freedom! ’17

freedom 17_SOM.jpgToday is the 1st anniversary of the last day I worked for someone else. That was not the plan, though.

I was working a short contract position at a theme park as a technical writer. I thought that this was what I wanted to do professionally, even before I graduated from grad school (which I did three years ago last month).

The gig paid well. The people I worked with, for the most part, were great to work with. My team of writers, though, was not. It was icy, insular, and white, like an igloo with the door shut.

I was sad that my contract wasn’t renewed. I knew I had done an excellent job. But maybe politics got in the way. It was a long commute from my side of town, most of which I didn’t do with my own car yet.

So here’s what’s happened to me since then, in somewhat chronological order:

  • I evacuated and went home due to Hurricane Matthew.
  • Went on unemployment
  • Signed up for “content mills”–website that people use to hire writers for cheap
  • Went on food stamps
  • Applied for full-time jobs
  • Had my room flood due to busted pipes
  • Found a steady client for social media work
  • Started to find new friends (online but still)
  • Saw one awful housemate move out and a worse one move in
  • Helped a friend move from Miami to D.C.
  • Lost my car, again
  • Focused on my blog again
  • Went to St. Pete for a women’s retreat
  • Got a new website for my writing business, then switched developers
  • Partnered with a friend to do copy editing and writing
  • Updated my writing rates
  • Evacuated to Chicago for 12 days because of Hurricane Irma
  • Finished two big copy editing and writing projects (just this month)

It’s been a lot, and to have the freedom to create my own schedule, to work from home—even if home is obnoxious a lot of the time—it’s a freedom I’ve experienced before, when I was working as a contracted grant writer. It was nice to get work done in Chicago without having to need anything except my computer. My business is me.

And to even say that I have a small business—that’s really wild. I wasn’t signing up to do the content mills because I wanted to. I didn’t even necessarily want to be on this path. But a solar return (astrological term for birthday) report that I received almost two years ago confirmed that I needed to work for myself.

I just didn’t think it’d be so soon.

It’s been a little harrowing, though—and that’s an understatement. But I didn’t expect to be a small business owner, I really didn’t. All I have wanted since I’ve been in Florida is to support myself, which had gotten increasingly harder to do. The opportunities are here, but they don’t seem to be for me.

But Twitter has especially helped me out–with job opportunities, with fundraising, with emotional support. It’s funny how I came down here thinking I’d get that from the people I knew down here. But Florida has been the land of surprising disappointments. And after this hurricane evacuation, and seeing how easy it was to be in Chicago, I plan on leaving here in 2018. I have long overstayed my welcome, but I’ll write more on that later.

I don’t have much to say except that I am grateful—and maybe a little exhausted. I waded through swamps of humiliation, doubt, and frustration and I feel like things are finally going to be even beyond where I wanted them to be, yet where I need them to be.

Here’s to Freedom! ’17. 🙌🏾🎉🍾🍻

08.12.12

some mysterious fractal

August 12, 2012 is when I finally made it to Florida to start grad school. It was on a Sunday. I was supposed to leave the day before, but the movers I hired were terrible and took too long. I guess I missed my flight? I couldn’t get a hold of any friends to crash with so I had to stay at this noisy airport hotel.

I had to stay with my cousin here for a couple of weeks because my stuff was being bounced around all over the east coast. Such a disreputable moving company.

I don’t even want to rehash all of that because it was horrible and I am tired of complaining about how horrible life has been down here. I think the horror magnifies with how hopeful I was to finally find my tribe, to make a real connection with a blood family member, to escape the cold and growing disappointments of Chicago.

Well, life had other plans for me.

It’s been very transformative spiritually. Going into year six of my life down here, I feel like I’ve unloaded a lot of emotional and spiritual baggage. I feel cleansed and unencumbered. But the journey to get to this very precious place has been very expensive: on my bank account, on my credit, on my body, on whatever I would call my social life.

Has it been worth it? I’m not entirely sure yet. This is a rather 7 of Pentacles moment right now. I’m looking at what I’ve grown so far and knowing there is more work to do.

Instead of regaling you with how shitty and disappointing and heartbreaking and humiliating and scary (and I’m pretty sure this blog has detailed a lot of that, so just peruse the archives for a good gasp, cry, or sigh), I’d rather just pivot from here and say that I’m done with this period of my life–or maybe my (very warranted) emotional response to it.

I’m not like Katrina and the Waves walking on sunshine yet, but I am tired of feeling like my life is one long, painful climb, even if that is the Capricorn way. Eventually, I want to be able to rest and enjoy the views up here…

 

The prolonged money and housing instability has been interesting to navigate as someone who is a Capricorn sun and rising with a Cancer moon. My sojourn in Florida has hit me where it hurts, over and over. That’s probably due to Pluto and his heavy demolition crew obliterating my 1st house of self, where my Capricorn sun and rising reside.

Who am I without a stellar reputation? Without stable housing? Without friends to lean on? Without a reliable stream of money?

What is my home? Who is my family?

I don’t really know what the answers to those rhetorical questions are. I believe I’m making it up as I go along–as we all do. I thought I knew those answers.

I didn’t realize how much I had relied on my plucky nature to get me out of jams, and how I have always had a strong community there for me to lift me up. Even with social media, I had both strong online and offline communities, where even both worlds would begin to meld. I met my last boyfriend in an MSN chat room and then we met in IRL–he lived in the same city and went to college with people I knew from my church.

It’s hard to have these stalwarts stripped away–sometimes very violently, and sometimes very slowly. But all the same, it’s left me very vulnerable and open–well, it’s easier to hear from Spirit in this way.

Looking back over these five years, I don’t have much gratitude for this stripping process yet. Still, because I want to change my attitude towards whatever has been unfolding in my life, I took myself out to dinner downtown.

As a sidenote, I do think it’s funny how some Americans will roll up into a nice restaurant and wear soccer jerseys or whatever else seems like casual attire.

My Cancer moon needed to be fed and nurtured. It felt so good to eat the (sometimes literal) fruits of my labor (I had a peach salad and a peach cobbler). As my current housing situation is driving me a lot batty,  it was also nice to not physically be here for three hours, to breathe healthier air in a different space, to not have the draining energy of this newest, inconsiderate boarder. I could at least afford to do this for myself, to celebrate my survival in a tough, unsympathetic state. That’s an accomplishment in it of itself.

But that’s the reframe right there: survival of losses, not just the losses. It’s what I’m good at. I do like to to triumph over circumstances. It may not be that I got to keep my car or my housing or my bank account at a consistent level. I have survived those losses. It seems right now the triumph is over death, over giving up, over having my spirit decimated.

I’m in a real spiritually desperate place right now. I am desperate for real, meaningful change; desperate to have Spirit move me–both literally and figuratively–to a place where I am nurtured and can be nurtured; to a place of deep fulfillment and appreciation; to a place where I can be fully myself again. I am desperate enough to not solely look to other people to help me. I am desperate enough to shut out the world and to look within for all the treasures that were hidden underneath all of the things I’ve lost. I am desperate enough to not look to myself first and then come to the end of myself–I want to look to Spirit first where there is no beginning and no end.

I’ll be going on a retreat this weekend and I hope that my desperation will be met with opportunities and answers and practical solutions, and maybe a little more patience and strength as I keep journeying from the “here” of discontent to the “there” of “finally!”

By the way, that’s a perpetual round trip we all make, from discontent to contentment.

As the solar eclipse comes closer, I know there’s more coming my way—actually good things, things I’ve been wanting for so long, like stability, like expansion, like love in all forms. Lately, it’s been wonderful to have things to look forward to, not just things to dread.

As I grow older and closer to the midpoint of my life, I feel the pressure of limited time and there’s so much I want to do with my life than just survive. I have to trust that all that I’ve gone through here was not in vain–that there’s a purpose that’s greater than my own soul growth and spiritual development, that the ripple effect will be wider than I will ever know.

It’s really easy to forget, that even within the chaos, there’s some order—even if we don’t understand it yet, like some mysterious fractal that begins to unfold.

I have to trust that this unfolding, albeit painful, is truly both beautiful and beneficial. Otherwise, my life has been utter madness without any method or reason. I’m not talented enough to invent reasons or methodology on my own.

So here I go, with another long trust fall with the Universe. Even as I squirm and question and fret, there’s still a knowing that I am following, that nothing is ever wasted, that at least some of this wild and wacky ride will make sense, soon.

an ode to OK Computer

thomas hardy

In the next World War
In a jackknifed juggernaut
I am born again

–lyrics from the song, “Airbag” by Radiohead

Those are the beginning lyrics of “Airbag,” the first song on the album that changed my life, OK Computer, Radiohead’s third album. It was released on June 16, 1997 (it’s a Gemini!). The 20th anniversary re-issue, OKNOTOK, was released on June 22nd (it’s a Cancer–how nostalgic!), so a few days ago.

I thought I was going to go on and on about this album–and maybe I still will. 1997 was the first year of college for me, after waiting a year to go to college. The TL;DR version of that gap year is that my father was suffering from paranoid delusions about financial aid forms so I waited and prayed and then, miraculously, he changed his mind. It was a year marked with depression and weight loss and anger and sorrow. I somehow hadn’t heard of this album yet, though, even though I was ardently listening to alternative radio. But this is not a radio friendly album.

How I heard about OK Computer was when I went to college in Chicago. One of my fellow dormmates, Anne, a tall, kinda wild girl from D.C., loaned me the album. And this being 1997, this is the time of cassette tapes still, so I recorded the album onto a cassette. OK Computer was a part of my freshman year soundtrack.

As a musician, I wasn’t really listening to the lyrics of paranoia and alienation. But I was really relating to these themes, especially alienation, on a soul level. There was at least someone else in the world who could see that the world was kinda fucked up and wasn’t afraid to talk about it.

Speaking of kinda fucked up and alienation on a soul level–that was me, in college. Although I had some altogether sane, healthy relationships, I did have a kinda fucked up best friendship with this kid from New York–I’d venture to say it was probably my first real relationship with a guy, even though it was 99% platonic. It’s taken so many years for me to really see this relationship for what it was–I had idealized and idolized it so much, because this atheist dude had rocked my little evangelical world.

Still, we were both probably fucked up on depression and brutally took it out on each other (IMO, him more than me). But hey, I made the Dean’s List that year, all while I was sleeping my way through it (according to my first year roommate).

But OK Computer wasn’t necessarily about all of that for me, the glories and the horrors of dealing with clinical depression in college while my family was being eaten alive by my father’s bipolar disorder and subsequent incarceration. It was really about a sonic escape. It was so future-forward and prescient–the same issues and fears about technology that Yorke beautifully sings about are ones we’re currently battling right now. It was also a really good read on what was going on in our society at the time.  It’s funny, too, because the late 90s had all this hope for the future–except Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity”–I’m posting the video here because it was so innovative at the time:

Maybe the Brits knew something that we Yanks didn’t?

From that album on, I was a devoted Radiohead fan. I have seen them twice in concert–once in downtown Chicago and once in Wisconsin. Both times involved me being super hot and possibly dehydrated, being outdoors, with friends, being young. Twenty years later, Radiohead is all married with kids–and I’m in some weird life holding pattern. They were in their mid-20s in the late 90s. I just feel old typing about it.

With it being Cancer season, it’s easy for me to get lost in these large, warm waves of nostalgia, which now push me on the shores of late 2000, after I was out of college because my parents couldn’t pay my tuition and I think my father was in prison at this point.

I was at this church that was probably the closest thing to a real, ideal Christian community of my own imagination–full of art, music, and people on the fringes of society (OK, in retrospect, most of these folks are middle-class white folks, but their aesthetic was mine at the time–wearing thrift store clothing and retro sneakers, listening to 7″ vinyl aka hipsterish).

And there was a boy, a guitarist and photographer, J–either a Virgo or a Libra, and I can’t remember because we didn’t stay together long enough for us for me to remember his birthday. He was a couple of years older than me, this tall, slim kid from outside of Detroit. Just like the church, he was the closest thing to the real, ideal man of my own imagination. Even though there are so many details that I can’t remember as to why I felt like he was a paragon partner, but there was telepathy, there was real feeling, there was real love, however brief and intense, and there was Radiohead.

This guy was proto-hipster, listening to so much vinyl, listening to stuff from the 70s, and he felt our musical tastes only connected on major streets, like Milwaukee and North Ave and Damen. I still liked Creed at the time, unabashedly.

We had our favorite OK Computer songs, “Let Down” (mine) and “No Surprises” (his). He dubbed so many albums for me on cassette with his almost graffiti tag-like handwriting, including a mixtape that was definitely devoted to me. I still have it somewhere…It’s how I got into Slowdive.

One evening, he came over to my apartment and we were watching the documentary based on the tour for OK Computer, Meeting People Is Easy. We sat next to each other on the couch, and I was trying to watch the TV. I don’t know how far into the documentary we got–not very, maybe like 30 minutes in, but eventually he was staring at me with his wide blue eyes, eyes that seemed to take so much of the world in…

He said something like, “I’m a little too distracted to watch this.”  If he is a Libra, then he said it that seductive, Libra way that makes it hard to resist, that made it all about me.

Incredibly flattered (shit, I’m still flattered that I can be a distraction), I gave him a sidelong look back with a smile and walked him back to my bedroom.

My memory gets hazy here, because this may have been the night he told me he loved me. Let’s pretend it is, because he wasn’t over much. I came to his place more often.

I had leftover Christmas lights from college, multi-colored ones. Those were the only ones on, and they were strewn on my desk. It left my small bedroom with a full-sized bed–my first real mattress that I had bought months earlier–awash in a warm, pinked light. We were lying on my bed and I don’t remember how love came up.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you wholly,” I replied (yes, I was trying to one-up him, or at least be like–yeah yeah, I believe this, for real).

It had only been a week together, and then three weeks later, we broke up, on that same bed. He told me that being with me was like being on drugs. Again, I am flattered, but this is part of the reason we broke up. He didn’t think we didn’t had enough in common.

His BFF actually called me later to tell me that he thinks he was scared. I think he also wanted to affirmed that whatever had happened was real. that we weren’t on drugs. There were so many people rooting for us…

I tried to get him back once, in a letter where I only remember typing “Perfect love casts out fear.” He responded that he was “cold and locked up inside.” I wrote my first real poem after that.

“…and I am locked up right there with him…”

Shortly after our breakup, but before 9/11, weary of living in the land of  Pres. W., he left for Brazil to probably be a permanent ex-pat. A friend of mine, half-jokingly, said that he probably left the country because of me. We only got back in touch one or two other times via email some time later.

Maybe now we could be friends, but I can only imagine, after how many hims and mes that we’ve become and thrown away–would we even recognize who we are now?

I am fine to leave us in my bedroom in Logan Square, swimming in pink light and tipsy on new love: frozen in time, as first love should be.

Maybe back then, I would have used the lyrics from the last song of OK Computer, “The Tourist” when we said those defining words to each other:

Hey man, slow down, slow down
Idiot, slow down, slow down

He did try to pump the brakes, because our short love affair was two parts–two weeks of passion and two weeks of silence. But we were already lost…

Because of the rapid speed, it was a love I questioned, out loud, to an older friend, who said–hey, if you’re feeling it, then it’s real.

Either way, there are no regrets. If love is there, you take it–especially when you’re feeling so out of orbit, so out of sync. For a brief but memorable moment, he was the square hole to my square peg. And from the day I met him until the day I die, that will always mean something, because life can be so hard and lonely. For all of that, I will always be grateful: for the respite, for the adoration, for the passion, and for the music.

OK Computer definitely punctuated a large chunk of my forays into adulthood, and in love. I know it was a defining album for a band who so wanted to get away from the song, “Creep” from their first album, Pablo Honey. Radiohead allowed me to be not only oh-so-cool and in love, but also curious and a little afraid of what’s happening to humanity. For all of that, I will always be grateful.