My little baby brother, only 20 years old, is moving to China today. How exciting! How brave!
He is, like my sister and me, an artistic soul, quiet (at first), contemplative, and a big dreamer. He, like me, decided New York was not all it’s cracked up to be, and decided to take a break. When I did that, I decided to move to Chicago, and I’m still here 11 years later. When he decided, it took him all the way to the other side of the planet.
I have always wanted to live abroad but just never made the space in my life to do so. I get very comfortable and like to be caught up in routines. They make me feel secure and stable. I’m a 50/50 split between a city girl and a homebody. (Like those New Yorkers who never leave Manhattan, but not quite so drastic.) I have to admit I’m a teeny bit jealous of his big adventure – all the things he’ll get to see in Beijing, and all of the tasty food he’s going to eat. I know I’d be doing dumplings and Dim Sum all day every day!
I talked to my parents who were a bit tearful and sad, as to be expected. They are officially empty nesters now. I’ll have to go home more and bug them. But we are all wishing David the very best of luck on his trip. That he can find his way in a world where he doesn’t yet know the language, won’t know his way around, and will have to point to the things (he thinks) he wants on a menu.
This is a year for big change. I knew it, I could feel it, I willed that it MUST BE. As 2016 was drawing to a close, I asked the universe to please let us keep going, not allow us to blow up in a terrible disaster so that we could keep living happy and productive lives as best as we could. So far, we’ve been very fortunate to not have every single one of our rights and expectations for life taken away from us, but that may still be coming. For some of us, that may come sooner rather than later. In the mean time, we have to focus on what we can still do, and what’s still out there for the taking.
Back in early March, I was sitting on my sister’s couch, crying my eyes out in the middle of the night. Things were horribly, yet inexplicably wrong at my job (my dream job!) and the anxiety of returning to a toxic workplace had ruined the end of my week long vacation in Phoenix. The feeling crept up on me, until it had totally overwhelmed me and stopped my ability to enjoy a single moment of the day. Imagine Sunday Anxiety x 1000.
Earlier that day as we wandered through the aisles of a Native American Market, I felt lost and hopeless, touching every stone and asking what they meant. Where was the thing that would purify my soul? Where was the thing that could protect me? I allowed my mom and sister to dawdle at the booths and rushed ahead of them so they would not see that I was crying. Something in me had cracked and broken, but I did not know what it was.
A few months ago, my mom called me and asked if I would prefer to go on a girls trip instead of having to suffer through a bridal shower. I had on several occasions expressed to her my extreme aversion to carrying out the typical bridal duties. I can think of few things more painful than sitting through a party designed around obligatory gifts, opening of said gifts, and acknowledging in front of everyone who it was from. My anxiety can’t handle that kind of trauma, and I don’t want to make my friends suffer through it either.
So the plan was set: my mom and I would fly out to Phoenix to meet my sister for a long weekend of frolicking in the springtime air, hiking in the desert and lounging at the resort pool. The weeks leading up to the trip were long and painful, and my departure felt as if it lingered in the ever distant future – all the way up until the day I was leaving. I remember looking out from the Blue Line train as it shuttled me away from the city thinking “It’s finally here”.
The weather was cloudy – something I’ve never experienced before in my many trips to the Southwest over the years – and it made the sun and the heat more bearable. All the warm glowy goodness without the pain of my skin being burned off. The resort we stayed in was a shared property with some local Native American tribes, and it felt like an oasis in the untouched desert (if you ignored the golf course). We hiked the trails, lounged at the pool drinking piña coladas, and visited the botanical gardens to watch the sun set over the mountains. My photos from the trip are mainly of plants, but I like them and wanted to share anyway.
My last day in Phoenix, I was overcome by an intense anxiety and sadness. The thought of returning to my routine filled me with dread – similar to my Sunday Blues but amplified. My sister and I had a long talk about my life and career. I have always seen myself as an ambitious person, driven by a need to do it right and play by the rules to get ahead. But in doing that, I sacrificed my health and my happiness. I didn’t have time or energy to pursue things that made me happy outside of work. I was losing myself. I couldn’t see it at the time, but she was right, and I needed to make a big change.
When we were planning on the trip, I jokingly said that I wanted to add a Native American spiritual cleanse to the itinerary. I wanted to purify my soul in a sweat lodge and emerge a new and whole person with a clear understanding of myself and my life’s purpose. We didn’t get to do that, but somehow I feel that I still got the clarity I needed. I don’t understand everything, and I still have days where I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I am a step closer and that’s going to have to be enough for now.