studio spent hours on their models, I assembled mine in an hour and half and decided it was great and that was the end of my architecture education. I didn’t even have an explanation to give the circling critics as to what my project was until 5 minutes before the floor opened up for presentations.

That isn’t how you should feel about something you’ve put time and effort into.

And off I went to another school in a different part of the country.

You can’t figure out your life if you just keep rolling through the motions, even if the motions involve change.

I was good at interior design. I love interior design. Nothing is more exciting than drawing out floor plans, making a space come together, and making a client’s dream into reality.

But I will never be an interior designer.

They say to turn your hobby into your career and to be frank, that’s bullshit.

Hobbies exist to let us escape. To let us find ourselves again. To make us feel whole. To add something of interest into our lives.

When we monetize our hobbies, we stop loving them. At least, I do.

But the world tells us to go out and decide on who we are and who we’re going to be before we’ve even gotten to live.

John Lennon said: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

Someone should have made a point to say that to me a bit more firmly in high school. I spent so much time working on those plans that at some point I stopped working on the whole life thing.

Coincidentally, that’s around the same time I started getting sicker.

I went from working everyday in school and after school to save up money to have for spending money in college to the summer before college spending most of my time in and out of doctor’s offices. But we were totally ignoring the real problems. Everyone wanted to just get the pain under control but no one wanted to talk about why it suddenly got worse.

Freshmen year at Clemson I worked between my classes, spent my entire Saturday in studio so I could spend all day watching football. Then I worked full time all summer, moved across the country and started a part time job the same weekend classes resumed. I had Friday mornings off. By Spring semester I was working even more, struggling to stay in school, and had all day Thursday’s to dedicate to homework, grocery shopping, errands, chores, extra stuff for work…

I didn’t have time for the friendships I’d tried to make because I didn’t even have time for myself.

I didn’t even have time for myself.

I certainly didn’t have time for whatever that thing called life is.

It’s taken 10 months to even begin to have a glimpse of it again.

I saw it briefly early last November. I woke up to an empty house, poured my coffee and went and sat in the porch where the cool, crisp fall air welcomed me. I spent a few hours on the phone with a good friend. It was this blissful pain free series of moments where I had good coffee and good company to start my day on an uplifting note.

Two weekends ago I saw it again and I really embraced it and recognized it for what it was. Sure, I had plenty of things I could be doing and channeling my energy into, but there was a quiet porch swing calling my name. There was a book I hadn’t picked up in 6 months begging to have the dust brushed off of it. And so I spent my afternoon reading on my porch, unaware of the rest of the world and how I’m supposed to somehow fit into it all.

Time for myself. The breath of fresh air or murmurings of a bright morning and a day full of opportunities. A sky with no trace of the events of yesterday, with little hint at tomorrow. That first sip of coffee. Moments with those I love and cherish the most.

That’s what Lennon was referring to.

Healing comes with revelations. Triumph comes with a clearer view once the smoke has settled.

The smoke is settling. I am healing. I am taking the steps to starting my life.

And I say starting because I don’t want to reclaim my life. I don’t want to get it all back. That life that I had, without a moment for myself is not a life I want to have again.

And so we have before us, the turn of another page. The passage of one period of time and the beginning of another.

Chapter 3.

There’s a lot of healing left to do. I’ve got a lot to learn about myself and a whole world to open back up to.

It’s time to accept the friendships long passed, that never made it to this chapter. It’s time to embrace those who root for me, even from the distant sidelines and really allow them to have space in my life.

It’s time to allow new ideas to flourish. To revisit old ones and make them better.

It’s time to stop running. This is home and it’s time to embrace that.

It’s time.


Relevant posts: Chapter 2 & The French Goodbye the closing of Chapter 1.

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