Four months since I took the time to see a post through to the end and hit publish here.
I sigh, embarrassed that it’s been so long. A bit ashamed that I haven’t done more.
Resigned to accepting that fact – and the possibility that I had set expectations for myself too high. Hopeful that maybe, this time, the lessons will stick.
Eight months ago, I was making plans. I had accepted a new job in a new city, taking my career off in a new direction.
Somewhere in my head, I constructed this vision of what my “new” life would be. A fantasy, really. My new job would bring two things that had been in short supply as a postdoc: time and money. It was going to be amazing!
I would analyze data from my postdoc project, work on manuscripts, write posts for my blog and a couple of pieces for other outlets. I’d pitch in on other online projects and maybe some local ones.
Hell, maybe I’d pick up another hobby (scrapbooking the photos and tickets from the Japan-Korea trip would cool, wouldn’t it?).
Oh, and I would lay waste to my debt. I would cook most of my dinners at home and pack my lunch everyday. I would run and use the tiny gym in my apartment building to stay fit.
I’d be sensible and responsible. I’d do the things right, because nothing and no one would stop me. I would give myself a month or two to settle in, but then I would turn the fantasy into reality!
Oh… will I ever learn.
Coming back down to earth
In the midst of the excitement for changes to come, I had forgotten two very important things.
First, reality doesn’t care about my fantasies. It doesn’t care about anything. It just is. Reality is a state – a collection of circumstances, events, people, mental and emotional states. It’s the system in which I exist and move and live. My choices and actions influence this state, but much remains beyond my control.
Second, change (in the “major life event” sense) is hard. Even when it’s what we need. Even “positive” changes, the ones that move me toward the life I want. Change is tough. Stressful. Disruptive.
There have been immense changes in my life in the last couple of years. I got divorced. I found a new relationship. I moved – locally, but into entirely new circumstances (no longer married, living with strangers). In my career, I decided to do something entirely different from what I’d been doing for 10 years. I converted the decision to real change, moving to a new city and taking a new job. I’m living alone – essentially for the first time in my life.
And, of course, while all of this was going on in my life, the lives of the people around me weren’t static. My friends were settling down – getting married, buying houses, having babies. My dad started dating. Then co-habitating. Then eloped. My partner bought a house, and he’s flourishing at work (a position he’d just started as we began dating). My nieces, who I get to see once or twice a year, are growing up. My grandparents are growing older.
The things in my life and in the lives of those I care about contribute to my reality. They’re the circumstances and events.
Change brings disruption, and some are tangible and predictable. Moving to a new city means packing things up, leaving the comfort of the known, finding the places and things you need. A new job means new people, new culture, new responsibilities.
But I wasn’t prepared for the emotional disruption. Some of the prior big changes in my life had come in the midst of, or created, significant turmoil. This time would be different, right? I thought, “I’m moving in a positive direction. Everything is going to be great!”
The first couple of months after the move were so disorienting that I don’t think I really noticed. And I cut myself some slack. I’d done some big things. It was understandable that I was maybe a little shaky, that I couldn’t just plunge right in to doing all the things.
And then the weeks continued to pass. Most of the things in my fantasy were not getting done. I didn’t have the mental or emotional energy to do them, it seemed. Much of my spare time in the evenings was spent just zoning out. I might mentally obsess over the things I “should” be doing or wanted to do, but I couldn’t clear the barrier to getting them done.
Abandoning the comfort and routine of life as usual disrupted my emotional equilibrium (such as it was). It intensified emotions and reactions. Things that had, for the most part, prowled quietly in my mind, now sometimes bound out from the dark.
Things are good. I’m happy with my choices. But my life has changed. So have my needs and my capacities.
I still have those aspirations from my fantasy. But I’ve had to take a step back – to assess my new reality, to reevaluate my needs and desires, to adjust priorities.
I need more structure for my fitness.
I need more human interaction, face-to-face, outside work.
I need to find ways to tame – no, to coexist more serenely with those prowling creatures in my mind.
And I need to keep finding the patience and gentleness to continue taking care of me. To be realistic. To let myself be something other than perfect. In part, because it’s better for me, and in part, because it helps me better connect with the world.