Drawing My Own Lifeline

I spent the entirety of Sunday afternoon going through the last 10 years of my life and mapping out data points for the following categories:

  • Significant romantic entanglements/relationships
  • Where I lived
  • School Year
  • Family events/milestones
  • Jobs
  • Personal events/milestones

I drew them out on newsprint, pulled out my ruler and my crayon/marker stash. Everything was color coded.

When I finished drawing each category out, I entered the information for each year into a spreadsheet.

If this seems like a very peculiar way to spend a Sunday, that’s probably because it is.

But I was catching up on my horoscopes for the month and apparently there’s some kind of commotion happening this week for my sign.

Jupiter is moving into Scorpio (my sun sign) and from what I can tell, it’s like a cosmic lotto win. Having your ship come in. Everything finally coming up roses.

(If you don’t care about astrology or think it’s fake, that’s fine. This post is not for you and it’s not about astrology.)

There are plenty of reasons that I’ve been trying to clean house, mentally and emotionally, that I won’t go into here. But this news about Jupiter and the planetary brouhaha to follow gave me a deadline on something I’ve been thinking about for ages.

This is not a sob story.

I’ll be the first one to admit I’ve lived a relatively charmed and privileged life, all told. What sadness and struggles I faced growing up were mitigated by the amazing family and support systems I had. I will never deny that.

I’m also not trying to say that my life was perfect or that I don’t have my fair share of foggy, confusing childhood baggage to deal with.

What I do know, is that since about 2010, life really started picking up the pace for my “traumatic” life events and monumental changes. I’m not sure why, but it feels like a whole lifetime of shit has been packed into the past 7 years.

For a long time, I figured this was just how life goes for people. You move out on your own, suddenly “real life” begins and everything is just harder, worse in every way. C’est la vie.

After I said this to a handful of therapists and friends over the years, it became clear to me (from their horrified reactions after I went over the shortlist) that this is not actually the case.

I’ve only recently come to realize that being a bit more self actualized and doing some internal work with myself has been way overdue.

But in what I can only guess is a side effect of the way my life has gone for the past few years, my understanding of how my life has progressed from year to year and even the passage of time in relation to life events has totally escaped me.

I’ll think something lasted much longer than it did, or that one bit of trauma was an isolated incident, only to realize it was actually happening at the same time as many other terrible things.

I’ve been telling myself I should map out my life for about a year or two now. Just to line up relationships with jobs, moves with funerals and weddings. Just so it all logically progressed from season to season. Just so I could know, see it represented as facts all lined up neatly in rows.

So that’s what I did.

Your own personal history project.

After making this grand timeline, here is where I see this sort of exercise being beneficial:

Clarity around heartbreaks

This is the biggest realization for me. When I lined up my relationships with the other life events (death, divorce, disease), I realized that many of the big, gut wrenching break ups that had otherwise shattered me were actually a form of escapism or indirect processing of bigger, scarier realities.

(As anyone who’s been reading along regularly knows, I’m not an expert and I can only speak for myself about any of this.)

I’m not sure if this is some type of codependency or just emotional immaturity wreaking havoc, but the consistency with which my most toxic romantic relationships aligned with other tragedies or upsets was the most alarming discovery I made in this process.

Obviously, I didn’t untangle what this discovery means yet and I’m not calling up my exes to get their perspectives anytime soon (for those exes reading this, hi please don’t panic!), but just seeing the alignment was enough to teach me that I have channeled a lot of stress into relationships and attempted to process things that way.

Yikes.

Compassion towards my younger self

I can be really unkind to the younger versions of myself. I blame her for a lot of things, like staying with an emotional abusive partner or never starting a savings account.

But when I laid everything out, year by year, I realized that the times I was the most irresponsible or the most reckless, I was reacting to in the only ways I knew how to at the time.

For example, went my transmission on my car died, I spent my puny savings on a scooter to get myself to work and class. When that scooter was stolen and totaled, I dropped out of school and quit one of my two jobs because I didn’t have a reliable option for getting around town.

I kick myself for buying that damn scooter all the time and even more often for not taking the summer off like a normal student. But seeing everything else going on in my life plotted out, it all makes more sense that I would have just made the easiest and least painful choices at the time.

It’s really easy to be bitter about the choices you did or didn’t make when you were younger, but if you’re honest (or have it all laid out in front of you like I had) your older and wiser self sees simple solutions or more responsible decisions clear as day. Your younger, stupider self probably wouldn’t have see those same options, even if they were right in front of their face the whole time.

Power over my own narrative

This is where we come back to the astrology bit from earlier. I won’t go in depth about my attitudes towards astrology here, but at the most basic level, I find comfort in the parallels between planetary movements and the cycles of human life.

If nothing else, astrology is a tool (like tarot or meditation) that unlocks different perspectives and allows me to zoom out for a fuller picture of my life and experiences.

Laying out the past in this exercise and journaling consistently in the present makes me feel like I am truly steering the ship of my future, which is a pretty auspicious attitude to have as Jupiter enters Scorpio.

Keeping tabs on myself through creative work is going to be a big part of this new cycle I’m entering. Not only do I enjoy it and find it beneficial in the present, I’d really rather avoid having to plot out the next 10 years of my life in a spreadsheet.

The other major piece of this is autonomy over my patterns and behaviors.

Now that I can see the fault lines running through my life, I can address them and work towards healing those issues.

Again, I promise I’ll get to therapy eventually. Now I’ll have a handy guide for whatever therapists I encounter! Hah.

So, tell me, am I the only one who has felt like this? Has anybody else made a ridiculous retrospective timeline of their life? Anybody have good therapist recommendations for Tallahassee? Ok love y’all thanks for reading!

 

Moving: An Announcement

My freshman year of high school, I ripped a two page spread from an art room collage pile issue of Southern Living magazine. It’s a photo of a small cottage, with a screened in porch and a wildly joyful garden. It’s now framed in my bedroom.

I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to cabins and cottages, small spaces with cozy interiors in rustic settings.

That’s always been the dream.

However, not much else about that dream has been clear. Am I alone in the house or do I have a partner? Is it in the Blue Ridge Mountains or the Rockies? Maybe on the border of a sleepy southern town?

The house was the one thing I knew I wanted. Tucked into some quiet corner where I became part of the landscape instead of part of a city.

But it was always a reward, a sighing, “someday” kind of dream.

I thought I had to earn it, deserve that dream. That I would know when I had made it because I’d be writing in the woods somewhere and sipping on coffee while the sun was rising.

That’s not the sort of thing you’re just allowed to have out of the blue. Right?

Dreams Come True Even When You’re Not Waiting for Them To

I had a plan, which of course means that my plan has gone totally out the window in the space of about two weeks.

After a pretty chaotic year, I laid out for myself (and to anyone who would listen) my plan for the rest of 2017:

  • Focus on growing my business
  • Save some serious cash
  • Travel to a select few cities to scope out potential next homes
  • Announce a move to my chosen destination on New Year’s Eve

This plan happened in my current house, a little duplex in Midtown, perfectly adequate for my needs.

Then I was informed, rather suddenly, that my landlord would be giving my unit to her nephew who would be moving to Tallahassee to attend college and I needed to be out by mid-August.

Not only was this something I had not planned for, not even remotely, it was already July!

Anyone who knows the Tallahassee rental market knows you need to start making moves in early summer to find a decent spot for August move-in because–duh, we’re a college town.

With little to no optimism, I started combing listings on every rental site, making peace with the fact that my current rent was not going to translate to a lateral move.

I had some guidelines:

  • No roommates
  • No apartment complexes
  • Some semblance of an outdoor space (even if that was just a stoop big enough to perch a coffee mug on)
  • Not on a busy road (I currently live on a major intersection, the only constant in my life is road noise.)
  • Must allow cats

With my very unusual rental history, I knew working with a property management company would be tricky at best, so I was also trying avoiding any kind of middleman.

In Tallahassee, this is a tall order in a short time frame.

But after only a few days of searching, I found a place that seemed unreal. Like so perfect that I was positive it was a scam. The best looking listing always are, it seems.

This place was seriously the dream.

At the end of the prettiest canopy road in town (in my humble opinion), part of an intentional living community, on two acres of land, plus–it even had a Jacuzzi tub.

After much hemming and hawing, a visit to a dreary rental in Midtown and a bit of prodding (and some inspired rental website maneuvering) from one of my dear friends, I snagged a tour.

I was nervous about meeting the owners that I can only compare it to a job interview.

But to make a long story short, they loved me, I loved the house, I applied and got the house.

THE HOUSE. THE DREAM HOUSE.

Blooming Where You’re Planted

Obviously, this move is having quite the effect on that plan I mentioned earlier. Even though it’s only a six month lease, it’s a longer commitment to Tallahassee than I had originally planned to make–if even just by a few months.

While I had other options, to move home to Pensacola or trade in my guidelines for some other temporary fix, I took the risk and the subsequent plunge for a few reasons that I think are important to consider when you’re staring down the barrel of an unplanned life change.

  1. What do you really want?

Chances are, your plans have an end goal. I thought moving away from Tallahassee would be my ticket to an experimental “reset” on my identity, shake me out of the stupor that living in one town for more than 6 years has given me.

I thought it would give me a new perspective to write from, somewhere new to explore and dig my heels into.

It would challenge me to make new friends and connections, be even more independent than I’ve been thus far in my adult life.

It would prove I can do whatever I put my mind to.

And honestly–a move would still do all of those things. It’s not something I’ve totally ruled out within the next year.

But what I wanted: distance, novelty, nature, motivation, new community. This in-town move still allows for all of that.

2. What are you willing to do to get what you want?

My new place is more expensive than my current one and I know that increasing your living expenses in the first year of working for yourself is a huge risk. Pretty much everyone tells you not to even think about it.

But, in this space, I know I could happily do the extra work that I’ll need to do to adjust for the cost of the privilege of living where I want to.

I’ve also had to be willing to take sole responsibility for my life from here on out.

My mom suggested I move home, let my family circle the wagons around me. That offer was tempting (and I seriously love my family for being that kind of crew), but I knew I would agonize over the “what if” of sticking it out on my own because I haven’t failed, hit rock bottom or intentionally chosen to move home because I was excited to.

Everyone has also pointed out: “But it’s such a drive, how will you drive that distance all the time?” (Spoiler alert, I won’t, but we’ll get to that.)

So the reality looks like: longer hours, more work, less disposable income, still not within a stone’s throw of my family and a good drive from my normal social safety nets in town.

3. Are you willing to embrace the reality of your dream?

Whether it was in Tallahassee or Tennessee, my dream house was always going to be a good bit from town.

It was always going to require an idealistic, pioneer-woman type independence–with a good dash of Puritan self-discipline.

Realistically though, having to be mindful about my trips into town to run errands, socialize, network? Having more dinner parties instead of nights at the bar? Spending more time reading books and taking long walks?

I wanted to be doing these kinds of things, um, forever ago?

But I always made excuses. It’s a pretty serious departure from the way I have lived my life the past few years. In fact, I’ve never lived my life like that.

The reality of my dream is that I’m going to have to be mature, responsible and mindful to make this work. I accept that.

Wherever you go, there you are

The answers to all of those questions doesn’t change based on where you go, no matter what it is that you want. A job in New York, a romantic partner on the West Coast, an “Eat, Pray, Love” experience abroad?

Great, go for it, but be ready to accept the terms and conditions of your dreams.

The only thing I have learned since leaving my hometown is that we are all who we are no matter where we go, where we live, what we do for work.

Lots of stuff sounds great in theory, but the reality is always going to be a little grittier and it’s always going to take more work than you originally planned.

You have to continue to live with yourself throughout all of it.

So what’s next?

For me and this move, this here project was a big motivator in my decision to take the plunge. If I wanted motivation and inspiration, this is going to be where I got it.

I’m really looking forward to sharing the move with all of you, plus all of the stuff I’m going to tackle while living out in the woods.

Here are some things I’d love if you did:

  • Ask yourself what dream it is you’re telling yourself is a “someday” dream and how you can get it as soon as a possible instead
  • Get over to Instagram and tell me about your dream that you want to head towards (gimme a follow so I can give you a follow, please and thanks)
  • Sign up for my brand spanking new mailing list so that I can send you notes about the moving process and share playlists with you because, yeah. (Form is below!)

Thanks for reading, love y’all!