Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Turning My Hay Into Gold Thread

In four days I start my new job, the big snazzy one with a cubicle literally 4 times as large as the one I sit in now along with actual barriers between me and the world, barriers taller than even the above average man, barriers that reach just shy of the ceiling. I will have a new, flat screen computer with top of the line software and hardware. I will work on projects that influence the company culture, generate new business and streamline existing processes. It seems daunting when I truly sit down and think about it—but deep down I know it will be okay. I can learn relatively anything, relatively fast. They liked me enough to hire me above all other applicants and I have to trust their judgment.

Here’s where the problem fits in:
There is no plan involved. I get a better job with better pay BUT THERE IS NO PLAN. I don’t have a track outlined in my head about where I want to go next, what job I want next, what office I want next. When I planned on going to radiology school there was a definite, outlined and subcategorized PLAN. I would attend school- check. Find a job with the traveling health services- check. Spend 6 months in each place before leaving for a new locale- check. Two years later determine a location I’d like to stay in- check. Buy a home- check.

I think what frustrates me more than anything about my current situation is the lack of change. I spent an hour on craigslist today looking at apartments in Amsterdam, thinking how desperately I want to pack up and leave, clean out my savings and spend three months in a run-down studio apartment, eating ramen noodles and making friends. THAT is what makes my heart go a-flutter. How do I get there? I could teach English as a second language, maybe…. if you forget about my heaping pile of credit card debt I’m required to pay each month along with the 17-grand I still owe on the Honda. How do I do it? Am I transferring some genetic need for companionship into the need to pack up and leave? Or am I just predisposed to flightiness, the need for constant change, even though I claim to hate it.

It’s just… today I sat at my desk and thought about the time I spent in the Netherlands and I missed the slice of bread I had for breakfast each morning, nine days straight, slathered in butter and covered in chocolate sprinkles. Like you and I go to McDonalds and expect our packet of grape jelly with our sausage biscuits, the Dutch expect their packets of chocolate sprinkles. And not the generic brown sprinkles found in the U.S.- these are the most delicious chocolate sprinkles ever to be found or tasted. I missed getting on the train in Alcala’ and riding the 30 minutes into Madrid. I missed being able to see the Sacre Coeur from my hostel window. I missed the walk to the university in Spain, the flip flops on my feet sticking to the hot pavement, passing the plaza and the allure of the bakery at the end of row, ordering croissant con queso y jamon, sin jamon por favor. Si’, solo queso because the guy behind the counter could never quite believe I only wanted the ham and cheese sandwich with cheese only, please. The Gap store in Paris I ducked into during a rainstorm, only to be met with the first stacks of clothing above a size 4 I’d been able to find since arriving, speculating that the French kept all their chubby people boarded up in sheds for fear of letting the tourists see the true effects of fresh cheese and gallons of wine. I even missed traveling with Kasi, the undisputed Travel Nazi of the Western Hemisphere.

And I’m sad because I thought I was a grown-up then.
And I’m sad because I thought being grown-up was always going to be like that, traveling with friends and laughing at street vendors and getting stomach cramps on 11-hour flights.
But I’m happy I’ve found a place that lets me pay my bills, live in a nice apartment, visit my friends who insist on living 30 miles away.
And I’m happy I found a venue to vent and write and write and vent.
But I miss parts of that life, when I thought I was a grown-up.


Drunken Chud said...

sigh... i got wanderlust just reading this post. a lust i have been subduing for some time now. congrats on the new job. or is it yob? could be a soft j, i don't know.

Coyote Mike said...

Screw it. You and me, pseudo-sister, are gonna go be ex-pat hippies and take train tours of the world. Amsterdam in the summer, Italy in the winter, a quick stopover in Malaysia.

Pack a backpack, sell the rest on a big ass garage sale. Come on, lets hit it.

janestarr said...

Jesus, I hear you. I am hoping for the new job soon, so I can pay down my ridiculous amount of credit card debt as well and the freakin student loans, which honestly I give up on because they are going to be there for awhile. I desperately want to live in another country, I think that is my next goal besides paying my debts. I want to work and live in another country, haven't figured out just which one, but half a plan is better than none yes?

Chocolate spinkles on bread? Now that is something to remember.

Chris said...

My dream would be to be a tour guide. In the summer be a ride leader on European bike tours and the winter give mtn bike tours and rafting tours in Coasta Rica. I have a son here and not willing to spend time away from him so I have to compromise. Instead I take weekend trips to Devils Den and Mountain View to go biking and float the buffalo and spring rivers. It is not the same as Europe and Central America but it keeps me sane when I walk back into my little brown box on Monday morning.

Hopefully you can find that happy medium as well.

oakland heidi said...

I miss sitting on a deck overlooking the sea drinking a beer and talking for hours to a man from north africa. I didn't know Italian. He didn't know English, but we both could sort of speak spanish. As the sun sunk lower in the sky and the beer bottles lined up we shifted from "I'm from..." and "I am going..." conversations to talk of dreams and wine and things that smell good. That same night I slept with the windows open so that I might hear the waves crash against the rocky shore. I awoke in the middle of the night, my inner clock not yet adjusted, and I saw my very first firefly. Being from California and having only read about them in books, it was magic.

Oh birdie... this isn't what I thought my life would be like either. And I know that if my self then, saw me now, it would yell and scream and stamp its foot and tell me to get on the plane, get on the train, and leave all this stuff that doesn't matter behind. There is another life. I know it. But somehow my credit card debt and car payment have made me forget. We aren't around people doing that other thing, and its been so long since we were doing it that it seems like a distant memory, from another time and place. And maybe it is... but damn it. I don't want it to be, but I also don't know how I could possibly break free and go and live that glorious flip flopped life where new smells and colors and experiences parade across my reality on a dily basis... Its maddening, no?

Practical. A plan. A checklist. A raise. A degree. A mortgage.

Carl from L.A. said...

Having gone through most of the things you mentioned, I could maybe offer my two cents on what ultimately matters:

1. It's good to plan out your next 10 years, but it's better to plan things one step at a time - check your options, and adjust accordingly. Take the new job and the money, but keep your eyes open - maybe the radiology option becomes open again (a different school maybe?), maybe yet another career appears, maybe you meet someone and he'd take care of you for life, or whatever.

2. Keep your debt at a manageable level - not all of us could pay everything off quickly. The key is to pay your bills on time. Pay a little more if you can. Have it taken out of your pay automatically.

3. We are *always* going to look back and say "Yeah..and I thought I knew it all back then." until the day we die.