Thursday, July 21, 2011

Identity Crisis

Sometimes, I think I have a very clear understanding about who it is I am and how I want the rest of my life to look.  I've always admired women who are career-driven and conventionally successful.  I'm a high- achiever and I'm just about to finish business school.  When somebody asks me what I want in life, it usually involves a story about a high-rise condo in the city (OK, maybe a townhouse so I can have a backyard for the 2.5 kids), expensive suits, pearls and high heels.  I'd love a nice new shiny car and gorgeous designer furniture that I picked out on a lazy Sunday afternoon with my super handsome husband.  This is the life I've dreamed about since I was a little girl.  Forget the wedding, I wanted the career. 

Now why is it, that two weeks away from finally finishing my MBA and being that much closer to the life I've always imagined, am I having second thoughts?  Instead of fantasizing about watching college football in a hoodie in the rain and finally getting that killer capital markets job, I'm daydreaming about owning my own flower shop in Austin. 

If it weren't for the student loans, part of me thinks I could give it all up to own my own business in a place much sleepier than Chicago, like Columbus or Portland or San Diego.  I'd ride my powder pink bike to work with my satchel in the basket on the front.  I'd wear floral dresses and linen pants and drink coffee with the locals.  And on the weekends I'd take daytrips in my Volvo to play with all my newly acquired used cameras and re-finish found mid century modern furniture in my spare time. 

Why do so many of us have such disparate versions of ourselves sometimes? Like had I woke up on the other side of the bed one morning, it would have all been so drastically different.  I even had a adjunct finance professor who used to be a investment banker in New York and gave it all up to ski in Colorado and then own her own doggy daycare.  Perhaps it's just the left-side vs. right-side of the brain stuff.  Or the social confines which we found ourselves influenced and encapuslated by for almost thirty years.  Maybe it's because the "shoulds" outweigh the "coulds" or that the older we get the better we get at figuring out who we are, what we're good at and what makes sense.

My brothers and I have talked a lot about me moving to Detroit so that we can all work together.  We've talked about that since before my youngest brother was born and I have no doubt that one day it will happen.  But I keep hanging on to this idea of being the big city girl and living the kind of life I've worked so hard to get to the last two or so years.  But moving back to Michigan does mean that I could refinish furniture in my spare time, be a better blogger and devote more time to my photography.  I could garden with my mother and make things with my hands instead of spending more than half my waking hours in an air conditioned hise-rise in uncomfortable shoes. 

But perhaps I'm being a little dramatic.  I feel like my current situation is cutting off all my circulation and all the blood going to my head so I'm losing it a little bit.  Since when do I even know how to garden? Or arrange flowers? Or go shopping at estate sales?

Maybe it's that I've had to be on auto-pilot for so long and all this business school stuff has clogged the creative juice process.  I don't know.  But what I do know is that there must be some way to find more of a balance.  And starting in two weeks, it is my mission to do just that.  Part of me thinks that I wasn't meant to find my new job before graduation; that I need the down time to regroup and enjoy the last of the SoCal summer.  So that's what I'm going to do.  Plug away for these last two weeks and after that, just try (oh, and it will be difficult) to go with the flow. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summa Summa Summa Time

In Los Angeles, we have a late summer.  Growing up in Michigan, warmer weather starts in May and Memorial Day is treated as the official start of summer.  Here, we have to wait until the 4th of July (June gloom is miserable and absolutely accurate).  Seeing as we're less than a week out from my favorite holiday, the weather has finally started to cooperate and I got to spend an amazingly beautiful summer day on the ocean yesterday with some of my favorite people (well, not on the ocean, but a few yards away). 

I love summer.  I especially love what summer means: long days, sunburns, drinking with friends, the smell of dirt, sand and sweat.  Grilling, impromptu parties, ice cream, naps, pools, hikes and boats.  Everyone's generally in a better mood, spirits are high and worries are put away (at least temporarily). 

This weekend, I spent a lot of time in the apartment baking, cleaning and reading. Laying in the sun like a dog, trying to soak in the rays from inside my apartment.  I put off researching to catch up on some Real Housewives episodes and I filled the fridge with summer salad. 

Now the problem is that I still have five weeks of school left.  I have three major papers, two finals, a strategy simulation and two presentations before I can really let my hair down and breath.  One of my quests in life is trying to find balance.  Obviously I can't blow off the rest of the semester and play, but I also can't let what may well be my last summer in LA pass me by while I play hermit and ignore what's going on outside. 

What I'm saying is that I want to live my best life.  And that includes doing absolutely everything right now; a mighty tall order.  What I really want is someone at the end of the day, to promise me that it will all work out the way it's meant to.  That I won't push the panic buttom too many times in the next five weeks and that I'll get to play and work all in good time. But I guess I'll have to settle for having some incredible opportunities to savor time with friends, learn about myself and face this portion of the challenge head on.  After all, I've got a pretty great support system and failure just isn't an option. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Seven Weeks

As a certain someone would say, "I've had relationships shorter than that".  But that's just the amount of time I have until I'll be done!  It feels like just yesterday I woke up, decided to apply to business school and made a decision that would change the direction of my life forever.  I will have a very fancy, very impressive master's degree in less than two months and I can hardly wrap my head around exactly what that means.

And that's partly because I don't exactly know what that means.  I know it means a new job (sometime this fall at the very least), most likely a new city (here I come Chicago!) and probably missing my friends something painfully fierce. 

In the meantime, I've dyed my hair blond and put a gold ring in my nose because I can't really figure out another way of dealing with it.  After all, I'm working a full time job, taking a full load of classes (plus an extra credit for graduation), applying for jobs in a city nearly two thousand miles away, saying good bye to my best friend who is moving away with her boyfriend, trying to enjoy the last few weeks I have left with my friends, wishing the weather were nicer so I could finally get some Vitamin D, and trying hard not to let my heart break too badly. 

Needless to say, I've had moments of complete panic and debilitating anxiety in the last week.  I was doing so well for a while, not letting everything get to me. I was keeping up with my life coaching, not crying, basically keeping my shit together for the first half of the semester.  But the light at the end of the tunnel is getting almost too bright now.  I don't' know what to do. 

I'm scared, excited, thrilled, nervous and sad all at the same time.  I'm also insanely proud that I've been able to do this.  And with some pretty amazing success at that.  I've made a few friends, done well in my classes, got some amazing job interviews, made connections and had my fair share of ups and downs.  I've learned a ton about myself, about my life and about the world. 

So I'm trying to take this one day at a time.  Less than fifty days left of this madness that I love and hate at the same time.  I'm trying to enjoy the present.  The precious seven weeks I have left on this magical rollercoaster. That's what life is, right? This.  Right now.  Today.  These next seven weeks will be awesome, exhausting, amazing, terrifying and at the very least memorable.  So instead of trying to control it and figure it out, I'm going to try to embrace it.  In all its messy glory. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Cry When I Travel

It started the first Christmas I lived in LA.  It was my first trip back to Detroit after moving to the west coast and I was a babbling mess.  My cheeks were tear-stained, my eyes puffy, my bags packed full of the presents I bought with my first big-girl bonus.  I tucked my iPod into the pocket of my fleece, got on the red-eye and hunkered down, attempting to catch a few hours (minutes?) of sleep. 

That Christmas I cried a lot.  I was thousands of miles away from my family for the first time, permanently.  Voluntarily.  Indefinitely.  Purposefully.  I knew exactly what that meant when I moved out here, but Christmas is always difficult for me.  The emotion was too much. 

Just about two years later, I took a trip to Chicago.  And I cried all the way home.  I again put on my earphones and layed my head against the window as tears streamed down my face.  I cried because my heart was breaking.  I had fallenn in love with a city and a way of life and new found confidence and I knew then that I needed to find a way to get back to that.  That place I'm looking to go back to now.

For some reason, traveling is emotional.  A long car trip to Vegas last year gave me space to think about some really important things that I eventually made happen.  I cry on long flights and get all riled up on train rides.  I even cried on the car ride from Detroit to Chicago two years ago because of all the memories of the life that I used to live and the dreams I used to have that eventually had to change. 

And my latest trip to Detroit and Chicago was no different.  If everything works out according to "plan", this will have been my last flight from Detroit to LA as a Cali girl.  The next time I get on that plane I'll have an MBA after my name, a new job, a new address

So I cried because I'm scared and lonely.  Because I'm afraid that my plans will actually work out.  And that they might not. I cried because I'm already nostalgic.  Because my heart breaks every time I even think about leaving my life and my friends here.  My love. 

But tears are OK.  I think they're good even.  I come from a long line of weapers, and it's a way of knowing that we're feeling.  And I feel intensely.  Sometimes I regreat that I'm so sensetive, but mostly I'm grateful.  Grateful that I have things to cry about. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Falling Down the Rabbit Hole (and Other Tales of Easter)

I have an amazing ability to make myself crazy; it's part of my charm.  From silently crying just minutes before I have to give a presentation (it was an easy assignment and I've given dozens of presentations in my life; it definitely wasn't stage fright that was getting the best of me) to full on breakdowns, I let stress and anxiety get a hold of me when I'm at my breaking point. 

Most of the time, I'm a pretty tough cookie.  Classes, studying, a full-time job, a social life and general "life" expectations are dealt with on a regular basis.  Over the years I have developed tools to help me deal with whatever is making me anxious (anxiety is clearly my go-to emotion). These days those include hot baths, a brainless movie, yoga, a scented candle or a run.  But sometimes, none of that will do. Hence, a few weeks ago I reached a breaking point and fell down that rabbit hole pretty far.  As a kid, my parents called them temper tantrums.  As an adult, it honestly feels the exact same way.  Something small (usually disappointment in some way) sets off a series of painful memories/emotions including anger, frustration and all-out pain and hurt.  I cry until I have no more tears left and my eyes are irreparably puffy.  And then I go to bed. And I move on.  Part of me thinks that the whole process is healthy and cathartic.  Emotions are natural and need to be expressed; even the unpleasant ones.  The problem is that is brings up some pretty hairy stuff that I just don't have to deal with on a normal basis.  The good thing is that these "fits" are often an impetus for healthy change. 

I haven't been blogging lately because I've been in a rut.   I've been uncomfortable, anxious, tired, and on-the-go.  My brain has been going a million miles an hour and I've been putting myself out there and making things happen.  I had finals, meetings, birthdays and social obligations.  No time to think.  No time to write. 

But I'm pretty sure I've made the decision that's been haunting me the last year; I'm interviewing in Chicago the end of this month.  I haven't even looked at jobs in LA in months and I've reached out to all of my contacts in order to gain some headway in the job search in the Windy City. 

The one caveat to this is that my heart is still breaking.  Daily.  I have fallen in love with so many things in LA and to leave them will be a pain like I've never experienced before.  I moved from Kalamazoo to Columbus to LA in less than a year, so I'm pretty familiar with this gig.  But, this time it's completely different.  I've grown up here.  LA will always be a part of me.  Just like a relationship, getting over it will come with time.  But I feel like I've got a little (or actually, quite large) clock ticking on my time here.  And that's quite a conundrum. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Cold Dark Heart

I like my coffee cold.  Like, extra cold.  Filled to the brim with ice cubes and maybe a Splenda or two.  I always tease that I like my coffee like my heart: cold and dark. 

But, as we all know, I have a pretty big heart.  I try not to listen to it too often (right now it's screaming at me and I'm trying to decipher its immature babbling), but it's definitely not cold or dark.  Perhaps a little broken and neglected, but it makes its presence known on occasion. From that place comes my love for my friends and family and my need to take care of everyone around me. 

Now I sound like the immature babbling idiot because I just got back from a fantastic trip to Chicago for a little St Patty's Day done right.  And by right I mean filled with friends, family, boys and copious amounts of green beer.  It was a magical and relaxing weekend; just what the doctor ordered after the last two months that have aged me two years.

Every time I get on that plane at O'Hare on my way back to LAX, I get weepy.  I love my life in LA for a few specific reasons.  And this place has, while occasionally making me utterly miserable, had a hold on my heart for the better part of a decade.  Its magical weather, inspiring views and my crazy wonderful friends have made this home for me.

But I'm at a place where I must let go of a few things.  Dreams, visions of my life, hang-ups and relationships.  I'm growing up and getting rid of childish notions is key every once in a while.  If you had told me five years ago that this is where I would be today, I would have laughed.  And perhaps cried.  But reality has a way of creeping up on us sometimes. 

And that means moving closer to my family.  Getting back to a place that makes sense.  Where the food is good, the alcohol is flowing and I can get a good job.  But it also means moving away from my life here - everything I've created over the last six years.  All the things I've learned about myself and everyone I've grown to love. 

So my heart is breaking a little because letting go is never easy.  But deep down (deep, deep down), I truly believe two things.  The first is that everything happens for a reason.  And the second is that God may close doors, but always opens other windows.  I know that whatever my decision may be, everything will work out.  It might be scary now, but it will eventually be better than ever. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Networking Is Hard

Or rather, it's hard for me.  I'm an introvert.  (What's that snickering I hear??? Yes, an introvert.  I'm most comfortable by myself or with a small group of people.  It takes me a while to open up. I promise.)  And introverts aren't drawn to careers that require networking.  But in this day in age, just GETTING a job requires a significant amount of networking.  It's not all about what you know, but about who you know.  Especially in commercial real estate.

One of the huge advantages of continuing to work while getting my MBA is that I have been able to make connections and learn about the industry I'm passionate about.  From the brokers that I work with and the people I've been introduced to, I should know where to go to look for a job by now.  I've been preparing for this for the last eighteen months. 

But when push comes to shove, and I'm a mere five months away from graduating with my fancy degree and needing an even fancier job, I'm having a hard time calling on those connections.  That requires emails, asking for things, putting myself out there and having difficult (and possibly akward) conversations about my least favorite topic of discussion - ME. 

But somehow, I have to make it happen.  I can't waste this moment because it will never come around again.  I've wasted enough time getting here, and I have the perfect opportunity to really propel my career forward.  I'm in the driver's seat because I have a job and a whole slew of people cheering me on.  So despite my hesitations and fears, I'm writing those emails.  I'm making time to talk to new connections and giving my resume to anyone who will take it. 

And this isn't just a business school lesson, it's a life lesson.  Hopefully I can translate all this hard work (in school, at work, with friends) into a really great opportunity.  My issue is really the name.  Networking has a negative connotation in that it infers (at least in my mind) someone using another.  Everytime I think of the word, I picture a bunch of corporate stiffs in awful cheap suits, swilling happy hour wine and scarfing cheap appetizers on little napkins.  When that's not what it's about at all.  It's truly about relationships.  Making friends.  And I seem to that easily enough.   I can definitely drink happy hour cocktails with the best of them.  Maybe this isn't so hard after all.