My high school art teacher, the lovely and wise Mrs. Juliana Comer, used to say, “When you start to feel frustrated with your artwork, walk away from it. When you come back to it after a little while, you’ll be able to see what needs to be fixed.” This was great advice. Great because it applies to so much more than art.
After 7 years in San Francisco, I didn’t know what direction I was going. While every new job was an improvement from the one before, I could not pour love into all that I was doing. And for someone who loves love as much as I do, this was discouraging.
As a solution, I took on hobbies. First language classes – French and Italian. Then Salsa dancing. Tae Kwon Do. Guitar. Volunteering. These experiences brought creative joy into my life that was missing from work. It also kept me very busy and pretty broke! All the money I made at work went towards the astronomical rent, the hobbies, dinners and parties with friends, and little dresses to wear to each of them.
Life was good. Or okay. Or good. I’m not sure. It was just sort of going. And I couldn’t see it anymore. One cocktail party led to another. The San Francisco events recurring every year – Bay to Breakers, Folsom Street Fair, SantaCon, Burning Man Decompression… All the beautiful costumes and debauchery, forever playing on repeat. I rode the wave. I think I was even good at it for a time. Hosting events. Being a butterfly.
My love life was a string of short-lived romances with selfish, often narcissistic CEOs or corporate climbers who value their career and image more than loving relationships. I would see the glimmer of good or little boy in each of them and try to squeeze it out. I never succeeded. Only managed to find myself in therapy talking about my sick addiction for “emotionally unavailable” men (aka ‘assholes’), and enjoyed the pats on the back for my “awareness” of it!
It was in September of 2013 that I had a tipping point. That tipping point had a name, and a headful of dark hair and sweet brown eyes to go with it. But for the sake of privacy (his, clearly not mine), I will call him Oliver. Oliver was everything I wanted. From the moment we locked eyes on each other for the first time there was undeniable electricity flowing between us. We spent nearly everyday together for a week just cooing over each other and for a moment, he seemed real. Creative. Vulnerable. Loving. I was certain (for a short moment), that this was it.
It wasn’t. Suffice it to say, he got scared. He got scared, and I got tired. Tired of thinking that I was going to meet the love of my life in San Francisco. After 7 years I accepted that he simply wasn’t there. I use to think it was my best likelihood of meeting a guy in San Francisco, because there were so many intelligent, attractive and cultured men living there. But with intelligence and good looks comes money and power — the ultimate stay-single cocktail.
As always, when I become flustered by a situation I read a lot. It wasn’t long before I understood, at least psychologically speaking, why both men and women become more self-focused and less ethical when their wealth/ power position increases. “The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings,” one study aptly concluded. Naturally then, I decided it was best to stay poor! And find someone equally poor (but intelligent) to share my happiness with. (Quality over quantity.) “Go fish.”
But before anymore looking for Mr. Right occurred, I needed to re-find me. And that meant stepping away from the painting. For me, 3 months of traveling in Thailand was the answer. Some friends told me they thought I was running away, but long before the heartbreaks, I had been questioning if California truly felt like home to me. I spent most of my life in the Midwest, and I missed some of those small town comforts I was use to. I asked myself, “Am I a career-driven socialite who belongs in the Financial Distract by the Bay Bridge, or am I just a simple redneck girl from Missouri who needs a big garden, a strong sexy farmer, 2 kids and a dog? Hell, I didn’t know anymore! What I needed was perspective.
I can promise you; I’ve gotten some perspective now! Heaps. After 4 months of traveling through SE Asia alone, I am a volcano of perspective… In fact, I’m having so much fun discovering me, learning new arts, and being poor that it just doesn’t matter so much if I meet a guy or not. And that’s a beautiful feeling. Life is so much easier if we just let it be easier. Walk away from struggle. Stay attuned to the positive energies surrounding us.
Yes, I found it easier to physically “walk” away. And I’m glad I did. There was more of this world for me to see. And I’ve chosen to stay in Chiang Mai for at least a while because it’s a great place to learn and grow. But I know, too, that if I returned to San Francisco (or Missouri) tomorrow, I’d be returning a better person. A stronger one. For that, I recommend traveling to anyone who is feeling a little scattered.
My perspective has indeed changed. From here, I can see more clearly that the people who love me the most will always be my family. The friends who matter the most are the ones that don’t lose touch. And the men that are worth being with are the ones who want my happiness as much as they want their own (not more, not less). There is always room for self-improvement. To be a better listener. More giving. More grateful. More resilient. I am not perfect, but I am a devoted student ☺.
I still love Oliver, even if our story was not a happy ending one. He’s a big part of the reason I took this leap forward. And so rather than see him as someone who hurt me, I choose to see him as a guiding light that was sent to me, leading me to even greater discoveries. I hope one day he also finds his way…
The conversations with my girlfriends back in the states these days are a riot. Especially the talks I have with the ones on the brink of hitting the reset button themselves. I tell them do it. Quit work. Tell that “emotionally unavailable” guy you’ve been pinning over you’ve given it enough of your precious energy. Take your life into your own hands, put it in a bag and go traveling with it!!! Hahaha.
Do I have all the answers? No, not hardly… But a better view, yes. I have it now.