This Is It

I finally figured out that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. Nor does the tooth fairy. There’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, no love of my life, no happily ever after, no dream job, no man of my dreams.

What everyone said about how you can be whomever you want to be, do anything as long as you put your mind to it—well, that was a lie. Yes—technically you can do just about anything, as long as you put your mind to it, as long as you really want it. Those are the key words. The reality is you have to sacrifice basic needs (or wants) like sleep, time, money, relationships. It’s not that no one told me this part. But I thought, who needs sleep, time, money (shelter, transportation, healthcare), and relationships (love) anyway? Or more accurately, who really feels like they have enough of any of these things as it is? So why not go after what I really want, for a change, instead of always settling for whatever comes my way?

All my life I have lived passively. Never did I go after what I wanted, except for the one time I saved my money and moved to London with a work visa after graduating from college. One could argue that leaving my two former husbands was an active way of living my life, and leaving my well-paying marketing career was an active way of living life—but these were commitments I did not keep, not commitments I made or actions taken towards something. One could argue that my bachelor’s and master’s degrees were active ways of living life, but I’ve done nothing with either of these degrees, except for a two-semester stint teaching at a community college. My sobriety and my dog are the two commitments I’ve made and kept so far. Everything else—mainly men, career—have been a matter of stopping and starting, and searching for the right one with a deep-rooted belief that the right one doesn’t really exist.

What if I spend my entire life in pursuit of love and a dream job that doesn’t exist? Why not just surrender? Who do I know that has both of these? Who do I know that doesn’t complain about what they have? What if I just left a life, a marriage, and a good job, only to find out this is what marriage is, this is what jobs are like. This is life. THIS is it. This IS it. This is IT. Live it in poverty or middle class or get lucky and be rich, but this is it. The reality is that we can tell ourselves the lie that one day we’ll be in better shape, one day we’ll make more money, get a better job, have a better relationship, and maybe some or all of these things will happen. But who doesn’t want to lose a few pounds, eat better, have a better relationship, have better or more sex, get more time off work, go on fun vacations, spend more time with loved ones? Does anyone ever talk about how perfectly everything is going in their life?

Buddhist teachers often say that of meditation, there’s no goal. I want to believe that the goal is peace, because otherwise why do any of this? Not that I meditate. It’s on my to-do list along with working out more, eating better, improving my spiritual life, reading more, writing more, getting healthcare insurance, and doing my taxes.

The alternative is not to pursue either love or the dream job. Maybe what I’ve been doing is right, and just taking what comes along. Some people know what they want and they go after it. Others, we search for it.

Maybe the love of my life exists somewhere, waiting for me. And maybe the dream job is out there. Maybe one day I’ll get what I want and I won’t struggle to survive and I’ll do what I love and make money at it. Waiting for these things, expecting these things, hoping for them, feeling disappointed that none of these things have happened, all of these expectations make me feel… well, disappointed. Maybe these things just happen in their own time whether I pursue them or not.

Maybe if I don’t pursue them they never come. Maybe. Maybe not.

The older I get the more I realize I don’t know what life is all about. At the age of twenty I thought I had it figured out. This is the way things are. This is what you do. You make a plan and you go after it. That plan doesn’t work, you do something else. That plan doesn’t work, you do something else again.

I just want to be happy and feel at peace. Which means being grateful for what I have, for what is, the way life is, today, now, in this moment. When I woke up this morning and cried, sobbing uncontrollably on my way to a dead-end job that doesn’t save the world but maybe makes a few people happy for a few minutes, all I could think was this: Just be nice to others.

What I’ve learned is that when all else fails, as it often does at some point in time, being helpful to others is the solution. That means being helpful to co-workers and customers, even those who annoy me. When my twenty-year-old co-workers come into work goofing off and I want to rip their heads off, I remember that one of them has a father who just died, and I don’t have to yell at them but I can practice how to remind them to focus on work without trying to ruin their day. When customers come into work to return expired, half-eaten lettuce without a receipt, I can do my job of providing customer service and process returns for everyone, regardless of what or why.

Self-pity is no longer an option, nor is informing the rest of the world why my life is so unfair. Because what am I going to do about it? No one’s life is fair. Suicide is not an option. Drinking is not an option. I feel so fucking lost right now, and I want to move back South because it’s too fucking cold here in DC and I’m not getting what I want or who I want. But this is the way life is right now. This is it. So for today I will just repeat the mantra of being nice to others, and I’ll just try to do that. I don’t know what the fuck else to do.

I may have posted this video before, but this song keeps running through my head. Thank you, American Dream.

Just Give Me a GPS Already

For the past twenty-four hours, nothing has gone my way. After working all day in an apocalyptically busy, refrigerated grocery store during a snow storm, I drove my two-door Honda Civic through a foot of unplowed snow to make it a few blocks away to my friend Michelle’s house. My plan had been to go to my old man’s house—I like to call him my old man because it makes me feel like a “Sons of Anarchy” character, and plus, he’s AARP-qualifying old. But the roads were too treacherous to make it that far.

When I got to Michelle’s house, I barely made it into the parking space, because not a single road in her neighborhood had been plowed, so I had to gun it to get three-fourths into the parking space, burning rubber in the process. Michelle, her ten-year-old daughter, and I later played Scattergories, before shoveling the sidewalk and the spaces between and behind our cars. Doing this gave us some element of control over the situation (at least for Michelle and me; her daughter didn’t feel quite as enthusiastic), although the snow was still coming down, because we thought the situation would be easier later, with less snow to shovel. Afterwards Michelle and Brandi cooked shrimp scampi and I helped by eating it. We watched The Theory of Everything about how Stephen Hawking, with help from his wife and nurse, created an extraordinary life for himself without any physical ability or hope of regaining physical movement, after having been given two years to live decades ago. Trying to hide it as best as I could—which wasn’t great, given that I checked my weather.com app and traffic cameras for road conditions every five minutes—I could really only focus on how my night wasn’t going as planned.

My plan was to go to my old man’s place, cook tilapia with mango salsa, lemony asparagus, rainbow quinoa with sliced almonds, and sautéed garlicky kale. Then we’d eat fig cake and brie for dessert. Afterwards we’d watch a movie while snuggled on the couch together, and after that… business time.

But business time didn’t happen. Because it snowed over a foot of snow in DC, a city where snow plows won’t waste their limited resources while snow and icy rain continue to pour down. In my mind the snow happens at least twice every year in this area, so why not go full blast on all salt, trucks, and labor, especially when it’s the end of February and they’ll be getting more money from us taxpayers next year anyway, here in this city named #6 in the top 15 most expensive cities to live in the US—and nevermind the little blurb about DC also being one of the most affordable for low income families. Maybe that’s the case but that hasn’t been my experience, nor do I see evidence of it from my poverty-stricken grocery store co-workers, who struggle to pay bills. But I digress.

The other things that didn’t happen are these: I didn’t wreck my car. No one got hurt. Not only did I have food and shelter, but I was warm and dry and I ate shrimp scampi that someone else, a loving and caring friend, cooked for me. What made me more grateful was the fact that, as Michelle pointed out, my dog was in a safe, warm, and loving household with my roommates and their dogs, and she wasn’t stranded at home alone. We all had electricity. Meanwhile, homeless people are freezing to death. And I’m upset because I can’t prepare mango tilapia over a bed of rainbow quinoa for my boyfriend in his Don Draper-esque apartment, with his art collection that he could probably sell for more than I make in a year, even though it’s his own creation and he’s not famous. Because I’m that poor.

But poverty was—and is–my choice.

On my way home this morning, I cried in the car as I often do driving to and/or from work these days. The tears weren’t the same kind of self-pitying tears from my drinking days, so that’s progress. Now it’s more like that feeling that I am out of ideas. I am fresh out of good ideas, if I ever had any good ones, and I honestly have no idea how I am supposed to make this thing called life work. I want so badly to know how I’m supposed to make a living at a job I don’t hate, and what I’d love to know is how to make a decent, comfortable living doing something I love. If I just knew that, I could start working on that.

Part of me believes that I could live anywhere, do anything, and be okay with it. Maybe I’m meant to be a nomad, working at an Alaskan fishery one year, and as a travel writer the next. Maybe I study yoga in India, or teach English in Japan, living in poverty with each of these odd jobs. Whatever I do, hopefully I’ll continue to write (and then submit my writing to be published, and then become published). Maybe I do all of the aforementioned ideas and then write about them. In an award-winning, nobel-laureate-creating collection of essays. Or at least a heartwarming collection that makes at least a few people—and not just my mom–roar with laughter over the honesty of it. But I doubt that I work at an Alaskan fishery, because Alaska is cold–I just like the idea of Alaska because it reminds me of one of my favorite books by Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild, which reflects a life I want to live, minus the (spoiler alert) death part.

What my trusted friend and mentor, Angela, suggested was that when I’m in this place of feeling like I absolutely must do something but I just don’t know what that is, that I do nothing. I’ve heard this before. When you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything. Just keep doing what I’m doing and showing up for the job I have and taking care of my responsibilities and the answers will come. Making a big life decision now, a year after my divorce and career change, doesn’t make sense when I’m not sure what to do. Yet my idea to live and work on a sustainable farm feels like the kind of thing that if I don’t do it now, I can’t later, which I’ll regret. Because currently I am free.

One could argue that freedom is always within us but we simply don’t allow it to arise, but what I mean is that I’m single and child-free with nothing to lose. My student loans are in deferment for another six or so months and I doubt that I can continue to dodge that responsibility for much longer. But do I really want to do it? In theory, yes. In reality, I just don’t have the energy right now.

On the other hand I could do what I’ve always done, which is get comfortable with a man and move in with him, take whatever job I can get making decent money, and continue doing that. But here’s how I feel about that idea: Just kill me now.

Acceptance is the answer. Here is where I am now. This isn’t a place I’d have chosen but for whatever reason this is where I’ve landed and the only thing I can do is keep trucking and accept that this journey gets bumpy sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I do nothing but hit DC-style potholes in a beat-up pick-up truck when what I want is—I think–not necessarily a newly paved path in a clean and shiny Mercedes, but just a better engine, a good seatbelt… and really just a flawless GPS with an actual destination.

On Romantic Love

When a relationship is new and the man makes comments about his future, I can’t help but imagine if I might be in it, and what that would look like. My first reaction is, Why is he doing this to me?, as if he’s deliberately trying to mislead me. Don’t get your hopes up, the negative voice in me says. Is he trying to show me how wonderful my life could become if I stay with him, knowing it may not work out? Is he suggesting he wants me, or someone, to be in this future that he imagines? I suppose I could turn it around and look at what I’m thinking when I talk about my future, which is usually one that doesn’t include a man necessarily. I picture myself moving to another country or state to teach or write, or both, and it’s not that I don’t want a man in the picture, because I hope to find one there, but I have this idea that the only way to find myself is by getting there alone, and that I have to leave the city where I currently live to find a man in another city. I forget that I moved from the city where I lived prior to this with a man and then became single, which means I could theoretically meet the love of my life in this city without taking a geographical false cure of finding happiness somewhere else. This is a relatively new idea, because originally I felt like I’m learning that I find myself through relationship with other people, but I’m not sure what that looks like.

One of my friends posted this article by Paul Hudson on Facebook about what a waste of time it is to get involved in a relationship you know won’t work out, which has caused me to re-evaluate the way I think of love—not because it provides new information, but because it’s triggered something in me that I’ve already been investigating. Just as Hudson suggests, I’ve always believed that spending time on someone I know isn’t the right one is a waste, but at what point does a person really know it will work? Do most of us label infatuation as love that we later decide is true love, based on a commitment we make?

With my divorce papers awaiting my signature to make it legal and final, I hesitate. Do I really want to do this? What was so wrong with him? We could have had a good life. If the things that bothered me about him aren’t the same as what will bother me about someone else, other things will bother me about someone else. When I met him I believed he was The One. We had a lot in common with similar personality types and similar interests, and we had good sex in the beginning. Looking back on it I’m not so sure because it’s clear that I was looking for a way out of my first marriage in which I was miserable. I knew it even at the time, but I still thought I loved him. And experience has shown that having similar interests doesn’t equal a shared passion in pursuing those interests together, and that similar personality types can be too much of the same thing. What I wanted was for him to take the lead and make decisions on occasion, and for me not to feel like I was the only one contributing to the relationship. Maybe that would’ve happened eventually had I committed and gone to marriage counseling like he’d requested.

The way that other women talk about their significant others, declaring their love for them, how their partner is their best friend, is something I cannot relate to. On some level I love everyone, and feel compassion and understanding for everyone I date, but rarely do I feel that this man is the love of my life and my best friend. Can that many women be deluded or do I have an inability to love anyone on a deeper level?

If I exclude a man just because I don’t feel an instant connection on the first date, am I quitting too soon, or am I right in feeling that without some spark then no flame can ignite any kind of interest whatsoever? Is the feeling I have for my new guy love or fear of financial instability, knowing he makes enough money to support me, combined with a desire for a father figure to support me emotionally? Does questioning it automatically mean it must be true, and if it is true, then can those desires for emotional and financial support turn into love? My heart tells me, as I write this, no. Yet I don’t want to stop seeing him. Why is that? And why is it that when he tells me he’s out to dinner with another woman, my heart feels hollow, and immediately I tell myself that I didn’t want him anyway, this will be over soon, it’s all for the better, and then when he tells me it wasn’t a date I change my mind and feel relieved. Maybe it’s just a fear of rejection. Maybe he’s not the one for me, but if so, then what is my higher power trying to tell me? It seems that the men I really want are unavailable while those I don’t want are readily available, with financial stability awaiting. Are the available ones the ones I’m supposed to learn to love and accept? Or is this a lesson to teach me how to say no and follow my heart?

In this article, the writer provides a list of things to do before getting into a relationship, all things I’d have agreed with, but now I’m not so sure. For one, a lot of these things take a lifetime to achieve, and some people never find these things. Are these things just a product of loving yourself? If so, then maybe doing all of this stuff alone is necessary. Or maybe not. One of the commenters writes that they’re tired of all these articles about “finding” yourself. S/he argues that we are already ourselves, which is a Buddhist belief that I can ascribe to, although I’ve spent my life trying to find myself. S/he writes that all of the to-do’s that the author of the article demands are things we can do with someone else. Maybe so. On the other hand, once we do these things, are we still the same person as we were initially, and will we be able to grow with someone else as we go along? But then, isn’t that always the question anyway?

The Only Real Kind of Love?

One of the questions on the OKCupid survey prompted me to think about my ideas on love.

The question is this:

Unrequited love is ________.

a) Foolish
b) Romantic
c) The only real kind of love
d) Not real love

The idea is to give members the opportunity to learn more about potential mates, and the questions range from political and religious beliefs to marriage, child-rearing, sex, money, etc.

My answer was a) foolish.

Yet I still cannot get my mind off this man who I’ve been pining over for months now. Intellectually I know it’s futile but my heart yearns for this man. It started as a harmless attraction that rarely crossed my mind, because when I met him I was engaged and committed to my future husband. After my husband and I split, this man, who had been a sober alcoholic like me, relapsed, and I crossed him off my (very short) list of desired mates. But then he quit drinking again. And he came to me. And he let me know that he’s interested in me. I was not ready for him at that time, having just separated from my husband, so I told him that I’d like to go out with him at a later time. Shortly thereafter this man relapsed again. Then he got sober again. Again, he let me know that he was interested in me. This time was recently, and it’s been over a year since my husband and I split, so the new guy and I made plans to go out on a date, which never happened. This guy just disappeared—he cancelled without rescheduling.

He didn’t just ask me out. We’d had at least three distinct conversations about dating each other–via text, which may not qualify as actual conversations, but words had been exchanged. We agreed that we wanted to be friends before dating or having sex. He confessed that it would be hard for him not to have sex with me right away. At the time that sounded to me like he liked me, but I realize now it could’ve just as easily meant he wanted just sex and nothing more.

By the way, the two aforementioned relapses were not his only relapses, so if you’re noticing a pattern that screams DANGER DANGER, you’re right to feel that way. The man is no good for me. That doesn’t stop me from wondering why. What happened? Why say those things? Why would you be dishonest? And so on and so forth, ad infinitum.

Clearly something happened to cause him to change his mind. He realized something about me that he didn’t know before, something he doesn’t like. He has too much going on in his life that he can’t be in a relationship. He wanted me for sex only. Some other woman he’s more interested in came along. He needs to focus on his sobriety… This last one is my preferred answer, and I imagine that one day in the future, when he’s begging for my love, he’ll tell me that this was the reason. And I’ll ask him why he didn’t just tell me that in the first place—because I’ll give him hell and at first I’ll say no, no way am I ever going out with you, but he’ll beg, plead, and grovel–and he’ll say, Because I was afraid you would’ve talked me out of it, and I’d have gotten into a relationship with you, and you’d have broken my heart, and I’d have relapsed.

Playing out these imaginary scenarios is a waste of my teenage head space but these thoughts infiltrate my mind and breed like STIs at an orgy.

One of my friends told me that if you don’t water it, it won’t grow; don’t invest any more mental energy on this man. This blog may qualify as throwing fertilizer on it. But no one ever talks about this–probably because it’s useless, and they’re grown up, but I’m not, and I’m hoping it will help me to get over it.

Why is it that I’m almost 40 years old and I have a schoolgirl crush on a man that I cannot get over? Just like a teenager. I didn’t know 40-year-olds still got crushes. Clearly he’s no good for me, and this is not love but lust based on an ideal I’ve created of him, because although I’ve seen him and heard him speak at meetings for almost five years now, I haven’t spent any time alone with him, in person. I think I know him but I don’t really.

I need to put this into perspective. When I look back on the guys I liked in high school, college, and after, not a single one of them was what you’d call winning at life—not then or now. Had I married any of them I feel confident that my life would not look or feel as good as it does today. Never have I thought, Man, I sure wish that high school dropout who I brooded over as a teenager was the father of my children today.

Getting rejected by someone who can’t stay sober is a blessing. One thing that is said about people who can’t stay sober is that they have an inability to be completely honest with themselves, so it’s not surprising that this man would tell me he likes me, and then change his mind. He doesn’t know what he wants—or, more accurately, he’s too afraid to go after what he really, truly wants deep down inside. And I can relate to that because I have spent most of my life feeling that way. It’s not a pleasant spot.

As much as I want him to be like John Cusack in the boombox window scene in Say Anything or Ben tearing after Elaine to interrupt her wedding in The Graduate, realistically that won’t happen. The only guys who do those kinds of things are the ones I have no interest in, and they don’t reject me beforehand. When a guy likes a woman, he lets her know. No one rejects you and then comes back later to say they really loved you all along but couldn’t be with you because of some totally valid reason. If they wanted you in the first place no life event would stop them.

So to get over this I have to focus on why it wouldn’t work in the first place. For shallow reasons, his love of football would get on my nerves. The fact that he is a registered Republican I cannot buy into. His social circle of friends consists of people I have no interest in spending time with. His newfound interest in Christianity is just weird to me. And quite honestly, it would be nice if he were about two or three inches taller.

A deeper reason why it would never work with this guy is that he has an inability to be open emotionally. If he could tell me that he was interested but needed time and space to focus on sobriety, we may be able to work together on some kind of relationship in the future. But he’s not at that point yet, and may never be, and I’m not willing to invest in the kind of work it would take to support that. It’s too risky, and I want to spend the second half of my life with someone who is on the same wavelength as I am—not someone who is just figuring it out, or can’t figure it out—“it” being life, sobriety… although I suppose one might just as easily argue that “figuring it out” is exactly what I’m in the process of doing now.

Based on some of the comments he’s made, lack of faith in a higher power is a problem for this man, and one of the qualities I’m looking for in a man is a mutual interest in growing together spiritually. So if he can’t have faith that a higher power exists, I can guess that he’s lost, and just in case he’s looking for a savior, I can’t be that person.

What I really want to know is this: what’s the point of all of this? What lesson is there to be learned? Usually the answer is that it gives me an experience that will be helpful to someone else. I don’t like that answer, especially because I don’t know the solution to this problem. Get over it, that message is clear, but how? All I can think of is how it seems like love is always unbalanced, that one partner always loves the other more, and I cannot stand to be on either side.

Maybe the real question worth considering is this: Why is it that I fall for an emotionally unavailable man? And what would it take for me to fall for a man who is available?

Today

When I was married to Husband #2, I often wondered why he wouldn’t just be like me and get his shit together. Weren’t we both in grad school together to become college professors and published writers? Wasn’t that his plan too? After graduating, I worked as an adjunct college professor at night while working full time during the day in the marketing department for a company in northern Virginia, very far from where we lived in Maryland. An hour away in the mornings, and often two hours home in the evenings. The college where I worked was even farther away. It was my first year sober, so I spent all of that year basically busting my ass. I worked, I learned on my own how to teach, and I focused on my sobriety. And I was planning my wedding.

Meanwhile my ex-husband watched television, smoked pot, and worked at a retail job part time while going to school for yet another master’s degree in creative writing that he has yet to apply to his professional life. His parents had bribed us into moving to Maryland from Atlanta by offering to help pay our rent, which lasted for about the first three months we lived here. It’s fair to say that eventually I became resentful, and like he was a child whom his parents and I supported. But at the time, I believed that I was doing it for a reason, that one day he would help me when I needed to change careers. The problem is that I never communicated that expectation to him. When I lost my job and suggested that we move to a cheaper area so I could teach full time, he eventually came around, but not before panicking about how we could maintain our lifestyle that he’d always been accustomed to, having been raised by wealthy parents who’d always provided for him. We were on the verge of moving to Frederick, Maryland, when his parents offered to help us until I could find another job in marketing so that we could stay in our affluent little Maryland suburb of DC. To be fair, they thought they were helping us, but in reality I just wanted to teach, and moving to Frederick would’ve been great with me. But we chose to stay where we were, out of fear, I guess.

Fear is the same reason why he didn’t leave his retail job to become a college professor. That’s what laziness and procrastination are: fear. He was afraid he wouldn’t succeed, afraid of the uncertainty of a job he’s never done before, and he knew if he stayed in retail he could make more as he got promoted. These are all the same reasons most people don’t change careers. I tried to explain to him that if he would look at it long term, he’d see that as a full time, tenured professor he can make as much as $90,000 in some areas, while, as a store manager working in retail he’d probably make about $65,000. But unfortunately we have to start at the bottom in academia. He was only 32 at the time, so it’s not like his life was over.

When I think of myself on the other hand, I forget all of this. I’m almost 39 years old, and I’ve calculated that, if I become a college professor, then by the time I am 53 years old, I can live potentially a comfortable life on my own, and I only have to live in poverty and squalor (half kidding) for about five to 10 years, depending on what else happens in my life.

Another option is to go back to marketing, live comfortably, get all the manicures, organic groceries, spa trips, nice vacations, massage therapy, personal trainers, and housecleaners that I want, while hating my life and myself for doing work that means nothing to me and nothing to society and only serves to make the rich get richer. I could do that for the next 15 to 25 years, depending on when I retire.

I’ll try not to think of the what-ifs. What if I hate teaching? What if I’m terrible at it? What if the students hate me, hate literature, hate writing? What if no one cares about it at all? More likely one to five out of every 30 students will care, and that will mean something. And other options exist, because no one knows what turn my life will take.

All I know is that right now, today, I cannot work in marketing, and I have to keep giving this a try, or else I’ll keep wondering what my life would’ve been like, and I’ll hate myself for not trying if I don’t. That is all I can do today.

Be Here Now

I’ve been having bad sex with a man I’ve been dating–and by “been having” I mean just two times. But still. That’s enough. I’d idealized him so much in my mind that neither he nor anyone else could’ve lived up to my expectations, a George Clooney look-alike, the type of sophisticated older man swooned over by Lana Del Ray in her songs, a father figure to dominate and nurture me, someone who’d take a lot of time in the bedroom, with lots of romance, etc., when really he’s just a regular guy, a man who happens to be 54 years old.

One of my friends read that when women have an orgasm during sex a chemical is released called oxytocin which causes them–us–to fall in love. I don’t know if it’s true because I feel like I never fall in love although I have had plenty of orgasms, but one thing that does happen is that after the first time I found myself wanting to hug and hold this man, and for him to hold me. The morning after I checked my phone more than necessary, wondering why he hadn’t texted me yet, and then I fantasized about being in his arms, even if the sex was bad and he’s a teenager in someone’s dad’s body. Having sex with someone else was unthinkable; biology kicked in and I only wanted sex with this one man. I’d daydream about sitting on his lap and wrapping my arms around his neck and resting my head on his silver-haired chest, and then I’d wonder if I have daddy issues and should I get therapy.

After the second time of bad sex though, the teenage boy in me comes out. Imagine you haven’t eaten all day but you know you’ll be getting a gourmet, four-course meal later from your favorite restaurant. You get to the restaurant and the waiter serves your favorite dish right in front of your nose, and then poof! Uh uh. Nope! Can’t have it. It was all just a cruel joke to see how badly you wanted it, or to make you see that you should be focused on something else more important, like job hunting.

Because now I’m not so interested in dating anymore. Not him, not anyone.

This fantasy of how my life would go was better when I imagined myself with a full time job in a couple of months, with my own apartment right when the weather is warm enough to move, while a beautiful relationship blossomed with my sugar daddy, who was going to take me out to nice dinners. And by “sugar daddy,” I really am not asking for much. I’m not looking for someone to pay my rent or bills. I just want someone who will pay for our dates, and if he happened to buy me an occasional flower or some lingerie or some new shoes, I’d be grateful. But I wouldn’t expect it.

The gritty reality is that I’ll be lucky to get a full time job or even an adjunct position and to be able to afford my own place by myself without a roommate. It won’t necessarily be a nice place, not if I’m living here in the DC or Baltimore metro area.

Often I ask myself what the purpose is of all this. What am I meant to do? What message am I supposed to be getting from this? When life gets tough I wonder if I should move back South, where it’s warmer, closer to my family, who will probably help me if I ask. Of course I don’t want to ask because I want them to know I don’t need their help and I can do all of this on my own because I’m strong and independent. I don’t want to ask, but it sure would be nice if they’d just help me anyway. On the other hand, I am almost 40 years old.

The standard of living in Atlanta is higher, and it’s even better in Charlotte—more affordable. There’s also Greenville, NC, and Springville, SC, which are even more affordable. Asheville, NC, is probably more my speed because it’s a liberal, artsy town, but there aren’t as many jobs available there. But regardless, I can get a nice place in any of these towns, and probably a job. Maybe that’s what I should be doing. Every year for the five and a half years I’ve lived in Maryland, I fight it and I stay here. My network is here and the men are gorgeous and successful. I repeat: the men are gorgeous and successful.

Part of why I’ve stayed here—a big part of why—is because I had this idea I’d meet some wonderful man, fall in love, and take him back South, or out West, or overseas, where we’d live in a nice home with fulfilling careers. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t really want to be here. In this limbo of trying to jump-start my life into what I want it to be, which is really just settled. And for what? When I’m settled I get bored. I was settled and I decided to change my life into what it is now. I have this idea when I get the man, the job, and the house I’ll be happy, even though I know from past experience that doesn’t work. The time needs to come when I’m at peace with the present moment. Can that time please just come now?