Getting Back to Being Me

I call this photo “Agave Gone Wild!”

“Being me.” That’s a phrase I have been struggling to figure out since I moved away from the east coast. Away from my family. Away from my adopted MA family, and my best friend who I think of as the younger sister I never had. Away from the familiar. Away from the comfortable job that paid me oh, so well. (And looking back, wow, it really, really did, I just didn’t feel like it did for the longest time, until I realized how I was wasting so much money on every day things.)  Now that I survive on so much less, it blows my mind to think about that paycheck. (Of course, I was paying a lot more on my student loans at the time.)

So when I think about what does it mean to be me, I sometimes think of what that meant in the past. And what it means now.

Pretty amazing how close the butterflies would let you get to take a photo!

What it used to mean – 

Pre-divorce – living the conventional “good” life:  the marriage, two cars, a house, and pets.

After-divorce, still in Boston: Reminding myself that yes, I was still a desirable woman who wouldn’t be alone for the entire rest of her life. Realizing that it’s ok to be on my own, and yes, I can make it on my own. Realizing that yes, I could re-create a life for myself, and to know that it is more important to me to have a few very, very good friends than a huge gaggle or group. Working out and running a lot, finding  my own community in the exercise world.

What it means now

Now, in the southwest. I’m still figuring this one out, having changed jobs twice in six months. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I have a credit card balance again. Changing jobs from one low paying job to a better paying job (but still way less than half of what I used to make in Boston) and paying $800 in rent to be back in an apartment has taken its toll on my finances. I’ve also spent at least $750 on vet bills in the last month or so. Not that I regret any of those dollars being spent on Bonkers, I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but it does take its toll when you are trying to dig out of a hole.

Check out the legs – I learned that butterflies taste things through their feet!

So, in terms of finances, I feel like I have taken steps backward. Right now, I am hoping for as much overtime as possible this summer so I can pay off the credit card and start making inroads into my car loan, which sits just below $7K right now. And I’m not sure if my job will be permanent through the full year, now that I won’t be the supervisor for the full time I am there. I’m worried about not having enough in savings to make it through a winter if I am not still working at the resort all year long. My credit card balances are split between one card (where the brunt of it is) that has 0% interest for 21 months, and another small balance on a card that is earning interest on anything unpaid. Needless to say that is where my focus is and I want to get it paid off within the next month to six weeks. The overtime will go straight to that one, so that I can then cancel out the card.

So, as before, money (or what I perceive as a lack thereof) takes its hold on me. I feel this need to build up the emergency savings again. I’m down to about 1K, which is less than I have had now in the past few years. But then, of course,  I used to make a lot more, so I try to remind myself to take that into account.

I love how the agave is growing out of the mass of flowers! This was near the herb garden at the botanical garden in Phoenix.

I’m torn between loving the beauty of the area where I am, and wanting more social interaction, or wondering if maybe I just need to find a new hobby. I spend my working hours around lots of people, but when not at work, I spend most of that time on my own or with the furry ones. I sometimes crave conversation with someone other than my co-workers, or the furballs. Back when I was in Boston, I could have called up my best friend and asked if she wanted to get together. These days, I don’t have that option. We can talk on the phone, and that is certainly awesome, but I can’t see her or my loved ones in person. It’s days like these where I wonder if I should move back toward the east coast. I could be on the same time zone as them again. But to do that, it kind of feels like I am giving up, and way too soon, on this adventure in life I’m on now. I know it’s not time.

Consequently, when I think like that, I wonder if it’s also the “physical closeness” of communities on the east coast that I am missing. By “physical closeness” I mean the fact that on the east coast, you don’t have to drive for 75 miles to get from one community to another. And it’s normal to have a store like a CVS or Walgreen’s as a pharmacy, rather than having to go to a grocery store like a Walmart. So, is it just a bigger city that I want, I wonder? 

Or is it a sense of community that I miss? Is that it? Back in Boston, I had my “library” community, and my “gym” community, and my “friend” community, not to mention my family (my brother and sister in law) and my younger brother just a quick trip away (he lives  in NYC and used to come up for visits a fair amount.)

If you’ve ever been single and moved to a new place while single, you know what it’s like. It’s different when you are part of a couple. You always have that built-in support if you are part of a duo. As a single, you don’t have that. You have to really put yourself out there to meet people. I’ve started to volunteer at the animal shelter but that’s not a huge place like the Animal Rescue League was in Boston, where there were tons of people coming in every weekend to volunteer and adopt animals. The times I’ve been there, it’s just been the animals and two volunteers or so. But I’ve enjoyed my walks with the very energetic doggies I’ve accompanied and who were clearly happy to have someone paying attention to them.

I was just in Phoenix last night for a wedding and went to the Desert Botanical Garden and the Butterfly Wonderland earlier today. (I will write up separate posts about them so I can really share a lot of the pictures.) There were lots of people working there and volunteering. Living in a much more remote area, we don’t have those types of places to go to, or volunteer. I was talking to folks at the wedding last night about the differences between living in a city like Boston vs. where I am now, and I said “you know, it’s not like I went to museums all the time when I was there, either, but I always knew I could if I wanted to. That was the difference.”  The thought of this got me to thinking. Is the grass always greener on the other side? Will I always want something I don’t have? Or is it just the conveniences of having many choices that I miss sometimes?

However, driving to these places today, I spent time on the freeways of Phoenix as well as the crowded city streets, and then I realized there is definitely one thing I don’t miss about living in a city and that is, wait for it… traffic. And then I drove out of the city and into the country and once again saw the wide open expanses that I am now so used to. I remembered a statement from a friend at the wedding who has lived out in the southwest now for many years – she said that when she travels back to upstate NY or the east coast, she feels claustrophobic. Everything is so close together, she said, and it feels like she can’t breathe. I haven’t been back east yet to test this theory, but we shall see if the same applies to me. With my finances, it doesn’t look like that will happen until next year when my brother is getting married in Naples, Florida!

The difference in colors (and in some butterflies, translucence or lack of color) is so striking. This doesn’t do this butterfly justice.

This has been a long, rambling post, for which I apologize. But it’s helpful to get my thoughts on “paper” and I am liking writing more again. It’s part of the process of once again, getting back to Being Me.

As always, thank you for reading and commenting. I really do enjoy comments and responding back to them, so thank you.


6 thoughts on “Getting Back to Being Me

  • Thanks for sharing the latest chapter on your journey, Terri. I know I’m not the only one who is grateful for your blog and the inspiration it provides.

  • As you know, I have lived/moved all over the country (San Francisco, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Boston) and done most of it as a single woman. Sometimes a single woman with two kids in tow. And, you’re right, you don’t have the built-in support system like you might in a couple, but sometimes you don’t have that anyway. And, sometimes, even being part of a supportive couple doesn’t make it any easier because you still have to make your own friends, learn your own job, find your favorite way to workout in your new surroundings, find your favorite radio station, find your favorite places – the ones that speak to your heart. You still have to find the things that make you “you”.

    It takes time to grow your new life the way you want it. In my experience, it takes me about three years before I really start feeling comfortable in my new surroundings – for it really to feel like MY life. There are so many little details that make up our lives it just takes time for it all to fall into place. The faster I embrace the fact that I am a newbie at my own life, the faster I can get on with it.

    I read this yesterday about someone who had just had some major changes in her life and someone asked her if she felt “back to being herself again”. I love her answer,

    “I’ve been really focused on not being ‘back’ to anything, but being the best version of myself right now,” When someone told her it looked like she was “back” she said, “She meant it as a total compliment, but we had this great conversation where I was like, ‘You know what? I try really hard not to use that language, because it’s not about going backward in life.’”

    It is indeed, about being the best version of yourself today. Letting go of the thought that who you are right now should somehow align with or surpass who you think you were in the past.

    I struggle with it too, though. I have zero real, true girlfriends here in Boston – they are all located in places I have lived before – for much longer periods of time. I was not part of a couple then and had more time to devote to making/keeping friends.

    I haven’t gotten into a REAL workout grove since I have been here because I don’t have stadium stairs to run and that’s what I really love and where I really see results. So, I am finding new ways to have fun and workout. Ways that are available to me here. Instead of pining for what used to be.

    In three years, I still haven’t gotten a car and been able to explore New England the way I always do when I move to a new place, so I am finding other ways to explore.

    But… I am learning to let go of the thought that I can only do what I use to do and the things that always worked for me “before” so I can experience new things and find new ways to make myself happy and healthy. In the here and the now.

    Be who you are today. Incorporate what you want from the past if it still works for you – if not, find what works today.

    You totally got this.

    • Gail, you have no idea how much your thoughts have helped me right now. I have been wondering about running and whether it will continue to work for me like it used to, when I don’t have that many flat routes to run on, and there aren’t a lot of places with shade to run under, etc. I’ve been thinking of doing other things, like doing more hiking or backpacking, and learning how to do more long range hikes on my own, or with a hiking group if I could find one. And believe it or not, but as I was driving today, back from Sedona, I was thinking of doing yoga on my own, or meditation. Definitely doing more writing. And coloring. But for working out, maybe more hiking rather than running.

      I like the idea of not “going back” and “becoming” instead. Maybe that’s what was going through my mind today as I was trying to figure things out – what is the new “me?” And I like what you said about getting comfortable with the new “you” and making peace with it. I think that is what I need to do. Make peace with it.

      You have said so many helpful things to me in your comment, thank you so much, Gail. You’ve given me a lot to think about.

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