As you may have noticed from previous posts, I have been draggin around the title of “woman with a quarter-life crisis, looking for a job, wants to live in a house, and not have to pay to do her laundry.” It’s been a title I’ve been dragging for months and months, and you’d think the weight would be getting me down. It did. However…you might also have noticed that The New Job, The New House, marrying the fiance’ this fall will bring a New Name. Yeah, quarter life crisis solved, hello happiness. That would seem logical, yet all this new stuff makes me realize that it’s time to clean out the files of the Old Heidi.
Have you ever had a pair of jeans, your favorite pair, no matter how fat you feel these jeans always seem comforatble yet somehow flatter your temporary plump figure? Eventually those jeans go out of style, not that you care, but eventually a new pair of jeans comes along, a better pair. The new jeans are stylish, flattering, and give you the edge of confidence you’ve been missing. Sometimes they come with Butt Jewels, adding a touch of sparkle to your life. All things considered, the old jeans start to stay on the shelf more and more, until eventually you forget about them. It’s not until you clean out the closet till you even remember those once favorite jeans were still around. So, with regret you feel guilty, like you’ve abandon a best friend and can’t bear to separate from them. So you keep them, just in case.
In the past few years I’ve carried so many pairs of my once “favorite” pairs of jeans, and shoes, pictures, jewelry, that my closet NEEDS to get cleaned out. Five years ago I moved to Chicago following my graduation from small, private, rural Wisconsin college. “The city” was exactly what I needed. A teaching job in the inner-city, fell right in line with what I’d always dreamed of. The windy city was bursting with activity, over-flowing with opportunities and life experiences, congested with all things materialistic, and flooded with emotions & feelings. I was a sponge….I sucked! Eventually, I immersed myself in everything that surrounded me, disregarding the family and long term relationship lingering in Wisconsin. By the following year I had aged 5 years and was working in an extremely wealthy school district on the North shore. You’d think that would be the job of my dreams. It’s not typical of a novice teacher to land such an awesome opportunity. Year 3 in a relationship, and moving to the ‘burbs, I was living the life of a 32 year old wife, planning for the birth of my first child. I never expected to be buying a place of my own at the ripe age of 24 in NW Chicago suburbs, and carving out a life of my own. I was confident that I was going to be there for the rest of my life. Everything about it felt comfortable. Until a strange and uncomfortable twist of events, made all things around me extremely unfamiliar.
My life had never thrown such a horrific turn of events gashing at my inner soul, that left me pleading for mercy in desperation. My “normal” life felt like a cruel game, a bad nightmare that had to end. It seems immature and naive to say it was the worst experience of my life, because in the end it was the best-worst year of my life. Through the hurt and deceit I would never gotten to know me like I do today. I would have politely summoned my way through life, demanding nothing of others including respect and truth. I would have settled with what I had and pretended to remain optimistic that all things would be okay in the end. What might have been a sudden cruel turn of events, had been creeping up on me for years and everyone recognized it but me. However, any and all warnings would’ve been dismissed into a pit of denial.
Immediately I began trying to shove anything and everything into the puzzle of my life and try to make it all fit together, allowing me to just put all the pieces together and move on. I tried repeatedly and failed. I yearned for a man to fill the void of security was desperately needing. I lingered for a safety net, and sought out girlfriends who would be honest and truthful. I should clarify….I had immensely supportive girlfriends and family the entire time, I just didn’t realize it. What I learned was I needed to diligently find the right pieces and put them into the spaces they belonged.
For the first time I started living MY life. I wasn’t doing things to beg of others approval. I wasn’t searching to be someone I couldn’t be, nor was I anxious about fixing everything now and pretending I was okay. I wasn’t okay. I had been the brunt of “our friends” jokes, I had been lied to repeatedly by those I thought cared about me. I allowed myself to fall in love with a complete stranger, and grew comfortable with the dream of “our” future. I couldn’t eat. I would think of all the other girls and immediately get nauseous. The roller coaster of phone calls at all hours of the night kept me sleepless and restless. And just as I would start getting back up off my knees, I’d suffer another blow to the head, sending me back on the floor.
Yet the specs on spontaneously and randomness slowly seeped into my decision making process. Random trips 3 hours away to see family or friends didn’t seem crazy or unreasonable. And oddly the return home on Sunday nights to a lonely suburban townhouse seemed uninviting and resentful. I allowed myself the chance to get out and learn who people were, re-acquaint myself with old friends and former classmates. It seemed that I was freakishly getting warped into an environment with an eerie calm sense of total confusion.
I remember bumping into a High School classmate one evening when I was home attending one of my brother’s gigs. I’d get asked questions about “what have you been up to for the past 10 years? (that’s a loaded question…no, I’m not married. yes, I went to college & graduated. I have no children. I do have a good job. I’m not sure if I want a significant other. and I’m not the same person I was in high school.) I knew that I was different than I was in high school, but how would explain where, how, and why I was at where I was. Did I really want to disclose the fact that I was a desperate 34 year old teacher living in the burbs of Chicago caught in a 26 year old body? How do you politely avoid some of the not so nice people who interacted with you in high school….but the question I’m still get totally confused on is: How did I end up in Jamacia with a group of 10 people from my home town 3 months later? Somewhere between devastation and Jamacia I ate my words that I once vowed to my mother “I will never live around here again.” Oops. I like to note that I said that in pencil and so some words can be erased.
Fast forward to 2008. I’m cleaning out my closet and I come across some pieces to the puzzle that represent the “old Heidi,” some of which I yearn to be in her shoes again (I didn’t mind the size 4 clothes she wore), and others that remind me that I’m right where I am supposed to be. So the question that led me to this post….When do you get rid of the pieces that don’t seem to fit into the puzzle? Do I get rid of the reminders and the indicators of who I was then? For fear of losing sight of how the best-worst year of my life transformed into the new Heidi, I’ve always kept those pieces in my closet, on my book shelf and in my life as reminders to keep my sights in the right direction. They were my reminders of how those Best “pieces” pulled me through the worst year of my life. How do I acknowledge the past without it letting me hold me back from the opportunities I am embarking on now and in the future?
Is it time to get rid of the old favorite jeans? What about the stiletto heals that remind me of many exuberant evenings out with the girls in the city and the stories we’ll never forget. Since I have a fiance that is slightly shorter than I and no longer feel as comfortable in those shoes, do I move on to the latest and great fad of flats? Seeing how my small town is several years behind in fashion trends of the city, it’s almost time to update the wardrobe. Maybe I’ll start by selling 1 pair of my size 4 jeans that I never really liked anaways and see where the process leads me….I may be back remorsefully testifying my guilt.