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In less than a week I’m hitting the road and making a new start. Feeling sufficiently clean if not always serene, I know the time has come to make a change. For the past three years, I’ve been living in a rural mountain town, about an inch from “off the grid.” It’s been safe, healing and one hell of a detox. Now it’s time for me to get out and return to a fully formed life.
I’m hardly the first person to emerge from the bottom of a deep pool with the jarring realization that my world needs to be put back in order. It’s been a process to recalibrate, reimagine my future and set a new course. On a good day, I feel like Jay Z brushing the dirt (and the past) off my shoulders. I wish I could say I’ve been this brave and bold since the crash of my old life. That would be a lie. Innumerable nights found me curled in a tight ball rendered immobile by regret. Eventually, we’re required to move on from the past, if we ever want the future to be different.
The business I was in burned to the ground. To say I had too much invested in being that person in that business is an understatement. I was a textbook workaholic, burning the candle at both ends as not to see the gaping hole in my own middle. I consulted for several years after my corporate job was eliminated. That work got more and more unreliable, until finally I was forced to accept that I needed to make a new plan. That sounds rational and realistic. Why then did I feel like the world was ending? Without my old identity, I was adrift. When the constant rev and whir of being busy ends abruptly, something interesting happens. You get to see who you really are. You get to see the psychic building blocks that are your drivers. One day, I’ll look back and see it as a privilege. In the middle of figuring it all out, it just feels like an unmanageable mess.
I’ve pushed the reset button before. On paper it looks exciting, even seductive. During a 3am panic attack it seems impossible. You see, I am making this journey with a suitcase and my dog. My partner of 10 years and most of my earthly belongings are staying on the mountain. I need to travel light. This might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. For every moment of excitement at the prospect of making a better living, and seeing more than five people on a daily basis, there is a wall of terror that threatens my sanity.
During my rural exile I often felt like fear’s unhappy hostage. I know the only way out is to walk through, and one shaky step at a time, I’m moving towards a new chapter. Change is a messy matter, and explaining it to friends and family has put me on the defensive more than once. When I told my father what’s going on he became enraged at my partner for not earning enough to support both of us in style. I gently explained that women like myself find meaning and value in their careers. Then my dear dad warned me that I would surely lose my man by leaving him to fend for himself. If it weren’t so close to Father’s birthday, I would have let the fur fly over that one. I closed the conversation by telling him I loved him, and to trust that I know what I’m doing. He countered with the taunt: “You know you’re never going back there.” Wisdom to accept the things I can’t change? Arrrgh.