And so, The Countdown begins
I grew up on the Central Coast in CA. It was beautiful, still is, as far as I know. Whenever I visit it’s just as I remember. Blue skies, light cool breeze. There are trees, and parks. The beach is minutes away. Several of them, even. You have to love that kind of place. It’s excellent for growing up. It’s simple because it’s small, and it feels safe. Everyone knows everyone. And if you don’t, you have a mutual friend I guarantee it. You see the same people working at the same places, doing the same hikes up Madonna Mountain or Bishops Peak. You see the same people on the same community theatre stages. You see the same people at the gym, and walking on the beach. You see them at the BBQ’s, and the bonfires, and they help each other move with expectations like a cold beer at the end of the day. They support the junior high teams, and the high school teams, long after they’ve been out of school themselves. And they do it because they love their community, their little town. It’s comfortable. There’s a great and special kind of bond that’s created in people that grow up or live in a town like the one I grew up in.
It’s nothing like New York.
I moved here May 2010. Most, if not all, of the people I knew back then were under the impression I was moving out here to pursue theatre. Acting. Broadway. And all of them were wrong. Sure, I was enrolled in a school where I was going to finish out my Bachelors degree. I attended that particular school for one year. It wasn’t for me. Whether it was the school itself, the location, the curiculum, the teachers, or the fellow classmates–it wasn’t a good fit or me. So I didn’t return the following year. I had probably 3 semesters left to get my degree, so another…22,000$ of student loans and debt with no real passion or direction for that field any more. I was okay with not returning. It was not the main reason I moved here.
I moved here to find myself. I moved here seeking independence and something new and bigger than myself. I moved here seeking a certain kind of shadow that I could hide in, in plain sight. New York is great for being around a ton of people, and being completely alone at the same time. And I loved that. Granted, when I first moved here I was not alone. My transition to the east coast was particularly easy because I had a place to live before I moved here. My friend Robin already lived here and had a room I could move in to. I shipped all my boxes there (UPS hated me, it’s a 5th floor walk up). I found a job quickly, getting rehired Sporting The Green Apron was not ideal, but I knew it would only be temporary, it was something I could do for money, and I was good at it. I even ended up being a main trainer for my district. Managers were sent to me to learn how to make drinks. It was not terrible–though it was not ideal.
I met someone here. I loved him. Our relationship took horrible turns and became toxic. We were together for maybe a year and a half. And he moved away in the fall of 2012. I didn’t date anyone serious after him. I couldn’t. Not because he hurt me so, but because I knew I needed to do more for ME. I knew I needed to find ME still.
My housemates moved out one by one and new people came in. My brother Ben (Smurf) even moved out here for a year. He needed a new start as well. He needed to find something in him as well, something I think only moving far away from family and small towns can give you. When he was ready, he went back. And although I don’t speak to him daily anymore, I know he’s a different person having lived out here for a year.
Soon, I was all that remained of the Original 4 people that lived here when I moved out here in 2010. I took over the lease, first time I’d been on a lease in years. It was uplifting to feel a sense of adulthood or a level of responsibility again. It also marked the longest I’d lived in any one place since leaving my parents house. I took on housemates my own way, putting them through almost an audition process, trying to find the right match for me, for us. At this point I had also passed the NY state board exams to be a licensed esthetician here. So I was working in my field of expertise, my name was on a lease, and I was making enough money that I even got to go out and play sometimes. Just when everything seemed to add up nicely, I added full-time school to my plate. Massage therapy. It was in my field, my industry. Although I had sworn to myself years ago I would not go through school again, there I was signing up for a 2-year commitment to receive an Associates Degree in Occupational Studies for Massage Therapy.
I was exhausted. I rarely had a day off. If I didn’t have school or work, I still had homework. And eventually I had school, work, homework, and clinic hours to fulfill. I barely made it. But I did. I graduated in April 2015. I switched spas so I could do both skin care and massage. I still had some play money. I still would go out and sing at karaoke. I’d still flirt with whomever I chose for that night. I finally had days off. And I’d spend my time awake on those days off doing absolutely nothing. I’d get up, and make it from my bedroom to the livingroom. I’d watch TV. I’d eat food. And maybe 12 hours later I’d go back to my room and go to sleep. It was amazing.
I also started seeing a therapist out here. That was life changing. That was originally a requirement, as part of my psychiatric plan. At some point I had hit a place of depression and anxiety and sought out help. I took antidepressants for a while, then stopped successfully, staying mentally balanced. But I continued to see my therapist. I grew a great deal as a person by seeing her. Learned about myself, how I hear things and respond. How I interpret successes and failures. How I choose the people in my life. How I choose to keep people OUT of my life… I would not have come this far in my search of myself without her. And I’m not in perfect place. I don’t know that I ever will be. I’m sure I’ll want or need something else every time I get to “the next level.” I don’t seem to be the kind of person that can deal with complacency. I get bored. I can’t do the same exact thing five days a week for five years. I need changes. Sure they can be little, but I need them. I want them. I like learning new stuff. I like my quiet, alone time. I like that some days I don’t see one other human being the entire day. I like that some days, I don’t speak at all. There are different kinds of discoveries I find in myself and about myself when I am quiet; when I am not entertaining or in the spotlight, which is where a lot of the people that know me think I love to be. I like it there, sometimes. I don’t love it there, all the time. It’s hard to be “on” all the time. I’m somewhere between an introvert and extrovert. I find comfort in both places.
I’ve built a life for myself out here. I’ve reached a certain kind of independence I didn’t consider before. Not necessarily that I’d reached something I never thought I’d reach, just a place I hadn’t thought of. And as I sit back and reflect on how far I’ve come in so many ways I can nod agreeing “good job, Mersai” and I can equally begin crying.
It can be…so…hard…here. I don’t know why I’ve convinced myself it MUST be difficult in order to EARN _______ (whatever). I don’t know why I still look at other peoples successes and see my failures, when somewhere in my brain i KNOW that that is impractical and immeasurable because they are not equal fields. I can only measure me against me. Where I’ve messed up, where I’ve gotten it right. Where I could use improvement. Where I could teach someone else. There’s…so many things about ME that I do right, and so many things about ME I still want to work on and figure out that I’m unsure as to why I still consider myself in a race or competition with anyone else, but myself.
The good part is, I’m willing to continue to try.
The good part is, I don’t think I need to keep making it so difficult for myself anymore. I think I can finally look at myself, see myself sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, and say out loud “it’s okay.”
I think I can finally say “I have found what I wanted here. I have learned what I wanted here. I have earned…what I wanted here.” A very good friend of mine reminded me not too long ago that I’ve been here, in Manhattan New York, for Five Years. That’s the longest I’ve been anywhere since leaving my parents house. He reminded me of what I have accomplished. He said….I made it.
My heart pounded and tears burst out of my eyes when he said that.
I made it. I made it, here. And with that, it was okay to say “then I think I’m done here.”
I miss it already. New York. The ease of public transportation instead of having a car. Broadway, whenever I want because I can. Being alone in a crowd. Being my own person. Back home I’m Sam’s daughter, Candy’s daughter, Summer’s sister, or Ben and Rik’s sister. Back home I’m so-and-so’s friend. Back home I was “the princess” and you’d find me at karaoke on certain days. Back home I might be auditioning for a theatre production somewhere. But, I miss New York already. I miss the steamed dumplings from the chinese place downstairs. I miss the stores so close to me I can go and come back in five minutes. I miss the seasons. Horrid as the summer and winter are, I survived. I walked through it. Over and over. I miss looking up at the sky and seeing blue and white peaking just pass the building that seemed to stretch up forever. There is more that I miss already. I met some good people out here I call friends, and I now have to consider not knowing when I will see them again. Being in NY also means I am close to Jersey (follow me here, I know Jersey doesn’t sound great…). Jersey is where two of my good friends live, and my nephews. My heart already aches knowing I won’t see Sammy bear and Jamey bean as often as I want. It’s the same ache for the family I have in CA. One should never have to choose. Neither members of my family (in CA or in Jersey) are more important than the other. But I have to choose *me* right now.
What I don’t / won’t miss? I won’t miss the smell of garbage and dog poop cooking in the heat of the summer. I won’t miss the smell of a homeless person. I won’t miss weather that reads 2 degrees, and with wind factor “feels like -19 degrees.” I won’t miss the stairs. I won’t miss the opportunity to close down a bar at 4am because I actually stayed out that late (I haven’t done this in quite a while…). I won’t miss the fact that there isn’t great mexican food out here (although I did finally get introduced to an excellent place just recently. And If I was staying put, I’m sure I’d visit it more often). I won’t miss being on the train and people saying “what time is it? Show time!” during my commute. Then they’re blasting music I dont’ call music, and their dancing and flipping, and almost kicking people, then walking around collecting change or money for their performance. A piece (a very small piece) of me says “that takes guts, and the flipping was impressive” but mostly I wanted them to shut up and sit down and not bother me. I won’t miss the hustle. I did it. I absolutely got to a place where I was walking fast, I had somewhere to be and I needed to be there NOW, and I’d get annoyed with the people strolling and stopping mid stride to take a picture. They didn’t know Rule Number 1 in NY (Get Out of the Way) I won’t miss Rule Number 2: You Have To Carry That. It was definitely rough toting around books for school, clothes for school, and kickboxing gear. It was worse when I had to carry stuff, and walk with a cane because my back was hurting.
What I fear about returning to the Central Coast, CA?
* I am afraid people will think I am the same person that left five years ago and that they will treat me like that same person. I am not that person anymore. I’ve grown a great deal. Some things about me have changed.
* I am afraid *I* will treat people as though they have not grown in five years. It would be unfair for me to think I am the only person that’s been moving forward. I tend to trap myself in the “small town” ideas that everyone remains the exact same way, and I would be doing myself and others a great disservice by relying on that ideal as a truth. I do not want to make this mistake, but I will not pretend I don’t fear it.
* I am afraid that returning means stepping backwards. There is a difference, however, between stumbling and falling backwards, and actively choosing a direction that appears behind you.
* I am afraid I won’t make money in my “field of expertise.” Out here I finally hit a place where I exclaimed “I am no longer just surviving my life, I am living it.” and money has a lot to do with that kind of ability, and capability. I am not, and was not ever, making multiple thousands of dollars a week, or even every two weeks. But my bills were paid, and I had play money, and that gave me a certain kind of freedom I fear will be taken from me upon my return.
What am I looking forward to?
* I miss my family. I am looking forward to seeing them whenever I want, for as long as I want, and as often as I want. It began being more difficult for me to be away when my sister had kids. Her son has seen me in person maybe a handful of times now and it made my heart ache to see him so comfortable with my sisters friends, and not me. I didn’t resent them (her friends), I was (and am) so happy she has people in her life that care for her and her children. But I felt left out and ultimately that is not something I could do for much longer. Her daughter will be 1 soon, and I’ve seen her in person twice…My family means so much to me, I am often unable to express how much.
* Avocados that are larger than a chicken egg, and don’t cost $2 each (yep. right after family, is affordable and good avocados. Good job CA. (wink) ).
* My friends on the Central Coast, and all up and down the state of CA ,have been in my life for years and years. The history and memories we have I cherish, and instead of quick visits that echo in the shadows of past memories, we will get to make new ones.
* Better weather. I mean, I know what cold is now. I get it. I’m okay without it now. Looking outside and deciding if it’s sweater or hoodie attire-weather sounds great.
* Oddly enough, although I have claimed over and over and OVER that I am NOT a beach girl, or an outdoorsy girl (and I still stick by this to an extent), there is a peace I think i will find in nature once I return to it. The city life has treated me just fine. It did what it needed to do. I’m willing to see the beach and the parks, and see what they have to offer. Again, I am a different person now in 2015, than I was when I left in 2010.
* Life Changes. These come out of no where sometimes. Sometimes we are expecting the change, sometimes we are caught so far off guard we actually face plant. I’m at a place where I am willing to see what the next change is, and I look forward to being in the comfort of my home town, and in the proximity of those I love most, when it happens.
And so, the countdown begins. Central Coast, CA? I’ll see you in September.