Sometimes you have to tear the whole thing down.
I try to maintain a positive worldview, but life is not a constant stream of positivity the whole way through, at least that’s never been my experience. There have been peaks and valleys. There have been good times I thought would never end, and there have been rough patches that changed my life, that redefined who I was. Some of these I also though would never end, but they did. Even when it seemed like there was no end in sight, nothing lasts forever. A life well lived includes many highs and lows, and sometimes when the lows accumulate, you find yourself needing to start over. Sometimes you need to hit the reset button.
About two years ago, it was time for another big move. The date was January 8th, 2016, and although I was a little hung over, once I realized what day it was, I sprung into action. I packed up the car I’d rented, said farewell to my roommates and their cat, and headed back to Massachusetts. I was sad to leave New York, but in my mind, it was the only option. I knew I’d come back to visit friends, but I didn’t know if I’d ever want to live there again. My final year of grad school had been amazing, but after graduation, finding work had proved to be a formidable challenge. I was once again unemployed, and I didn’t even have any prospects. Maybe I was being overdramatic, but it felt like the city was rejecting me. At the very least, I was ready for a break.
I’d moved there without a job, so I guess it was fitting that I left there without one. Most people let their work or personal life dictate their locale, but I seemed to pick places and go, forever putting the cart before the horse. Anyone who’s known me for a long time can attest the to fact that I don’t put to much thought into big life decisions, which has oddly enough served me well. I got rejected by four of the six schools I applied to, but my college experience was amazing, and I still have many friends from those crazy four and a half years. I’ve always prided myself on being able to make the best of any situation, but this was one situation I couldn’t seem to figure out. New York had beaten me, and I had no fight left.
As I drove home to Massachusetts, I was in a tough state. I felt run-down, and I knew that my life needed a change. I wasn’t happy, and I knew that the way I was living wasn’t working for me. I also knew that I knew a lot of people back in my home state, and it had been drilled into my head the importance of networking and forging personal connections in order to find a job. The decision wasn’t a difficult one, yet I had some reservations about picking up everything I owned (which wasn’t much) and heading for home.
Rather than living with my stepmother and her husband, who were currently living in Seattle, I’d be moving in with my friend’s family, who still lived in my hometown of Reading. I was nervous about my destination, as I knew that my friends would all be there at the house waiting for me. This shouldn’t have been a cause for alarm, but I was anxious. A friend’s honest question comes back to me years later.
“Do you feel like you failed?”
I did feel like I’d failed. Since undergrad, the rest of my friends had been steadily working and were somewhat to very successful, while I seemed to bounce around from situation from situation, unsure of what I was really moving towards. In my eyes, I was a failure, and I was afraid I’d get made fun of or even criticized for my indecision and inability to find work. I’d left home for the big city, determined to make something of myself, and although I don’t remember my thought process at the time, but I think that once I left, I never actually saw myself returning. After all, New York was a much better city than Boston, and when I first moved there, I felt like I truly belonged. Now, as I drove home in the frigid temperatures of winter, I felt like I was coming back with my tail between my legs. I’d failed my friends and family, but most importantly, I’d failed myself.
I pulled up in front of the house, and walked in through the front door without knocking or ringing. Everyone was there waiting for me, and it ended up being a fun evening with lots of jokes and conversation, and also pizza and beer. There were no jokes or jabs made at my situation, which was greatly appreciated. My anxieties were unfounded, as so many of them are, and when the night ended, my friends helped me move my stuff in from the car. When it was time for everyone to leave, my friend whose house I was now living in gave me a hug, and we both laughed.
“Come by any time,” I said with a smile.
Maybe if you’ve made the right friends, and you’re close enough with them, they can tell how you’re doing, even without it being expressed. We love to give each other a good ribbing, and although they thought my living in the house was curious, they never gave me too much crap about it. Maybe they knew that I wasn’t going through the best time, and they eased off. Maybe they also knew that I was thrilled to live with my friend’s family, and that my friend’s family was equally excited to have me there. I still go back there ever Wednesday to have dinner and hang out. It’s the highlight of my week.
It may seem to move in with a friend’s parents at 28, but I don’t regret a day I spent in that house. I needed to get sober. I wasn’t in danger of becoming a problem drinker, but I needed to live around people who would be supportive of my decision, who would be okay if I made the switch from beer to seltzer, possibly forever. I later found out that so many of my friends would have been okay with my not drinking, but that’s fine. The chance to live with my friend’s family offered me so much more than just a safe place to stop drinking.
That house offered me the supportive environment I needed. Emotionally, I was spent. New York City is a great place to live, but I was missing that feeling of personal connection in my life. I’d known this family for a long time, but never in this capacity. I got to know them, really know them, and they got to really know me. The disagreements were minimal, and the coffee was always brewing in the morning. We respected each other, and when I moved out nine months later, I had a newfound respect and admiration for that family. I appreciated their support, and the fact that they let me into their home with no questions asked.
Within a month of moving home, I was employed. The position wasn’t the best, but I was working for an organization I’d always wanted to work for. I was helping out a community that I felt very personally connected to, and that’s something I’ll never regret. That job got me out of my shell and talking to people, helping me to rebuild my shattered confidence.
I moved into that house and rebuilt myself the way I wanted to, ready to be a new person going forward for the rest of my life. I’m so appreciative that I was offered the opportunity to start over, as I realize that most people won’t get an opportunity like that in life. I’d never be as happy as I am today if I didn’t get to take some time off to figure things out.
At my age, my Dad had found his profession and his woman. It might take me a lot longer to accomplish either of those things, if I ever do, and I’m perfectly okay with that. I’m happy that I’ve had the time to rebuild myself, and to heal from the damage of a lot of early loss. I don’t know if you ever fully heal, but I think that with a little help and a lot of therapy, you can be a very functional human being. Sometimes you have to start from the ground level, and the work can be hard, but you’ll never regret the time you take to work on yourself. Never be too proud to start over. Thanks for reading.