The famous fountain in Charleston, SC. The pineapple is a symbol for hospitality, what I have been searching for on a 2.5 week trip…friendly, hospitable and warm.
I have been on the road most of June and July. After a difficult season last fall & starting over on my own in early winter, plus a layoff in spring, I just wanted to get away this summer. I have felt lost at sea for some time, I couldn’t focus. I needed to get my head in the game to keep blogging, relaunching my social media consulting & management business, CakeMix Media– but beyond putting down a whopping $1800 deposit for a designer, I felt I hadn’t been able to muster much focus.
Chicago has been feeling less and less like home. After my breakup in late summer/early fall of last year, I also lost most of my local friends from that relationship (Don’t get me wrong, I still have awesome folks in the windy city, but I will tell you with the fallout as it was, felt like a punch to the gut). Being a workaholic during the first year I had moved to Chicago, and being on a tight budget, beyond going to races every other weekend, I didn’t really get out to socialize. Many of my friends were online, or hours away. Paying off student loans, saving up for a wedding, attempting to get an emergency fund together, and pay for pug care for an ailing rescue (RIP Ralph, you were worth every penny) wasn’t cheap. I worked non-stop for my first year and a half in Chicago, but it felt good to be able to save and be able to get my finances in order.
In the first six months in Chicago, I’d commute about 2-3 hours a day roundtrip, then get home to edit photos or work on the blog, taking whatever gigs I could to make those dreams a reality. I was saving for the wedding, working non-stop (happily though), and doing lots and lots of half marathons with my then-boyfriend. When we called off the wedding, most of my friends were his, and many didn’t even know how to consolidate, so I either was written off entirely, or was someone’s “secret friend,” who was on good terms but wasn’t really invited out to group events. We’d hang out, but it was never public knowledge. It was nice to have, but it also stung.
After I started over, my workload went from overdrive to stalling rather quickly. Everything that had given me stability in Chicago- my relationships, my job, my hobbies, my schedule, all had evaporated within a matter of a few weeks. (Though admittedly, some of these aspects didn’t simply evaporate, they went out with a very loud, painful punch).
I thought that these changes would happen in a vacuum, that the feelings with them could be contained, but they never do. Things, especially emotional things, have a tendency to spill over into all areas of your life. I kept things afloat, but I wasn’t thriving. I set up a beautiful new little apartment, worked on getting Matilda, my rescue pug rehabilitated and people/dog friendly, and worked on trying to find normalcy… then I had to wonder…”now what?”
This year, Chicago was still cold in June (I was wearing a jacket during my trip to Milwaukee a few weeks ago…how?), I got 3 parking tickets in the course of a week (Chicago is out of money and they are aggressive with meters & trying to find people parked illegally as I was for a whopping 5 minutes..they were like scary little vultures when the snow thawed).
Through all of this, I started seeing someone and found a really good fit. While I wasn’t even remotely ready to discover this connection, it happened and we’ve been forging forward. My partner and I have been ready for a change. After a nuclear fallout with some of our mutual friends, we were both exhausted and emotionally done. It was time for some warm weather, explorations and a chance to start over.
So, that’s why I’ve been on the road. I just needed to get out for awhile. I needed to get my spark back. I am longing for a community. I’m longing for roots. Badly. Life, as much as it seems flipping through my instagrams, isn’t a giant vacation…though I am very, very lucky to be able to explore like this- honestly- I’m just looking for home.
While looking for home, we considered Charleston. For now, this will be a dream home…nay, mansion. Look how the plants grow along the step fronts…I was overwhelmed with southern charm here!
To add to these feelings, this spring, I also buried a long term friend and mentor who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and gone within a few short months. This was the second time I lost someone I loved, very quickly, to cancer. To say that I was painfully reminded yet again, of our frail mortality, would be an understatement.
I also got the news that 3 of my friends were going through divorces or separations. I panicked. The walls were closing in. It became abundantly clear that life doesn’t always go the way we planned, so we have to consistently reassess and forge our own happiness. Life is full of curve balls, since I got thrown a tough one, had I really looked at what would make me happy as I started over? Did I know what would really make this precious time count? I didn’t know.
The time I thought I had in my 20’s seemed to be greatly shortened when I came up on 29. Additionally, with my friends going through a tough time, I started to realize that what I had pursued before may not be what I needed now. What I need now, is to be emotionally and personally available for people I love when they are going through a rough time. I had to wonder if, in Chicago, was I really around as much as I could have been?
The Masonic Hall in Savannah..isn’t it stunning?
Life is too short to feel you live in a city that hates you, with (certain) people who hate you, without feeling you have someone to call up and grab a beer when you just need a hug and a good word in person. I was done feeling alone. I had to get out, even for a few weeks.
I admit it. I need holidays with loved ones. I need little kids birthday parties. I need book clubs and running groups. I need a little space to have a few dogs and I need to know the names of my neighbors before it’s awkward to ask. I need to start a business where I feel I can confidently network. I need to nest and I need roots. I miss my dad, and he’s jokingly said he’d come and stay in any city but Chicago (don’t ask me what his gripe is, I simply don’t get it). I have felt like I’ve been on an island, an island that was my past life. I have tried, but I think Chicago and I may be done. To me, it’s become a city of ghosts…the chalkboard can’t really be wiped clean.
So, my partner and I decided to go on a trip. (Yes, though I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m seeing someone new…I kept it very quiet, but that time has now passed.) He’d quit his job out of necessity but wasn’t sure where to look next and was doing some serious life evaluations of his own. He and I have been on the same page about our needs for community, and being sure our limited time on this planet is spent pursuing what matters. As he’s passed 30, and I’m getting closer- we realized our idea of what the “good life,” has changed. After a dizzying few weeks in our personal lives, we’re going to take a step forward, realizing whoever wants to come along for the new chapter, will, and those who don’t, won’t. Life never goes the way we planned, our relationship is a testament to that- so take the hand you’re dealt, and do your best to find your bliss.
So, what would bliss look like in the next chapter? Nobody ever gives you a roadmap to find what will fulfill you in your 30’s. There also comes that time where you realize that family, money, kids, work, passions and your health have all started to shift. Will you be able to cultivate what you need to balance it all in the next decade? We had no idea, but wanted to find out. So, we put some cities on the map- Charleston, South Carolina. Savannah, Georgia. Austin, TX. New Orleans, Louisiana…all cities that enticed us for different reasons to visit or possibly make a life. We also wanted to explore Hawaii, but alas, we have rerouted our plans for the time being. As appealing as it’d be to live on a tropical island, after the last few weeks we’ve had, if we needed family ties- going out on an island is the literally the exact opposite.
So, here we are. I have been very guarded about my new status, but it’s refreshing to be open again. One of my favorite spots in Savannah- Forsyth Park
I loved the southern charm of Savannah, but I didn’t feel totally safe with the crime rate there, as I like to walk my dog at night..and while I want to live there someday, I’m not sure if that day is now. I also admire the southern colonial charm of Charleston and the preppy style of the ladies there, but I wasn’t sure it’d be a cultural fit. We’ve spent some time in Austin, and I feel like I’m finally getting my spark back. After 3 weeks of staring at a blinking cursor, I was able to edit CakeMix to get my services updated and feel confident that I’ll land a client when the relaunch is complete and I have a new logo/website.
We’re also now off to explore New Orleans for my birthday, which I’m pretty excited about- then back to Chicago and off again to Columbus, Ohio. I’m excited and nervous for the next chapter. I’m desperate to find a new normal. I’m ready for roots and for a place to really feel like home- for a fresh start.
When I moved back to Chicago for love, I look back at that time and I felt I was renting a space in someone else’s life. As I approach the wonderful age of 29 this week, I’m being very real about what I need and what I don’t. Now, after calling an engagement off, through that pain, and the tumult of finding a new love months later, I started to very quickly realize and understand my needs. I simply cannot be anything I’m not anymore, and that’s freeing.
When I was 20, I wanted to prove how independent I was- I liked people but I didn’t want that need to be a liability. At 29, I need people. I need family. I need holidays and time spent together. Last year, I decided not to fly home for Thanksgiving. I hadn’t really “needed” it before, but I did that year but still didn’t fly home. I made it a vow, after a really depressing day spent alone, that this will be the last Thanksgiving I spend by myself. I don’t care if I have to invite a bunch of random strangers, we will break bread together. People are important. Togetherness is important. Nobody is a god damned island. I’m not anymore.
I still have a need to explore, there is so much I haven’t seen- but I need a home base that makes my heart smile. I need home to feel like home.
It’s been really scary writing this post. Really, really scary. Letting everyone know I’m in a relationship again, that I’m thinking of moving. That my life is undergoing some serious overhauls. That I’m scared but excited to launch my own business. To admit this wasn’t a vacation, but a soul-searching endeavor with many long, hard talks and deep conversations over southern style drinks on humid nights.
It was a hard post to write, but I’m done grieving. I’ve buried 8 people I was really close to in less than 8 years. My needs have changed. I am far from perfect, and I know I’ve made mistakes. I’ve been hurt and done some hurt unto others. I own all of it, but the time to grieve has run it’s course. I’m not hiding anymore, and I’m not going to quietly go about my business for the sake of appearances. I have a life to live, and in my own way, with whomever is along for this ride, I shall do exactly that.
More pictures to come from this gorgeous trip….but until then, I’ll be in New Orleans celebrating a 29th birthday if you need me. 🙂