A while back I wrote that I felt like Larry in Numb3rs holding five tickets in my hand with no idea which to choose. Waiting for a serendipitous moment that might lead me on an adventure that would help me to find clarity.
A few times this summer, after moving from New York City back to Michigan, I tricked myself into thinking I’d found clarity but I couldn’t even figure out how to move back out of my parents’. Not only did I have no way to afford it, I didn’t even know where I’d want to live. Though I told people that I’d let a job dictate where I lived, I knew it wasn’t true. The only jobs I even considered applying to were in Ann Arbor, Lansing and Grand Rapids. Still, I couldn’t imagine being happy in any of those cities. Ann Arbor is too far from my college friends, and wasn’t that why I convinced myself Michigan was supposed to be my home? Because my good college friends were there. Plus, the downtown is so tiny. Lansing is just too ugly. Even being close to my best friend Julie and, her husband, Jack couldn’t compensate for that. Grand Rapids was the best option but what’s the joy of living in a city that shuts down by 10pm?
Plus, even after months back in Michigan I found myself not entirely able to adjust. I missed so much about the east coast. And I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the idea that I could create a sort of community in Michigan. I didn’t even really fit into my friends lives there. I realized I’d always just be dropping in to visit instead of living along side them.
In short, no doors were opening for me in Michigan. I was still waiting. Then my serendipitous moment arrived: Saundra, a high school friend, contacted me about this job and got me on a plane back to the east coast.
Out here I’m starting to find clarity.
Eat, Pray, Love has been a sort of guide for me throughout these weeks. There is a moment in the book when Elizabeth’s friend Giulio says to her, “every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most of the people who live there. If you could read people’s thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of them were thinking the same thought. Whatever that majority thought might be-that is the word of the city. And if your personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don’t really belong there.”
Reading that I wondered what my word was. In high school my word was CREATE. In college it was BOLD. In grad school it was LEARN. Now my word is …LIVE. As soon as I thought it, I knew it was the perfect word. Though I’ve yet to find a definition that fits exactly what I mean by it.
When I thought the word LIVE, it came attached with a sense of freedom, of groundlessness and adventure. So much of my indecisiveness and flakiness throughout the last few months were the effect of this word. My desire to leave New York, to take time off between my masters and my PhD, my inability to choose a place or a profession to settle down in for a while stemmed from this word. From a desire to be unsettled for a while. A desire to be fully immersed in the present without boredom or anxiety.
There are many things I love about this job*, from getting to see new places and cool little restaurants to chatting up strangers and hanging out with Saundra, but my favorite part is that it matches my word. I am allowed the freedom to just live. I don’t have to settle down and I don’t have to have everything figured out. If anyone asks how long I’m going to do this I can give them Saundra’s answer, “Until I get tired of living out of a suitcase.”
*I’m working on a promotional marketing team dropping in on local restaurants and giving them free cases of Cholula hot sauce to try out along with information about ordering it. I started out with the team in Northern Virginian, now we’re in Philadelphia and also going to the surrounding area. We’ll end the tour in New York City. I’m not working for Cholula itself but for a marketing company. After this tour, if I keep working for this company, I’ll be sent out on a tour for another client like Bic or Naked Juice (I’m just throwing out random names). That company would dictate where I would go and what I would do.