During the past several summers, most every weekend was spent going to camp and I would typically stay there for four days at a time and loved it. I looked forward to it every week even though some weeks it wore me out. There was always some sort of party to attend with a theme that involved planning out some crazy outfit, or cooking food. This year, I have been going down since April but it has only been for Sat/Sun. and then back home. Dan has been busy with school so it I haven't been going down for as long at a time. Camp has been having less events this year so most weekends have been spent at the pool, which I do enjoy, and then at the camper watching movies. My friend Carl, who used to be the life of camp, was diagnosed with stage four cancer and has been battling it for almost a year so his lack of presence has left a huge void there as well. Dan, most days, can be found with his head buried deeply in a Turkish language course book and he rarely goes to the pool anymore. Its just been me and only me to entertain myself. I think its different too because I need to balance my time with David and I miss him a lot when I am down there so my mind is less on partying and more on things at home which is not a bad thing. It just means that I care. Funny how your priorities change.
I changed jobs, which has lowered my stress level by about a thousand percent but it also lowered my income proportionately. I have had a lot less expendable money to do things with. I enjoy the fact that my life is much calmer now but sometimes sitting at home on extra days off gets old when you have no one to hang out with. You can only do laundry and clean so much before you get bored of it. My house has never been so clean! On one hand, its great to be able to feel like things are getting done. For the last ten years, I have had to deal with going to work at 7am and not coming home sometimes until 8 or 9 at night and then getting called back into work. My life consisted of a pager and never knowing if and when I would come home, or when or if I would have a day off. I was lucky if I had time to sleep much less do laundry, hang out with friends, or clean.
I miss traveling a lot. In the past, before Roseland, Dan and I would travel three out of four weekends. Monthly trips to Toronto, visiting Baltimore and my friend Helen three or four times a year, going to Miami in the winter for a week, summer trips to the beach, and travel to Europe once or twice a year for ten day stretches to fun exotic places like Russia, Romania, Turkey, and Greece were the norm in my past. Thinking back, I was quite spoiled. I can honestly say that I did not take it for granted because I always said to Dan, "do you know how lucky we are to be able to do this, because most people are lucky to get one family vacation a year, and 90 percent of people never even get to see Europe." I knew then that I should enjoy it and every time I went to Europe I would think, "I wonder if I will ever make it back here again." Life changes and I knew that some day it would all come to an end.
While I knew that this job change would involve giving up a lot of things, I guess I wasn't fully prepared for the slight sadness and feeling of loss that it caused. There are a lot of pluses to this change, don't get me wrong. I feel better health-wise. My x boss keeps pointing out how much happier I seem as well as several of my friends. Matthew, tonight on the phone, expressed that he has noticed a huge change in me and that I seem to be way more relaxed and focused about stuff. I feel better but I also feel a bit uneasy with myself. I think its a matter of pride. I have always worked a full time job and busted my ass for what money I made. Sometimes, I wonder what David must think because he has only really known me since all this turmoil started. He met me during a transition period when I was off on leave working on fixing both my physical health and also my mental health. I returned to work on a part time basis after my leave. I tell him all the time, "I am really not a slacker, before you met me I worked crazy hours and have been working since I was 18, even through college." I also wonder what Dan thinks. He has been through a lot of ups and downs and has seen how ugly things got toward the end of my career in the Angio dept at St. Margaret. It is embarrassing to me to not be able to pull my own weight and to not be able to do all the things that I want to do. Felling respected and feeling like an equal in friendships and relationships is very important to me, as it is to most people.
The other night David said something that made me think a lot about myself. He said "I hate my life." I thought, do I hate my
They say that hind sight is always 20/20. It wasn't until after I hit some sort of wall back in October that I realized a lot of things and started to make changes. I realized that I had spent almost all of my adult life treading water. Going through the motions but never really doing anything to secure myself in the process. I came out of college and found a job making good money and I jumped at it to escape my life in rural Washington, PA and also to escape my family who I just couldn't deal with, again, treading water. I gave up my plans of putting my nose to the grindstone and going to grad school to do what I really wanted to do, become a clinical psychotherapist with my own practice. I got laid off so I went back to school to train for a job that I knew would be a sure fire guarantee when I graduated but I didn't put any thought into if it was something that I wanted to do long term. It was a way of escaping again. It turned into 14 years of treading water to survive. My first relationship lasted nearly 9 years. I was young, and I felt like I needed someone to define who I was and I ended up losing myself in the process. I put up with lack of respect and controlling treatment for all those years because I thought that that was what a relationship was supposed to be like. I had a lot of friend's then because I thought that the more friend's you had the better off you were. I didn't realize that most of them only were there because I was someone who liked to party and also someone who would do things for them at my own expense. My boyfriend defined me, my friends defined me, my family defined me. I never managed to define myself in all those years. I let everyone else do it for me. Again, treading water.
I met Dan after the collapse of my first relationship. We hit it off. We both had some sort of wanderlust when it came to travel and I had always dreamed of seeing the world. We traveled all around the globe together and we communicated well in the beginning. Travel, going to the symphony and the opera, fancy restaurants, the whole deal, but still something felt like it was always missing. Dan had, and still has, and illustrious career at the University and I always felt very inferior. I made less than half of what he made and my education was no where near what he had. I always felt somewhat isolated and unequal and self conscious. With Dan, there were no rules when it came to stuff. If you wanted to do something, then do it. If you wanted to go somewhere, then go. For the first time in my life, I felt free to do what I wanted to do. Nearly seven years together created a deep friendship. I cant say that we made the perfect couple however. Dan and I think totally differently when it comes to issues. Dan is happy being alone and loves his choice of career . He is very content with his job, his income, his life in general and doesn't feel the need for friendships, and to be honest, can take or leave a relationship. It's not that he doesn't care, he just doesn't need to be in one to be happy. I am a social person and love having close friendships and people are important to me. From day one, Dan always had the attitude that if you want something in life, you have to seize it by the balls and take it. I was just not strong enough to get that whole concept. I was convinced that I was inferior.
In our fifth year, I decided that I had had enough of Pittsburgh, and the cold, and my job, and I wanted to move to Miami. I used some professional Pittsburgh connections to obtain an interview at Baptist Medical in Miami and flew down and nailed the interview and was given an offer within a week. I wanted something, and I reached out and took it. It scared me when it worked because my life never worked that way before! Dan was in full support and said that if this is what it takes to make you happy, then go. The money was not enough, or so it seemed, in retrospect I think it was more of just cold feet on my part, and I turned it down. I regretted it for almost a year and kicked myself every time I had to get up and drive through a dreary Pittsburgh winter morning on my way to my dead end job. It was just safer to stay here and tread water.
This year has been a year of great change for me. I went through therapy and worked on fixing a lot of family issues. For the first time in 38 years I was able to talk openly and honestly with my Mother about deep family issues. It felt great to finally get some sort of acknowledgement about thinks. I cant fix them, but at least I finally understand them. I stood up to my sister and finally told her that I am DONE with rehashing family issues over and over again and feeling guilty for things that I never had any say in. I started this blog, as part of a way of venting, and also a way of self expression because I can finally put my thoughts on virtual paper and say what I want to say without self judgement. I changed my job and am finally in a position to do what I want about going back to school. I start in the fall and will be working toward my masters in clinical psychology. I owe that to my parents who are being very supportive in the process as well as both Dan and Alan who have helped to guide me in the whole process of returning back to the University. Not only have there been physical changes but also changes in the way that I think about things now. My goal is to finish this and to be able to have a career that I enjoy and want to be a part of. Not out of necessity, but because its something that I truly believe in. Dan is onto something about life and relationships. For both to work, you have to be a part of them because its something that you want, not something that you have to be a part of.
I think differently about relationships, be it friendships or romantic. Real love is based on loving yourself enough to be able to love someone else. In other words, you have to be comfortable with yourself and trust your own judgement and ideas first, and then you can truly care for someone else. It isn't because you need to be with someone, it's because you want to be with someone. I also learned that you have to respect yourself enough to speak up when something isn't right. If you have no self respect, then no one is going to respect you either.
I also learned that its ok to say NO! Too often in the past, I would say yes to everyone and everything and realized that people WILL take advantage of you if you let them. Its up to you to look out for yourself. It's ok to prioritize what is important to you rather than trying to please everyone and only pissing off yourself and everyone else in the process. Myself and people that I love (ie, family, bf, close friends) come first over anything else.
Back to my original question, Do I hate my life? Not any longer.
Do I have it all figured out? Nah.... Will I have days where I am going to say "fuck, I don't know if I can do this." or days where I feel overwhelmed and scared shitless....yes! I am realistic and know myself well enough to know that things are going to come up. Its time to stop treading water and to start swimming toward something! I am sure that there will some big waves along the way, but at least I am moving forward.
Posted by Michael Bell at 7:25 PM