Posted on

Identity Crisis vs. Artistic License

Right after I learn about resource guarding — watching the animal behavior specialist use a dummy hand to pull a laden food bowl out from under the snout of a rambunctious lab mix — we get into a conversation about the politics of blood sports. And then, lo!

“It’s always so difficult — to intercede, disrupt culturally-inculcated rituals — especially with many practices being so deeply socially conditioned. Everything is culturally relative.”

Silence. Cocked heads. My not-so-inner anthropologist reemerges.

***

Driving back, the social worker turned graphic designer chuckles from the passenger seat.

“I was totally thinking the same thing. You know, about cultural relativity.”

We stare ahead at stopping traffic, our banter lost to deafening fire engine sirens.

Two fish out of water and into the fray. But still laughing.

***

Describing life in Los Angeles is like creating a palimpsest — by the time I visually digest some entrancing detail, the whole scene before me gets scrubbed and repainted with new characters, new life. Every single day is a photographic cornucopia. Everywhere you turn, something catches the eye; it’s sensory overload at its finest and most vulnerable. And I’m right there, taking it all in — as creator, voyeur, element — wondering how I’m adding to the portrait of humanity stretched out before me. Feeling like one of Bob Ross’ happy trees — plunked down in some vast vista just for the hell of it.

Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” bleeds out of my cracked windows. The city is grumbling awake around me: the humming cars, echoing honks, socially acceptable running of red lights — all becoming more familiar than alien.

Sunlight diffuses through the early morning, smoggy haze, curling around a Korean church cross; it glances along the church-sponsored billboard that faces a Starbucks and reads “What path is right for you?” I consider the message, sip my coffee, then smile at the line wrapping around the tiny building like a fat man’s belt around a twiggy teenager. It seems more people are considering caffeine than the messiah. At least this Friday.

The retiree I pass every morning is just leaving with his towering venti something or other; I’m earlier than usual. Soon enough, the car crawls to a stop again; a man uses an old shirt to wash himself on the sidewalk; before the light changes, he tosses it into his cart, then stoops back inside a bamboo lean-to. A street later, I turn at the 76 gas station where the attendant is buffing the pumps, then pass the crumbling Art Deco radiator repair shop. The strikingly turquoise facade of Mel’s Fish Shack assaults my eyes, and teenagers with bright shoes and leggings lean against the building, rousing slightly at the approaching school bus. Blocks past Jan Ette’s Liquor Store — the broken, disjointed line made up of figures with hardened faces — I turned down an alley, and up to the back of the office.

Where I jot these observations down in my journal, turn a page, and laugh out loud.

Journeys.

Journeys do have a way of morphing you into someone else; not necessarily someone better or worse than who you were. Just another iteration of sorts; someone with a bit more mileage, courtesy of some life lessons.

***

At a manager meeting, the President is detailing the process they had to go through years ago before one of the shelters could be built.

“Well, they had a whole team of, uh, history people who made sure we weren’t building on a burial ground and whatnot.”

I smile slightly — mentally recalling all of ghosts of archaeology projects past and thinking how odd it is that, now, I’m completely on the opposite side of the fence. And how liberating that feels.

That night, I break a juice glass, then mend it — proclaiming, “We have a new bud vase.” As the glue dries, I think about how we’re always changing; figuring out how best to function. One minute we’re someone, somewhere; the next, we’re becoming something else entirely.

Becoming whole, becoming new.

***

I’ve written repeatedly about how fun, strange, and bizarre moving across the country has been, and my fears, anxieties, and dreams of what will come on this coast. But it’s really just now starting to sink in that this place is our new home.

That we’re not on some extended vacation.

That my fieldwork days of wielding a trowel and shovel are over.

That this new chapter is as painfully hard to write as it is amazingly easy.

That life is as crazy as it is beautiful.

Even if it sometimes feels like everything around me is new and scary and transfixing and disturbing, it’s all part of the same world. Part of a place that I’m creating — like ripping apart Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, and pasting it over part of some untitled Keith Haring drawing.

It’s all a mosaic. And it works — the subtle control and levity, melding together.

The artist in a studio somewhere, contemplating.

Posted on

By the Book

It started in seventh grade, right after I read The Giver.

A literary retrospective. Ah, the early years.

Like spirit energy driving a planchette, my love of history guided my hands over the names inside my textbook covers. Not the carefully printed, typed names of politicos and social figureheads: the clumsily curious scrawling of past students.

I’d wonder how they’d made it through lunch every single day. What locker they’d had. Who they’d called friends.

While I languished somewhere between 2x + y — they had the real answers; they knew what was past the “=” sign. After all, some of them were already in high school. And more were in that nebulous ether of “after high school.”

I’d ponder if they were big timers — the types of people I knew I’d never be, but had long equated with my narrow definition of success.

I’d wonder if they were ever like me.

***

It’s bizarre how we seem to hang our personal histories on some of the most unstable years of our lives — like soaked trench coats on a rotted hall tree. The days and weeks and years locked away in the towns and cities where we were born.

Where some settle. Where others vow never to return.

The night of high school graduation, a friend of mine said one of the most depressing things I’d ever heard.

“These are the best years of our lives. And now, they’re over.”

Behind me in the school’s football stadium, the din of recent graduates rose and fell, like a breathing wild thing.

And I thought, is this it?

***

Andy and I sit rapt in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, nursing our sweating vodka tonics — and rolling our eyes at the absurdly large Venice Beach apartment they’re able to afford on one hourly paycheck. But what’s even more annoying is how far Romy and Michele go to shoehorn themselves into some personification of success.

It’s shudder worthy. Mostly because it reminds me of high school. And all the characters wrapped up in that angsty narrative — preps, jocks, band geeks, artists, nerds, holy-rollers, and grungy goths. And somewhere in that welter of teen angst was me — an offbeat with little sense of self, trying to please everyone.

So why is it that we focus our collective lens on that part of our past — on some of the most inconsequential people in our lives? I mean, sure. Plenty of people remain friends with high school pals. But more often than not, most of us sever ties the minute we toss our caps into the air.

Still, like Romy and Michele, so many of us fantasize about waltzing into a high school reunion. Just to show’em.

Who? The people you haven’t spoken to in over a decade. The people who knew you as a prepubescent blob with little to no self-esteem.

Does it matter who they’ve become? Who you’ve become?

Do you really think that, should you return, anything — much less in such a charged context — will be different? That everyone will be the people they’ve really become rather than their high school persona?

I think the only reason I’d ever go to a reunion is to see who’s still around. Because the fact that you’re here — on this side of the grass, as a friend once said — means that you have a story. That, somehow, you’ve made life work.

And I love hearing stories. Especially from people who’ve made complete 180’s — who, like baby sea turtles, hatched, took a chance, and skittered through the relentless gulls to discover new currents.

Because it makes you think about your own journey.

***

The movie ends, and I go to take a shower. Steam starts fogging up the mirror, but I have enough time to assess the stubble, weigh the pros and cons of shaving. But then I step back and just look, thinking about the me of today, and the me-as-Romy or Michele — noticing how different I am.

How I’ve made the years work together to form this reflection — a man who’s grown into his nose; embraces his facial scar; smiles crookedly with straight teeth; constantly battles his curly hair; and always remembers the meanings of his tattoos. Whose journey has taken him through two states, five cities, and a shotgun spray of jobs — through an intervention and reincarnation. Through thick and thin; oil and water.

Toweling off, I hear Andy call from the next room.

“Do you think we’d have ever been friends in high school?”

“Probably not.”

“Why?”

“I dunno. I mean, who really knows who they are in high school? We were all just trying to survive.”

My mind drifts back to a view of the ocean, from the vantage point of fragmented turtle shells — bits and pieces of which are lodged in tiny paddle prints leading to the open water. I think about how grand it’s been to be tossed and turned by the seas, pulled out far and away from where I hatched.

Out of the surf.

Riding the waves of success and failure. Emerging from the surf refreshed and renewed. And beaching myself on a new shore. Where I can make a new, lasting home. And acknowledge that I’ve made it all happen.

And then another image comes to mind — a current student in the same English class, maybe with the same teacher, running their hands over my name and wondering who I am, where I’ve been. And if I’ve succeeded.

And what exactly that may mean.

Posted on

Managing [the] Change

I stare straight ahead, settling my hardened gaze on the stenciled “7.” Then reach for my coffee mug. The mug I just remembered I left on the side table by the door.

“Dammit.”

The low din of welding equipment from the open-air, fenced auto shops begins to rise through the alley corridor, and I watch a shop mechanic push a battered, paint-splattered cart back and forth between piles of rusted metal.

No need to reverse.

As if sensing the morning melancholy creeping over me, Linkin Park’s “The Messenger” fills the quiet car with its haunting lyrics.

When you feel you’re alone
Cut off from this cruel world…

My breathing increases, then slows. And I start feeling overwhelmed, over my head — completely ill-equipped to figure out how to transition from a life doing something I never really loved to something I enjoy — maybe even love — but don’t know how to do yet.

Your instinct’s telling you to run…

But while my fingers dance atop the gearshift, I know that reverse is not an escape. It’s a convenient, comfortable trap.

Listen to your heart
Those angel voices
They’ll sing to you
They’ll be your guide…

Settling is something I grew accustomed to doing, and for all the wrong reasons. I was happy enough — on the weekends. I was fulfilled at work — when I spent the whole day on Apartment Therapy and in Starbucks. I felt like I was making a difference — away from work, when I volunteered at the LGBT Center of Raleigh.

And, thinking back, I realize that what I’m feeling isn’t just newbie pre-workday jitters — it’s homesickness. Neither for the political climate, nor the Bubbas. Just little reminders of what made us both feel at home in North Carolina.

***

Starting over is so absurdly romanticized — so much so people think any stride toward the future will involve some serendipitous meeting with a stranger, and a life transformed. What they don’t always think of is the exhaustion, heartache, and weariness that comes with really, truly starting over.

But with substantial effort comes substantial gain. And as I work to recreate myself as a coworker, manager, and animal advocate, I have to remind myself that all of those queasy, uneasy feelings are part of the ride — part of the transformation.

And soon enough, I’ll look back on this and smile. Because I know that we’ll have made ourselves happy.

Back home.

***

Andy calls while I’m sitting outside eating lunch.

We talk. Fret. Worry about things we have to get done.

But then the wind blows a bit and rustles the three palms towering overhead. I look up, feel the warmth of the sun, look around the courtyard, and think. Just think.

Then realize how foolish and selfish it is of me to obsess about such things — as I sit in a courtyard I never would have envisioned. As someone I never would have known walks out of a building I never knew existed, eating a cookie I made. And smiling at me.

I think how bizarrely interconnected we become, and how — through jokes and laughs and small gains — our ties become stronger, united.

Bound together in a very familiar, yet very alien way.

That is very much welcomed.

Posted on

A Chance Metamorphosis

The minute I walk through the door, I know this isn’t our future home. And so does the aged landlord’s grandson who — resigned to his teenage fate of shuttling Gramps around — sits on the stairway, just beyond the front door.

Meh.

“So, you got other places you’re lookin’?”

His eyes belie a subversive hopefulness.

“Yep. A slew. But this is really nice.”

A knowing, wry smile cracks along his jawline as he scratches the back of his neck. But his grandfather doesn’t want compliments. Just absolutes.

“You both — you and your friend — have job, yes?”

“Yes, we both have jobs.”

He stares hard, as if trying to elicit a confession. But I stare back, unblinking.

By now, we’ve recited our lie so often it’s become irrefutable truth.

Through machinations and occasional subterfuge, we’ve wrapped our larval plan in a cocoon — spun by equal parts frustration and desperation — and transformed it into a winged bastard. And we fly on its tattered wings — right into the gaping, beastly maw of the unknown.

“I see there’s no electrical outlet plate around that plug.”

I point toward the kitchen counter. His concentration breaks, and five excuses tumble out of his mouth. I don’t really care. I just want to leave, and need something to occupy his attention.

***

“But you’ve seen this place, right?”

Friends — a pack concerned and intrigued — ask repeatedly.

“Well, of course.”

It’s not exactly a lie. I mean, we’ve seen the place online. And plenty of beautiful places in person. But most of the beautiful, spacious places will suck our savings dry in months.

I wouldn't even put up a shower curtain.

Still, we solider on.

Eventually, we’re able to twist our lie enough to convince a property management company to lease us a studio. With an LA address in hand, we prep for the next step: the cross-country move.

But then, less than 24 hours later, we get the good news. The bright light at the end of the increasingly long tunnel is suddenly blinding us rather than teasing us from afar.

***

Now, with our six month lease nearing its end, we’re channeling optimism while scoping out new digs — with a new budget, and a new outlook. Because this new place will be much more than a landing spot: it’ll be a launching pad.

So we want it to be right — to have the things that will make us want to call it home, the bones to massage and mold into aesthetic, functional bliss.

That’s where a list comes in handy. A list of things that each of us has compromised on in the past, and later kicked ourselves for.

Everyone has their own wants and needs, but here’re a few that we’re longing for — hoping to find on the other side of the soon-to-be-opening doors of our future.

(1) Pet friendly. As if we weren’t going to adopt a pet soon enough, I had to go and get a job at an animal welfare non-profit. (Shucks. Hello, three-legged corgi-pug cuteness.)

(2) Light. Six months is a long time to come back to an apartment facing a plain concrete building. *Sad trombone.*

(3) Parking. It’s LA. And we’ve been having to park in the same parking deck with vehicular fossils from the LA riots. And deal with opportunistic, asshat restaurant valets parking us in. Enough said.

LA riot fossil, and parked in cars. Thanks, opportunistic asshat valets from across the street!

(4) Charm. Living in an apartment that’s basically a square, white, sterile box is what I imagine hell to be like. If I believed in hell. And while our little studio is cute and funky, it’s the little part that gets us.

(5) Space. Sure, we culled a lot. But we still have pretty things. Many, many pretty things.

(6) Location. While West Hollywood wasn’t at the top of our list initially, hearing about its enforced rent control moved it from bottom to top. Talk about a versatile list.

(7) Green space. This one will probably be relegated to the “sacrifice” list. But the inner gardener in me can hope.

(8) Kitchen. I’d really like to avoid having to perform Matrix-esque moves to get the Brita out of the refrigerator.

I have to inhale to get to the fridge and back.

***

From previous hits and misses, we know all too well the importance of holding out for what feels right. But we’re also well aware of the fact that our wants will have to acquiesce to needs, and those to reality.

Still, two gays can hope.

Regardless, the most important thing for us to remember is that, whatever mix of wants/needs we get, we’ll make them work — transforming them into something fun and useful.

Something to build upon.

Posted on

Dining on Life and Leaving Myself a Tip

Andy and I are easing into our first attempt at establishing a new Sunday tradition: Cafe Writing Time (CWT). Not to be confused with its more annoying relative, CMT.

A chocolate croissant the size of a Yorkshire Terrier is plated in front of me, and the ice is still swirling in the fresh mocha sweating near my hand. And then, amid the writing and remembering, I venture into that annoying time suck: Facebook.

Chocolate + bread + massiveness = amazing.

And there, I read an article that makes me laugh and nod. But then I keep reading, and the grasp on my mocha tightens, and I want to throw it out the window, past the man on the sidewalk wearing massive headphones and using a broken balustrade as an ad hoc microphone while he waits for the bus.

***

Good writing elicits emotions — good, bad, or ugly cry worthy. It works you up and makes you ask questions: Why in the hell am I reading this? Who the fuck cares? Who made this person an authority? Why can’t I ever get anyone to publish something of mine?

You know, the essentials.

So I give the author props for doing just that. And I don’t disagree with a lot of the things she wishes someone would’ve told her. But there’re a few that just get my blood boiling. Partly because I’m emotionally reactive and tend to shoot off at the mouth. But mostly because I’m tired of reading the same things — the whole “giving up control to a greater power” line or “argument” people use to rationalize life (which is the most contradictory enterprise ever).

Of not getting the other — less rosy — take on things.

Now, some folks may just mark me as a crazed atheist or godless heathen or insane gay or all three, and they’d be dead on, regardless of their choice. But I think the author sells twenty-somethings a bit short with haphazard advice. But then again, according to her, twenty-somethings’ minds are jelly and fairly incapable of rational thought. (Alright, I’m paraphrasing.)

So, instead of blathering on and advising people I don’t even know about how they should act — or with whom they should have a relationship, or to whom they should listen — I’d like to tell my early twenty-something self a few things.

Dear 21-year-old Matt,

Stop plucking your eyebrows with such conviction. You always look startled. Now, listen up.

(1) More often than not, patronizing people will try to shove off their life lessons and sell them as fact, faith, or inspired wisdom. You’ll come to find that they lead really dull, empty lives filled with missed opportunities that they’re trying to reclaim by hogging your valuable time at the party’s punch bowl. (Or they’re just trying to get in your pants.) Most of their sad soliloquy is drivel, and the rest will fade into the background as it should. Because, really, you’re at this party to have promiscuous sex with someone else, so leave the pontifying to the evangelicals on television wrenching money away from hollow shells of human beings, cross that living room floor — channeling the confidence you lacked at middle school dances — and introduce yourself to the hot guy on the other side of the room. No, not the one drinking Pabst. The other one.

(2) Learn everything you can, whether through failure or victory. There’re lessons to learn with every missed opportunity and sealed deal. The real crime is not being open to experience both in equal measure.

(3) Sometimes, life is like an imbalanced dryer: You’ll think you have the right measure of friendship, family, and happiness until you throw everything together and set it to “spin.” It takes a lot of trial and error to get through an entire cycle without your life shutting down. You’ll get it eventually. You just have to keep at it, and take some of those tattered sweaters out along the way. (Plus, they shouldn’t have been in there in the first place!)

(4) Don’t listen to people who claim they have it “all figured out.” They’re the biggest bullshitters of all. In case you missed it, revisit (1). No one has it figured out. Mostly because everyone has a different “it” to figure out. That includes your parents and grandparents and educators. (After all, they’re people, just like you. You’ll realize this when you get shit on during graduate school.)

(5) Friendship is like the ocean. (I know, what a painful analogy! [I sort of hate myself for it.]) There’re high tides and low tides. But keep yourself anchored. Chances are, you’ll figure out how to keep your head above water or, at the very least, your feet ankle-deep. Acknowledging that friends will have kids and drift; move and drift; seem completely absorbed by their new life and drift; or be happy in a far away place and drift doesn’t mean that they don’t think of you, or value the time y’all spent together forming the friendships that y’all did. Life speeds up, and it’ll be hard to keep in touch as much as you’d like.

(6) There’s a reason that, throughout the course of human evolution, basic instincts kept some of our ancestors from becoming dinner. So, listen to your gut. Not some voice from the clouds. Because that most likely means someone spiked your drink.

(7) Experiment responsibly, but only if you want to. Peer pressure is part of life. Good friends will try to get you laid. And better friends will know when you just need a good, stiff drink and carbs. And amazing friends won’t dub you a social pariah for wanting to do nothing more on a Friday night than order in, watch Death Becomes Her, and fall asleep whilst swaddled in a Snuggie. (Actually, scratch the Snuggie. It’s just creepy.)

(8) Faith and prayer won’t save you from anything — they’ll just make you feel as though you have reliable outlets to channel all of the guilt you feel when you see photos from Third World countries, or help you rationalize buying a shirt that probably cost a Bangladeshi garment worker their life. The world can be cold and calculating. Once you realize this — and that good things won’t always happen to good people — the faster you’ll realize how you can do as much as you can for as many as you can.

(9) If you feel as though the path you’ve started paving for yourself isn’t the right one, don’t beat yourself up for leaving it. (Because you’ll do both.) You’ll meet so many more people who hate what they do for a living than those who do. And while you’ll initially think it’s a personal failure to acknowledge that you’re unhappy, you’ll come to realize it’s one of the most liberating experiences you’ll ever feel. Especially when you do something proactive about it.

(10) Being an asshole doesn’t help anyone. Especially not you. So don’t be an asshole.

***

Sure, this isn’t anything ground-breaking. Especially since I’m ridiculously sarcastic. And I sure as hell haven’t had the Huffington Post beating on my door to write an advice column.

But you don’t have to be an authority to know what works and what doesn’t.

You just have to be honest with yourself and anyone who asks. Even if it hurts. Because all things super saccharine belong in cake recipes, not life.

Because life is a whole bunch of recipes — and it’s up to you to make up your own damn version. After all, you’re the chef.

So, whip it up.

Sample it.

Spit out the sour.

Revel in the sweet.

And move on to the next course.

Posted on

If the Shoe Fits

Do you ever find yourself replaying The Devil Wears Prada intro scene in your head, thinking about how much it mirrors your own life–you know, the crazy-beautiful one made all the more fabulous by wearing uber glamorous clothes and buying ridiculously expensive jewelry and waking up next to insanely beautiful models?

Me too! We’re so wonderful. And rich.

Alright.

Maybe I’m not glamorous or super rich, but I do have an extremely handsome guy whose tolerance of my annoyingly incessant Instagramming borders on award-worthy. But I’ll gladly take him over a stocked wardrobe any day. Because even a little glamour can be stretched a long, long way–preferably over the flocks of crow’s feet hovering around my eyes.

***

Clothing is armor. It, quite literally, keeps you contained. And not just in the preventing-wardrobe-malfunction sense.

Having spent years working outside–digging and sifting soil, traipsing through the wilderness, getting electrocuted by cattle fences–I was unaware of what staple pieces every person should have in their professional wardrobe. Especially since most of my clothes were ripped, stained, or otherwise destroyed.

Shovel bumming it.

But on the weekends, I was able to wear what I wanted. And I’d stupidly assumed that being an “individual” meant eschewing those “mainstream” ideas of “fashion assimilation.” (And I’m pretty sure I put everything in quotation marks, too.) After all, I felt on-level fashion-wise with everyone around me.

But then I took a look around, and realized I was basing my fashion off of Disinterested Old Academics (DOA’s). And then I got an office job. Which meant more public face time.

So I upgraded my boots and jeans, threw in a little questionable taste, and went on my merry way to work at an Army installation. And while I was mostly surrounded by a cornucopia of fashion faux pas, I also had the distinct pleasure of working with young professionals who dressed, well, professionally–appropriately for their age, body type, and job level.

Still, good taste often attracts naysayers–sideways glances, rolling eyes–from the “lifer” side of the office; you know, the folks who’ve given up and drilled a permanent outhouse for their pop-up camper life. (I don’t know what that means either, but the image in my head fits.) But who cares?

Despite one old fart’s persistent compilation of nylon pants–fully equipped with in-built camel toe–baseball cap, turtleneck, and paisley leggings, the well-dressed among us got repeated compliments, and unintentionally recreated a few Sex and the City sidewalk scenes on our way out through the barbed wire fences to Starbucks.

But that didn’t stop me from paying homage to all of the bad taste I’d experienced on the eve of my glittery exit.

Fairy princess style, y'all.

 ***

Andy’s influence on my wardrobe has been pretty stellar. And plenty of people realize it. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about that, but if it feels as good as the cashmere sweaters I’ve inherited from him, then that’s fine by me. (Oh, so soft.)

A purge of residual nods to my darker, misunderstood, failed goth years coincided with an influx of tailored pants, high-quality button downs, and a few blazers. And belts. And cedar shoetrees–the point of which I never understood, until I purchased some big boy shoes that I never want to see harmed or deflated or destroyed or dampened.

Oh, the places these feet have gone.

Basically, I want them draped in plastic. Or at least have plastic draped over all puddles, oil slicks, and dog poop they may splatter. Because they represent my new beginning–at an office where people dress to impress, where their clothes accentuate their character and empower them.

Hello, new shoes/beginnings/gorgeousness!

So as I caressed my new shoes, I realized how gutting and reinventing a wardrobe can be even more cathartic than culling stuff. Because while that chair may be nice, you’re not wearing it–it doesn’t perfectly frame your shoulders, or add that bit of pizzazz that you might need in the morning after a horrendous meeting.

And maybe, just maybe, it’ll remind you that your spark hasn’t been snuffed out.

Just reinvented, given a new life–a new sole.

Posted on

Back to the Grind, But Not Ground to A Pulp

“Every household should be able to support a gentleman.”

Norman laughs over the phone, letting his eggs cool on the stove.

“I never knew what my friend meant by that until I retired. You know, when you have time to stare at your wiggling toes and think, ‘What do I want to do today?’ So now, what do you think you’ll do when you have idle time again?”

I retrace my week, mulling over my attempts to balance a new job and a sustainable, feasible post-workday routine. Then furrow my brow.

“Well, when that time comes around again, I’m sure I’ll find something to do.”

Time–that once idling beast–has become ever so elusive. But hey, I’ve expected nothing less, especially now that I’ve transitioned from homomaker to working gay.

***

It’s never easy to get back to the grind.

And moving across the country, stuffing one quarter of our belongings into 450 square feet, and navigating a metropolis makes it that much harder to make the transition gracefully.

The other 3/4.

Especially after I spent five months wondering how I’d escape the shades of degrees past and score a job I’d find intellectually stimulating and personally gratifying while Andy started his new job.

But I did.

Still, I’ve been guarded throughout this entire first week. Like I’m steeling myself for some insidious harbinger–or Ron Pearlman–to reveal how this job will be another nefarious succubus. A boil on my face. A pox upon my house.

You get it: past experiences have gifted me with a healthy helping of job-related paranoia, which has complicated my ability to ease into this new position.

But after the first week, I’ve realized that it’s less likely that I’ll experience those same problems within a nonprofit context. Because the majority of staffers are personally invested in the mission. Sure, there’re always going to be scenarios with every job that’re less than ideal. But being surrounded by excited, dedicated people is making me acknowledge that I can be happy and content in my professional life.

Especially now that I’m free of my annoying internal dialogue–a recitation of rhetorical questions: Is this really what you want to do? Do you even want to be here? Again, why did you get an advanced degree in something you’re no longer passionate about?

I have a new, clean slate.

And it’s scary. But nested within the anxiety associated with venturing into unknown professional waters is a sense of excitement–of realizing the possibilities of building a new professional life from the ground up.

Knowing that this job can actually compliment my personal life–not hinder it.

A happy, exhausting, empowering first day!

That the wall I’ve constructed between two parts of my life can be pulled down. And I can be happier.

***

And while I know not everything about my new job will translate into some life-affirming revelation, it’s been sort of nice to whir like a crazed blender–experience the emotional highs and reality checks packed into the first week.

Day 1: Exclaim unto ye!

Wee, I have a job again! I’m meeting people! I barely have an email account, so I can’t do much of anything except ride the high of being employed without any responsibilities! I can watch videos of successful pet adoptions! I get a free shirt!

Day 2: Check, check. Reality, check.

Wow, I’m really employed! Everyone seems so nice! There’s a manual I need to read through. And training sessions I need to enroll in. Field trips! More introductions, more people. I’m forgetting names. But am remembering that I manage…people. Uh, right, I knew that. So, how do I submit their time sheets again?

Day 3: *Ding, ding, ding*

And here I thought Raiser’s Edge was a band.

*Ding* (10:42 AM): New message in Outlook. *Ding* (10:44 AM): New message. *Ding* (10:46 AM): New message. *Ding* (10:47 AM): New message.

*DingDingDingDingDingDingDing* (10:48 AM)

Phew.

*DING* (10:49 AM)

Day 4: Broadcasting live!

I’m helping pick up the Pet of the Week. My hands smell like hot dogs and cheese. Wow, this is a newsroom. Where broadcasters melt down. And the Pet of the Week rocks it. And we get lost. And I try to talk like a supervisor and a human. I can remember the building code.

Day 5: Making it work.

Things are coming together. I know where things are. Now I know more about the organization, and can actually speak to specific programs. 

“Can you do this really fast, so that I can get it to the President?”

“Sure thing!”

Sure. Thing. And I can. 

And then an unexpected thought.

Maybe I can do this.

Followed by a slightly terrifying one.

Because I want to.

***

Little by little, it’ll happen. Because baby steps turn into toddling, turn into walking, turn into running. And the hardest part–taking the initiative–is over.

Now, I’m realizing how far I can go.

How easily I can back myself out of a corner.