Looking Back & Moving Forward

Happy New Year!

I know, that may sounds a little forced from me. I was tempted to go on my usual rant about how little the start of a new calendar year means to me. How the fact that our new year doesn’t line up with the beginning of a new season and comes in the midst of winter, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, renders it practically meaningless, etc. I’ve decided to spare you that long tirade. In part because this is one of the rare times that our new calendar year has significance for me. Like many of you I’m sure, this new year is opening up before us as one season of my life is coming to an end. While the natural world is slumbering, I feel a new season awakening for me.

During Saundra and I’s tour around the east coast, as we passed out Cholula hot sauce to restaurants fall of 2011, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. There is a scene in that novel when one of Gilbert’s friends, in Italy, tells her that every city has a word that captures its spirit. I thought about how different seasons of my life have had a word that captured their spirit: undergrad=BOLD, grad school=LEARN. I told you, then, that I could feel that the word for my present was LIVE. I realized that since graduating from grad school I’d felt a need to be unfettered and unsettled for a while. To really live, outside of the academic world, for a season.

What I wanted was much like what Henry David Thoreau wanted when he withdrew to Walden: “I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” Likening myself to him you might imagine that I wanted to camp out in the wilderness or set out on a hiking trip through the Himalayas to find myself. I’m not someone who finds myself in nature. Unlike Thoreau, I have no need to intentionally withdraw into solitude and my inner world. I’m naturally solitary and introspective. I wanted to live more deliberately in the world outside of my mind and outside of my comfort zone. To let myself be carried along by the wind in order to meet new people, go new places and be open to new ventures.

In retrospect, I think a more accurate word for this season would be EXPERIENCE. That was even the commission a friend gave me before dating Sergei. “Lindsey, you’ve had so much of the same. Let yourself have an experience!” That’s what I’ve done since autumn of 2011. I’ve let myself have a number of different experiences.

I’d be lying if I said that I made any sort of solid resolution, I certainly had no established timeline, my most resolute decision was not to pursue any type of career in academia for an indeterminable amount of time. Mostly, I gave myself permission to continue following the wind where ever it would lead.

The wind that had caught me up and brought me to that promotional marketing job, which revived my friendship with Saundra and led me around the east coast, then drove me to Jon and Christa’s for a month. Eventually, it carried me back to Michigan. It’s blown me all over this state. First, during a short lived career as an office supplies sales woman, it led me to meet dozens upon dozens of people and explore many little towns. Then it pushed me over to Ann Arbor to rule out for good the possibility of working in collegiate ministry. It blew me back to Grand Rapids to make good use of my master’s thesis, remind me that my heart still beats for academia and bring a good friendship to a close. Still at the mercy of this fickle wind, I found myself pushed into product demonstration and web copywriting, which has introduced me to numerous people, products and professions.

I can’t say that this time has turned out like I imagined it would. It hasn’t been quite the adventure I envisioned, yet no month has looked much like the one before it. I’ve been something of a hot mess, with one existential crisis followed by the next. But I can’t say that wasn’t what I’ve needed. All the experiences I’ve had have stretched me and healed many old wounds.

I’ve not only gotten down to my smallest size (wearing size 8s and 10s for the first time in my life), I’ve also become comfortable at this new size. I’ve made peace with being a fat girl in a normal body. I’ve gotten accustomed to living without that old sense of control. I’ve finished mending from that last pseudo-relationship and forgiven myself for being in such a damaging relationship. Finally, I’ve broken out of my cycle of pseudo-relationships.

Though I’ve wrestled with living back with my parents, I’ve never had such a deep and intimate relationship with them.  Despite the fact that I sometimes can’t bear that I live in semi-rural Michigan, I’ve never been so convinced of the truth in Baz Luhrmann’s statement that “the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.” Relationships I thought I’d lost have come back to me because I’m living so close to my high school hometown.

The spirit that’s been leading me along is losing her power of over me. My recent quest to find my Muse quickly evolved into a serious hunt for a career. I’ve looked for jobs almost without ceasing throughout this time but I’d been evading searching for a career. I’m ready for more responsibility. I’m ready to stop hiding my new body at home or beneath a bulky chef coat. I deeply crave both the challenge and structure of a non-freelance profession.

When it comes to my relationships with men, I realized that I’ve practically been working my way down a checklist of experiences for the last few years: Fall in love (check). Get my first kiss (check). Go on my first official date (check). Have my first boyfriend (check). (It strikes me as kind of amusing that it’s gone in that order and each with a different man). I’ve also had different questions I’ve needed answered: Am I lovable? (yes) Am I kissable? (yes, and a good kisser) Am I date-able? (yes). Simple questions, maybe silly questions, but still questions I felt needed answered. Having crossed off all the things on my imaginary list and gotten affirmative answers to my questions (paired with some good dates and drawn out emotional affairs), I feel ready to graduate to a real romance. I’m no longer interested in continuing to choose men who I know can’t offer me more than simply an experience.

I can’t say exactly what word will define 2013 but I can sense that it will be different.

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