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.