If, If, If

I wonder how many times I’ve taken myself out to coffee in the last four years. How many times I’ve sat perched on a questionably comfortable stool, licked the foam from the inside of a white ceramic cup, stared out a stenciled storefront window, and wondered — with varying degrees of unease — what I should do next.

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In a few weeks I will be 25. It surprises me to realize I actually did get a lot of what I’d set out to do done at 24. I moved to the west coast. I got a full-time, very steady, very safe job with benefits. I built up my savings. I transitioned to my own apartment. I went to West Elm and *invested* in Real Adult Furniture I hopefully won’t hate in five years. I didn’t Instagram everything. I left Facebook. I took really, really gentle care of myself.

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I didn’t work a single evening or weekend day. I asked for a raise. I spent more time outside than inside. I wrote for myself. Some stuff I shared; some stuff I didn’t. I became a good pen pal, a better friend. I kept four plants alive and kicking. I let go of what might have been, half of a world away.

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I worked on my relationship with my dad. I got over the capital-M misery that is being anorexic/having anorexia. (Or over-ish; I think it’d be okay and honest to tack on an “ish.” Gimme the first little bit of 25 too.)

I learned about the basic things, like hunger cues and rest days. And compassion and balance and spontaneity and, wait for it, f-u-n. I quit worrying quite so horribly much. I asked someone out for the first time. (Ever! As in ever-ever.) I explored my new city and agreed to all sorts of things: happy hours, coffee dates, walks in and around the neighborhood.

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I just…don’t know where to go from here. In retrospect, it’s clear that I set up my life in Oregon to be the polar opposite of my life in New York. I wanted everything to be as low-risk and low-stress as possible, while I focused on getting better. I had all I could handle going on in my personal life; I needed a break from feeling in over my head in my professional life too.

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But now — and I think this is what’s going on — I’m bored. A little too comfortable, maybe. The sense of security and stability I’d wrapped so carefully around myself six months ago suddenly feels stifling.

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I miss being surrounded by people so whip-smart, so incredibly driven, so infinitely capable. Despite the fact that I remember feeling like a total fraud/imminent failure when I was seated beside them.

Phrases like “go-getter” and “works well under pressure” used to make me feel sick to my stomach. “Hard” jobs seemed only to exacerbate my type-A tendencies and intensify my already out of control anxiety. But now that I’m not half as on-edge as I used to be (not starving helps!), I wonder if I’d be better able to handle a more demanding job and boss again.

There must be a middle ground. Where you don’t work on autopilot too much of the time, but you aren’t fighting the urge to hyperventilate/break down in the bathroom, either.

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A lot of the time I think my current situation is great. I know it’s good for me to work for a company that encourages a mid-morning and mid-afternoon walk around the block. Just as it’s smart for me to be around people that are pretty laid-back and don’t define themselves primarily by what they do. I’m lucky to be able to take a real lunch — not only away from my desk, but at home at my kitchen table — and I’m immensely grateful to be part of a place that empties out at 4:30pm, without a modicum of guilt.

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But. But, but, but. Don’t I want a job that has more opportunity for growth? Don’t I want a job that will be more lucrative? (Don’t I want to be A HIGH-ACHIEVER??) Don’t I want a job that I love — feel so super passionate about?

I don’t know. If the rest of my life were more full, I think it’d be okay if my job were just a job. If I had more friends (here, in Portland), if I were in a relationship, if I felt like I did more with my free time than read, write, go to the gym, hike, cook, run errands, take pictures, call home — I think it’d be okay.

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But that’s the thing, isn’t it? If, if, if.

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“No one could tell you: you just had to go through it on your own. If you were lucky, you came out on the other side and understood. If you didn’t, you kept getting thrust back, retracing those steps, until you finally got it right.” -Sarah Dessen

“You dangle on the leash of your own longing; your need grows teeth.” -Margaret Atwood

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“I’ve found that there is always some beauty left — in nature, sunshine, freedom, in yourself; these can all help you.” -Anne Frank

“Things don’t go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.” -Charles Jones

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“So it’s not about what you do. It can’t be, can it? It has to be about how you are, how you love, how you treat yourself and those around you, and that’s where I get eaten up.” -Nick Hornby

“Break often — not like porcelain, but like waves.” -Scherezade Siobhan

“It would be a terrible mistake to go through life thinking that people are the sum total of what you see.” -Jonathan Tropper

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“How fragile we are, between the good moments.” -Jane Hirshfield

“Okay is just a word I use so I won’t have to talk about what’s inside. Okay is a word that means I am going to keep my secrets.” -Benjamin Alire Sáenz

“What could be lonelier than trying to communicate?” -Denis Johnson

“You know, you spend your whole life feeling like you don’t quite fit in anywhere. And then you walk into a room one day, whether it’s at a university or an office or some kind of club, and you just go, ‘Ah. There they are.’ And suddenly you feel at home.” -Jojo Moyes

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“Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger. The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” -Pico Iyer

“Books have a unique way of stopping time in a particular moment and saying: Let’s not forget this.” -Dave Eggers

{Latte via @hungryghost, Take a Wrong Turn sign via @shutterbean, Portland fence via @idkpdx, snowy pines via @itsme.charlotte, road to Mt. St. Helens via @stephenskis, sunlit road via @jaredmats, Montana house portrait via @andreadabene, boulder in Neskowin, Oregon via @nickremmell, A-frame via @andrewtkearns — all on Instagram.}

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5 thoughts on “If, If, If

  1. I moved from NYC to Seattle in August and I’ve also taken things completely differently than I used to back in NY. Instead of going out every weekend and making it to every happy hour, I spend time with my man at home. Instead of making my weekends my time to shop around all the neighborhoods, I instead learn new recipes to cook. Instead of working out in a climate-controlled gym, I run outdoors even in the morning drizzle. I think time will tell as to whether or not the calm Pacific NW is best for people like us or if we belong in a place more like NY, surrounded by ferociously ambitious people in a city that strives to be the best every step of the way.

    • “Time will tell” is very comforting. Best of luck in Seattle! If you’re ever in the Portland area, you’ll have to let me know. You sound like someone I’d love to grab coffee with!

      • There’s definitely a unique sense of comfort that stems from the wisdom we acquire with time & experience. Sometimes there’s nothing more exhilarating than letting things go, living moment to moment and leaving the evaluation until a later date. Also, I hope to make it to Portland sometime in the next couple months! Luckily my man does business there every so often so I have an excuse to tag along 🙂

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