The past few years, I’ve done a mix of writing in a journal and writing posts on this site. Writing has been a way I’ve found helps me process my thoughts much more clearly. I’ve written about love and heartbreak, my dreams and aspirations, my faith, my frustrations and hurdles. One thing, through anything, I’ve always been characterized by, is a resilient positivity, which I attribute fully to a perspective focused on explaining the world and finding meaning through God. This positivity has always been laced with idealism… which I’ve grown to have a love/hate relationship with. Idealizing people has left me burned more than once in my love life. But has also sparked a fire under my already achievement oriented, ambitious personality. I get that from my dad, he’s a workaholic.
A little over a year ago, I accepted a job for a major retail corporation in America. It seemed to be everything I had been searching for – a human resources and leadership based position in the retail industry, working for an esteemed company and for a salary that would make sure I never struggled to pay my rent after going out with friends on a Friday night. I’ve written extensively about what this experience has been like for me. It’s been a mix of everything – some of the greatest achievements, learning opportunities, and most challenging days of my life, all wrapped up in one shiny, red and khaki bow.
The only other option I had truly been considering in college, was the opportunity to go abroad to teach english in Spain. After spending two summers in Spain, everyone who knew me was certain I would go back. My high school friends even used to joke back in 8th grade, that I would be the friend to move to Spain and leave everyone. I wanted that opportunity to badly. This could also partly be attributed to my older brother, having lived abroad as a professional basketball player for five years after his Division 1 college career. He’s now living in downtown Cincinnati as a first year medical student. If it’s not clear by now, I’ve always felt the need to prove myself to be just as successful as my brother. I can be as smart, as well traveled, as athletic, as “perfect” as he is. Don’t get me wrong, he is my greatest role model in life, and he never put pressure on me to have those thoughts. I think comparison is only natural between siblings, and David has been nothing but nurturing to my growth.
I received a call from Target that was a job offer while I was actually on the phone with a friend that had accepted the english teaching position in Spain, and was having a less than ideal experience with it. Talk about ironic timing. Ultimately, with my brother moving home, so many of my closest friends staying in Columbus, and a job that made all the sense in the world to my professional goals to accept, I decided I wasn’t ready to leave Columbus. I stayed. I rationalized, that if living abroad was meant for me, there would be a different way to achieve that goal, that wouldn’t require accepting a job I had no interest in and knew very little about.
Cue all the writing about the challenges this year has brought, both personally, and professionally. Even with all those close friends staying in Columbus, it turns out it’s a lot harder to spend time with people when you work 50-60 hours a week.
Just last week, I took my first real, big-girl vacation from work. Two friends from college and I went to visit my best friend Katie, who actually did accept the teaching job in Spain. And wow, what a week it was. Two days in New York, one long day of travel, two days in Lisbon, another crazy day of travel, and three days in Madrid. It was the kind of trip I will tell my kids about, inside jokes my friends and I will reference for years to come, and the first time I didn’t think or worry at all about my job for more than a 12 hour period of time.
Our last night in Madrid, an old college friend came to see us before leaving. Her name is Sam, and Sam is so brave. She told us the story of what she had done since graduating a year before we did – she accepted a job with Disney, wore fancy Banana Republic outfits into work every day, and had a 401(k). She liked her job just fine and thought Disney was a fantastic company, but ultimately knew herself and doubted that this job and lifestyle was what she really wanted. And just like that, she quit, moved to Costa Rica for a summer, and has lived in Madrid ever since.
She described her coworkers at Disney as people buying refrigerators and getting married, and how she just wasn’t in that phase of life yet. Boy, did I relate to that. Of my six coworkers in my store (of the same position/leadership level as me), two have been married in the last year, one is pregnant, and four out of six of them are over the age of 28. I’m 23, single, and lucky enough to say I am debt-free.
I don’t want to sound like I’m taking an incredible first job for granted. In so many ways, I can see how completely blessed I am to be afforded this position and the benefits it brings. I am generally happy. Especially after getting accustomed to my team and store, I feel pretty comfortable in my role, and I know there is a high possibility of upward mobility. Not to mention, my home is with three of my best friends, in the neighborhood I love most in Columbus, and is walking distance from the grocery store, my favorite coffee shop, my gym, and my guitar lessons. I belong to a church I love. Life is good. But why do I feel like I’m missing it? And what is it?
We were sitting on a hill with a beautiful view of the entire community of Madrid. We were eating empanadas, drinking wine, and watching the sunset. I was with five of my best friends. It was our last night in Spain, and I was overcome with sadness. I cried, like the crazy American blonde girl I am, in the metro, walking down Gran Via, in Katie’s apartment. Why was I so overcome with emotion?
I’ve always been bad with goodbye’s, and I knew I wouldn’t be seeing Katie for a few months. Madrid is a city I love. But when I think about it, the sadness really started as I had listened to Sam. The girl brave enough to quit her corporate job. The girl fluent in Spanish from living abroad. The girl who spoke so wisely about life and what it means to really live it, not go through your routines in comfort.
So it’s like this. I think I know the answer. I think I do. But taking the next step is so hard. I don’t want to forget how I felt and shove these emotions under my comfort here in Columbus. I want to remember. I want to be happy. I want to take action. I want to be brave. I want to be that girl.
I want to get a Master’s degree. I want to become well versed in my political beliefs and in international relations. I want to start my own business that helps people and gives work a sense of meaning. I want to live abroad. I want to be fluent in Spanish. I want to have a lifestyle where I’m not so stressed I plan out the exact thirty two minutes I need to do my laundry on a Wednesday night. I want to value my relationships above all, with God at the forefront of everything I do. I want to live with a view of the mountains. I want to be walking distance from the beach. I want to find completely uninhibited love, and start a family with that person. I want to adopt a child. I want to take care of my parents when they grow old. I want to be someone people say is selfless, joyful, and balanced.
What are my long term plans? I wish I could tell you. The good news is, there’s someone else in charge of that, anyways. But I can’t forget the reawakening this trip gave me of what I truly want.