When I graduated from college in May 2010, I had wide-eyes and big dreams for two things: a job and a big city. I packed up my life in boxes and good-byes and left on an ordinary July afternoon, wondering if I was doing the right thing. I didn’t want to be suffocating in my small, college-town anymore, but I didn’t want to be so far from the people and places I held so dearly.
If you had told me then that leaving my community would actually make me closer to them, I wouldn’t have believed you.
I sat in my corner of the living room that had been claimed “my room”, although it was merely a blow-up mattress with a cardboard wall and tapestries as its borders. I had no privacy, no space. I was working 100 hours a week at a job I had wanted so badly, but loathed. Waking up every day was a struggle and if I wasn’t drinking myself into a stupor, I was desperately missing my friends and family. I tried to be excited but all I could think about was how this is what I had wanted–an escape–and I had gotten it, so I should be happy.
If you had told me then that I wasn’t stuck in that apartment, in that job, in that city, I wouldn’t have believed you.
My inebriated sobs on the streets of Dupont Circle turned into quiet tears on the last metro of the night back towards my apartment, which ended in a drunken fit by myself in my bedroom. I had never felt more alone in my entire life. I had tried my whole life to be a good person, to be a good partner, and others who had been shitty, terrible people (to me, namely) were getting new opportunities and love stories and happiness. It didn’t seem fair.
If you had told me then that in a year, I would have met the love of my life, I wouldn’t have believed you.
I was nervous when I called my mom to tell her my decision. I thought that she would be disappointed. I had made such a big deal of moving to a big city, starting a “big girl” metropolitan life, that seemed glamorous only to those who stalked my Facebook, but didn’t ever hear the sadness in my voice. I knew the phone call had to happen though–I was barely living from paycheck to paycheck. I had made few friends and had little to tie me down. I needed a change of scenery, and I wanted to be closer to my college friends and my family. “Mom, I’m moving to Asheville.”
If you had told me that would be one of the best phone calls I ever made in my life, I wouldn’t have believed you.
“I haven’t finished painting the bathroom yet,” my sister said as we lounged in our new home, windows open and a young pup scampering around the house. Our home smelled like sage and moving boxes. Our barefeet dashed from room to room, shoulders exposed to the sunlight beaming in from the large windows. The radio blared soothing alternative rock from my new local station. I was nervous. I had no job, $100 in my bank account, and was living with my sister for the first time since I was 18.
If you had told me then that living in that house, with my sister, and that crazy puppy would be just the change I needed in my life–and that she would be thousands of miles away from me in a year and a half–I wouldn’t have believed you.
I wore what I thought teachers were supposed to wear–an argyle sweater, a pencil skirt, and kitten heels. I sat nervously with my resume–no actual experience with children (except working in a toy store), an adolescent psychology background, and some very played up skills lined its pages. My interviewer–the director and owner of the school–seemed excited about me, despite my utter lack of experience in early education. “I want to give you a shot,” she said.
If you had told me that interview would lead to an exciting job in a career path I loved, I DEFINITELY wouldn’t have believed you.
God, I was nervous. I walked up Coxe Avenue and peeked around the corner. There he was. Leaned against the wall, book in hand. My jaw dropped.
If you had told me that date would have been the last first date I’d ever go on, I wouldn’t have believed you.
We sat cross-legged on a beloved–yet broken–fouton. Computer in his lap, hot chocolate in mine. “What about this one?” he asked. “I don’t know. It seems…weird,” I replied. “I think we should try it,” he insisted, and I huffed. “Fine. What harm could looking at one more house do?”
If you had told me that would be the house I bought with my partner, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Numb. Confused. I sobbed daily and prayed harder than I ever had before. “You need to go talk to someone,” my mother persisted. I did.
If you had told me that would fix everything, and I’d be happier than I was before, I wouldn’t have believed you.
When I reflect on my most recent years, there are many events in my life that I wish I could have told Past Michelle about. Warned her, comforted her, shown her that things really were going to turn out for the best. It’s something that sounds stupid that other people seem to say to us just so they can say something positive–“Keep your chin up! Things will work out for the best!”–but it is absolutely true. Things in my life that seemed so daunting and terrifying at the time, have turned out to be…okay. Maybe the path leading me to the point of saying “Hell yeah, this worked out” hasn’t been easy, but it does happen. I always try to remember that. I want you to remember that too. Even when things seem impossible, they aren’t. There are solutions, there are answers, there is RELIEF–you just need to trust that it will happen.
Because if you believe it will happen, then it can.
2013 was a monumental year for me in many ways. I traveled to 12 different states, bought a house with the love of my life, adopted a kitty, joined the advisory board for my theater, planned and had reunions with friends and family, made advancements in my early education career, opened my own small business, saw Beyonce (and other life-changing concerts), said good-bye (for now) to my sister, helped my friends, ran 4 5Ks, and, of course, made a lot of self-discoveries about what I need, and how to get it. It has been challenging, but damn, it’s rewards have been so bountiful.
Thank you to all of you who have made this year full of freckles and joy. Here’s to 2014…may it be better than 2013, if that’s even possible.