There is a Fifth Harmony dimension beyond that which is known to Superwoman. It is a dimension as vast as Space X and as timeless as To Infinity and Beyond. It is the Malcolm in the Middle ground between light and shadow, between Popular Science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of Superwoman‘s fears and the G2 Summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of “In a World of Pure Imagination.” It is an Area 51 which we call the Twilight Zone Hosted by Jordan Peele.
Hey, y’all; it’s been a while. I can’t honestly say it’s been on my mind to write here—or anywhere, for that matter. The older I get—the more “responsibility” I tell myself I gain—the less I make time for myself in spaces such as these. Which is an absolute, no-questions-asked shame. Writing has always brought me pleasure and offered me a space for freedom of thought. It’s been a safe haven for me in times of distress and pain. But it shouldn’t be an outlet solely in times of pain, though I do lean on it heavily in those moments. The thing about writing is that it’s there for you always, unconditionally, no matter when, why, or in what circumstance you need it.
Since I last wrote, I was recently engaged. (And I still am! Yay marriage!) Brian and I finally locked down a wedding date and venue for next year, and I’m so happy to say it’ll be at my favorite place on Earth in the beautiful state that B and I call home. I also joined an intramural soccer team, though I couldn’t keep up my fitness those few months for shit. But #progress. And then a retraction of #progress. Since my last post in August, it honestly feels like these last 9 months have been a candle in the wind. Like I’ve been so ingrained in myself and my shiny new job, which I started in late September of last year, that I haven’t bothered to lift up my head and pay attention to the world around me. I justify it by patting myself on the back for listening to my fav news podcast most mornings on my God-awful commute, and by spending a decent amount of time with my parents just down the road. But when I look at and reflect upon this chunk of time in my life, I don’t feel settled.
Jesus, this post is a drag. Lemme try to add some color.
I think I’ve always been “healthily unsatisfied.” Older folks may call this a millennial-ism, but I don’t. I was talking to my best about it this past weekend; it was an amazing phone convo where we dug into our fear of our, well, losing our fear of the unknown—if that makes sense. I told her that, lately, I’m scared that I’ve stopped pushing myself to do more for me. That I, in my biggest nightmare ever, don’t have anything left to say and just go on, day to day, without much thought. Sure, there’s absolutely a physical limit to this, and I need to (and do!) love and appreciate myself and my body. But in my heart I know, for me, it’s more mind than matter. I know I still have that fire, I’ve just got to find the lighter I misplaced. Writing down this commitment to myself will be the first concrete thing I’ve done since September to act upon it. Thank you for being here with me for it.
In other news, it’s hot as hell in North Carolina. But we’re getting by.
Hey, y’all, I have news…
This weekend, at my favorite place in the world, Brian popped the question. AHHHHH!
I never understood why, on Facebook, people would post about their engagements with such trivial things things like, “Words can’t describe…” and, “So excited for this next chapter…” But I sorta get it now. Words really can’t describe what it feels like when he gets down on one knee. And engagement certainly is a new chapter—just two days in, things already feel different. But in the best way.
So send me your advice (and your wedding tips)! This girl’s on a budget and will be reading A LOT of blogs about how to have an affordable, but fun, wedding. Cheers!
About a month ago, suddenly and surprisingly, the firm I was working for was not able to renew my permalance contract for reasons unknown. Consider my tongue held.
But what’s next? Why has this question been so hard to work out? Am I rushing to try to figure it all out too quickly?
Things I think about:
- Budget. How much money will I need as a freelancer to pay my bills and maintain my lifestyle? (Zoey!)
- Health insurance. Since my health insurance ended on the last day of my contract, I’ve got to be a big girl and buy it on my own. Right?
- Travel. I’m going to take some time to think this summer (while still freelancing, ’cause a girl’s gotta eat). But how long can I afford to do this? Can I swallow that West Coast plane ticket cost to see my favorite Brit who I begrudgingly forgive for choosing the other side of the country for a long-overdue visit to the States?
- Family. Especially during hard times, family is the most important. Visiting family now is more important than ever.
It’s strange—I have no PTO to keep track of, no full-time employer to report to. So why am I sitting here wishing I had PTO to keep track of, and a full-time employer to report to?
It’s hard to separate truly living from how to pay for it. And here we are again talking about plane tickets and budgets and my bank account.
I’m calling month two of funemployment “the makeup.” Because month two, for me, is getting up and putting on a little makeup. It’s brushing myself off and making up with myself for all the mistakes and fear. It’s moving on and figuring shit out. And it feels pretty good so far!
The Carolinas have always been home. But home means different things to different people. Is home a place? The family you surround yourself with? Is it more of a feeling than a physical structure?
For me, home wasn’t just the house I grew up in. It was one- or two-week vacations at Sunset Beach. It was Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Betsy’s in Montgomery, Alabama. This past weekend, it was a one-night stay at the Microtel in Carolina Beach, a short weekend adventure in the greater adventure of life and, if you read my last post, semi-unemployment.
Carolina Beach has a calm, lovely, welcoming charm to it. The main strip is lined with bold and colorful homes, just as you’d expect from a standard Southern beach town. The boardwalk is a short stretch of Fudgeries and kitschy beach shops, with a sprinkle of local flair nooked among the Hampton Inns, a McDonald’s, and a one-block-wide county fair.
I will admit, I’ve been spoiled when it comes to beaches—my family’s beach locale, Sunset, is a true hidden gem. Or at least I pretend that it’s hidden. People don’t know about it in the way they do Myrtle or the Outer Banks or Martha’s Vineyard.
I was at Carolina Beach—well, technically, Kure Beach—for a wedding, though I’d never before heard of or met the bride and groom. I was a plus-one and, yes, it was a little strange. But upon meeting a mutual friend or two and even the mother/father of the bride/groom, it felt as welcoming as any other wedding I’d been directly invited to.
The venue: Fort Fisher Aquarium. I hadn’t been there since the fourth grade; when I think of that field trip, what comes to mind is faint but real—the school bus taxiing us from our elementary school to the doors of some extension of the aquarium where we could collect fish and look at them under microscopes. Those big rubbery rain boots we wore to collect the specimens. Nathan Ogborn getting his pants wet and the teachers getting really mad. The premade bag lunches (because I wasn’t at all upset about the totally-average turkey and cheese with a side of Lay’s and a Capri Sun, which I of course turned into a cell phone when I was finished, the orange straw serving as the antenna).
The wedding was beautiful, unlike any I’d been to before, and before I knew it a night of champagne, overindulging in sweets and food (note the order in which I wrote those), and making friends with people you’d never see again was over. It was 7:00 a.m., the morning after the charade. Hungover as hell and unable to go back to sleep, I pulled a “screw it” and decided a walk on the beach would beat half-sleeping in a beach-themed Microtel for the next three hours. My friend (the one who was actually invited to the wedding) was a good sleeper, so I wanted to be courteous and slip out unheard. I unlocked and opened the unnecessarily loud door and heard a little toss and turn. But I knew that I was ultimately in the clear; I escaped unheard, and let my friend catch up on her beauty sleep while I walked off my hangover.
That morning, the beach was everything I needed. It provided an overdue moment of clarity—one I hadn’t had in a really long time—as I reflected on where I was in my life. Something about the soft air, the unbraced smiles from humans and children and dogs and even beach critters makes you free. I find it hard recreating that feeling anywhere in the city or suburbs. There’s just something so special about looking out into that big body of water, knowing that, if you really try, you can find your way.
After the walk, a cute-from-the-outside corner coffee/wine shop struck my fancy. I walked in, ready to expect a cheesy beach coffee shop with hand-painted “What happens at the beach stays at the beach” decor. But I was pleasantly surprised at the dark hardwood and soft, orange lighting behind the small coffee bar. It was almost as if this place was soundproofed three times over; you couldn’t hear a grain of sugar drop among the barista, two young male cops laughing about the previous night’s happenings, and me. I became privy to the young cops’ animated story of the two high-school kids they busted the night before, just eight hours ago at this point in the morning. The cops didn’t mind. They told me to “cover my ears.” I didn’t, and instead cracked a smile at the ridiculousness of their tale. Beach culture is weird.
To my delight, the flat white I ordered was as authentic as any I’d had, mind you I’ve never actually been to Australia. An actual double shot of espresso with microfoam later, I made my way back to the Microtel. I thought about home. Now, as I sit here with my home-brewed coffee and tap water, drinking from one of my favorite plastic Mardi Gras–themed cups, I think about home. What home once was may not be what it is today. And that’s okay. But it does make me think.
Now, home is a visit to my parents’ house in North Carolina. It’s a weekend stay at Brian’s dad’s house in the suburbs of Chicago. And for the 22 hours I was there, it was Carolina Beach—a stretch of sea and sand that kept me safe under moonsoon-like rains and a sorta-bad hangover. A town of friendly-ish beach locals, in- and out-of-state tourists, beach puns, coffee shops, and a gorgeous beach. A place that provided me more peace than I ever expected to find over a short weekend trip in my home state of North Carolina.
Unemployment can be a totally foreign concept—until it happens to you.
For me, it was two weeks ago today that I got my notice (a short-term contract that was supposed to go permanent), and it’s taken me these two long weeks to write about it.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened, actually. Back in 2015, an ad agency I was working for faced the same “financial constraints” (i.e., loss of client), much to my frustration, as I’d just left a stellar job only a few months prior to go work for these chumps.
But what you do after a setback says a lot about your character, and I knew this time around I wasn’t going to let myself curl up in a ball and simply wish it all away. Because it happened. And when shit happens, we need to move on.
It’s a big pill to swallow, but I’m holding myself accountable. I’m taking control and mapping out next steps—day by day, week by week. While many of these thoughts will remain private, I’m writing down (and posting) a collection of things I’ve done since that day. So if anything like this ever happens to you, reach out to me. I can help you get through it.
Today, I let myself just…relax. I took a bath. I cleaned the apartment. I listened to some new records. While home alone, I watched some TV that I wouldn’t subject poor Brian to on an average weeknight while we’re both at home. I took the day to take my sweet pup on two hour-long walks. It was wonderful.
On day two, I reached out to my network. Thankfully, being in my home state of North Carolina, I have people here that are willing to go to bat for me. I am absolutely thrilled to say one of these catch-ups led to a freelance opportunity in June. Hallelujah.
The third big thing I did this week, something I’d never done before, is apply for unemployment. Though it could work out where I won’t need unemployment support by the time my application processes (I could have another job in the next few months, if things go well), I learned that it doesn’t hurt to apply.
Other things I did this week that made me happy:
- Took a walk with Zoey every day.
- Had lunch with my mom twice.
- Went to a DAR ceremony with my ma. (She presented a medal to a cadet who had just entered the army as Second Lieutenant.)
- Clipped coupons. I’m a store-brand girl anyways, and I’ve never had any shame in using coups, but this week I became more conscious of my grocery bill.
- Went to a soccer game. I can’t even tell you the last time I’d been to a soccer game.
I’m calling month one of funemployment “the breakup.” Because a breakup goes both ways—while my last job left me, I realize, mentally, I’d already left it too. My first experience with unemployment was . . . let’s just say . . . rough. But I don’t think this one will take me long to get over. Here’s to a healthier, brighter future.
by Brian Smith
At (Company) we know (incredibly obvious and relatable “insight”). That’s why we (something every other company also does) to keep you (some sort of winning metaphor) at life.