There and Back Again

I got back Friday from nine days in California.

Nine days under the stars and redwoods.

Nine days forced to slow down.

Nine days reflecting, examining, turning around past choices in my head. Not having regrets, just playing the "what if" game. I felt so removed from Sonoma County. In eleven months, I changed in some way that made me absolutely certain that that is not my life anymore, that I really was just visiting. It made me think of all the decisions I've made that could've left my life in different places and it made me really examine the life I have now.

What if I hadn't broken up with Jacob? Would he have broken up with me by now? Or would we, nine years into a relationship, actually be planning a wedding instead of just assuming we'd spend our entire life together? (I know, I know, we'd probably both feel miserable and trapped but that's not how the "what if" game works) I once knew with absolute certainty who I was going to marry. That's so foreign a feeling now, yet at the same time I feel like I'm always chasing after it. I don't know what "it" is anymore, but I know I'll know it when I feel it. I think.

What if Che had realized what an ass he was sooner? What if all the apologies he gives me now had happened two years ago? Would I have forgiven him? Would we still be dating? What if I had accepted his wine cellar proposal instead of moving to New York? Would I still be working at a group home, going to school and living perpetually feeling slightly ill at ease? Or would I somehow embrace being a country wife? There was a moment once where I thought I could do that (before the wine cellar proposal, by which point the moment had long since past), settle down where I could raise my own animals and grow my own food and turn it all into a meal each night. While I still love those things, I just can't picture myself in that life anymore.

What if that guy I'd had a crush on since 8th grade, my Harry Burns, had made a move sooner? What if I had been dating him for a year, instead of Matt, when Michelle offered me a room here? Would've I have accepted her offer? Or even, what if he had just asked me to stay in those last two weeks before I moved? He never would have, and that's one of the reasons I love him so. But he's also probably the only person who could've given me pause. I didn't even try to see him while I was in California. I don't know why. I don't know if I was afraid that that relationship never having a chance to happen would turn into a full blown regret if I did see him or if I'm just a pansy and couldn't bear the thought of the disappointment if we no longer connected in the same way.

I think I've been so focused on relationships because they were so often the thing I let hold me back but also because I felt like the reoccuring theme of my visit was "You work how much?! And when?! When do you have time to go on dates?". It's easy to forget here that there are plenty of people in other places only working 40 or 50 hours a week. People that work normal hours, have normal social lives and go on dates that aren't either in the middle of the night or at a normal time but on a Monday. And mostly my answer was "I don't" because that's an easier answer than "Well, there's this one guy I've been sleeping with but he's kind of an ass and I have no desire to date him and he has no desire to date me and it's kind of perfect in an absolutely no emotion sort of way and then there's also this other guy that I've had a crush on since July and I don't really know where we stand at the moment because I'm too afraid to ask because I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get the answer I want but I really really like him and it's fucking up what few dates I go on because I keep comparing".

(Sidenote: I know where we stand now. It definitely wasn't what I wanted. We definitely did have that conversation in a bar at a friend's birthday on my first night back in New York. So. There's that. To steal a phrase from my grandma, my heart could use a bandaid right now. But it doesn't need stitches, because we were never really dating, so it can't really warrant more than rejection hurt and disappointment it didn't become what I wanted. Basically, I'm sad, I'm not sobbing into a pint of ice cream sad but, still, sad)

I've been chanting the "my career will never leave me" mantra for a year now (thank you, Lady Gaga) but I'm starting to realize how much I've let it take over. I used to give up myself in relationships to the point where I no longer could define myself as somebody outside of it and now I don't know who I am outside of my job. When I'm off work for too long I start to get uncomfortable because I don't know what else I do other than work, laundry and sleep and also because I end up spending too much time with myself. My focus has been too much on work and not on building friendships. I'm not entirely sure how to change this yet, but I know I want to. I know I value having relationships more than my career. I also know I focus on my career as a way to hide from putting myself out there and taking the emotional risks making new friends requires.

Once again, I'm striving to find the middle way instead of always going to extremes. I'll get there.

Someday.