October 28, 2010

In Which I Write To Sort Things Out (And Really Don't Expect You To Get To The End, Promise)

Sometimes on rainy Wednesday afternoons, the best thing to do is sit on the couch with a cup of coffee and watch a marathon of Sex and the City episodes on dvd. 

It's not that I don't have things I could be doing, perhaps should be doing, but this afternoon I needed a break.  My life has been swimming around inside my head lately, rather than playing itself out in real-time.  I haven't been sleeping well.  I needed to check out for a bit, and the best way I know how is by checking in with my four favorite NYC ladies.  With a cup of coffee, of course.

My love of Sex and the City began my junior year in college, when my then-attached-at-the-hip best friend introduced me to Carrie and the gang one Friday night. She was convinced that I would relate to the he-broke-up-with-me-on-a-post-it-note episode, and she was right. We spent the night in our on-campus townhouse watching episodes and baking chocolate chip cookies. S&TC became a staple in our townhouse that semester, so much so that one of the guys we were living with would make a bee-line for his room whenever the theme song came on.

I remember wanting to be Carrie Bradshaw. I wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw when I was twenty in that same abstract, intangible manner that I wanted to be Eleanor Roosevelt when I was nine. It didn't mean a whole lot to me at the time other than some far-away fantasy that had nothing to do with my present life. I forgot about it by the end of the episode and moved on into my life. I forgot about it for the next five years.

During my second year of law school, I had a few days when I just needed to check out. Let's just say that it had to do with a boy and Real Life Decisions that I had to make. So, I borrowed a friend's S&TC dvd set and spent some quality time on the couch one afternoon. (Not an easy accomplishment with all the work I had that semester, but it proved priceless in the months/years to come.) I remember watching episode after episode wanting, again, to be Carrie. This time it struck me as odd. I was a second year law school student - shouldn't I feel some empathy towards Miranda? I remember cringing when she talked about work. With too many other things to worry about that semester, I told myself that everyone wants to be Carrie, nobody wants to be Miranda, and I moved on with my life.

I hate to keep coming back to last fall in every post, but my life and I collided last fall. When I looked around at the pieces, I had to decide which ones I needed to keep and which ones I needed to leave behind. I would like to say that I had the opportunity to decide how I wanted to shape my life, but it felt more like looking at a jigsaw puzzle with too many pieces and no picture on the box cover to use as a guide. It wasn't that I had made bad decisions or followed anything other than what I thought I wanted in my life. I just got lost in the trees and couldn't see the forest. I had become so career-oriented for the past five or six or seven years that I forgot to think about my life.

I walked a career path that differed from my professional peers, and I had forgotten how hard it would be when I looked around and found myself alone. Society likes to glamorize the "I took the path less traveled" sentiment, but that path can be lonely, dark, and scary at times. From that place, I could also see all the times when I opted-out of the "path less traveled" and opted-in to group goals and group values that didn't do anything other than squelch my goals and values. My life and I collided last fall because law school ended, I had a professional setback, I found myself alone in the dark on the path less traveled, and I hadn't spent anytime acknowledging my life.

I held on tightly to the people that loved me and sat down to face the pieces of my life. I had no other choice than to start working on that jigsaw puzzle.

I was also still in school finishing the Master's part of my joint JD/MPPM degree. (Oh yes, part of the path-less traveled.) I was working a part-time job I loved but was occasionally frustrating. I was kinda busy. Not "law-school busy," but still too busy to have a total personal meltdown. I had to keep moving forward (don't we always?), which meant doing both my job (hey, work-from-home-research/writing-position) and my school work to the backdrop of Sex and the City episodes. (You knew I'd come back around to this eventually, right?)

I still wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw. And this time, rather than dismiss this fact (a personal disaster will FINALLY teach you what to dismiss and not to dismiss) I spent some time thinking about it. What did I like about this character? What did I like about her life? What was real about her life? What was just good writing, great design, and fabulous clothing (heeeyyyy, hollywood)? I thought about my history of wanting to be her and have her life. I also thought about Miranda and why I didn't feel a pull towards her character or life. As a junior in college watching the show, I had no pull towards Miranda's life as an attorney, yet at that time I was starting to seriously consider law school. Regardless, I wanted Carrie's life as a writer. Or, pieces of her life.

It has come slowly for me - this overall process of saying "This is what I want." It comes slowly because I have wanted things before, and achieved them, and still felt like my life didn't fit together properly. The thing is, I don't regret wanting and achieving the things I have wanted in the past. But those things came packaged with other things, and I didn't take the time to take only that which I valued. I took everything instead, and that's how I ended up with all those extra pieces for my jigsaw puzzle. I'm slowly learning that saying "This is what I want" is not a simple, one-time deal. It means showing up and sorting every step of the way.

I never went to law school to become an attorney. I decided to go to law school because I wanted to be the best youth advocate I could be. I wanted to make a substantial difference in the lives of youth. I loved to read, I loved to write, I loved to advocate for youth policy improvements. I thought a joint degree in law and public policy would give me a career in everything I loved. I still do love all three of those things. I still do think that I will find a career position that will allow me to do all three of those things. I have done my absolute best in preparing myself, and now I just have to wait for the right position to sweep me off my feet. I did not make a mistake by going to law school. My mistake was not paying attention to my life, my values, my goals along the way. It has taken me too long to sort this difference out.

I never paid enough attention to my desire to be Carrie Bradshaw. Translation: I never paid enough attention to my life as a writer. Even now, that feels uncomfortable to type out. It feels confessional and presumptuous, even though I've been writing since I was fifteen (and much, much younger if you count journals and dear diary entries). But until I start figuring out what to do with/how to label this need-akin-to-breathing, I'm not going to figure out anything else in my life.


  1. Oh dear, I believe we are soul sisters, (or soul cousins perhaps?).
    Yesterday I was driving, thinking about an abstract way to write about the leaves blowing into my car, and I thought "Maybe I could be a writer, if I wanted to." I let my brain be distracted by the radio & then caught up with my own thoughts-- "...Hey, wait a second. Don't I WANT to be a writer? I thought I did. Does only my conscious, not subconscious, want this? Why did I ever think "I want ____" in the first place?" etc...

    I apologize for the length of this comment-- yeesh. Anyway, I think your writing is just fabulous, and thank you so very much for sharing it.

  2. Oh, soul cousins - I love that!
    I think it's perfect, because I wanted to tell you (but refrained because I thought you might think that I am crazy) that I had a dream the other night that you, Nicole, and I were all laying on these rocks out in the ocean with the waves crashing over us. When I told Nicole, she thought it sounded scary, but it was really very peaceful! Nicole also said that you probably wouldn't think I was crazy in a bad way (just crazy in a good way - which I am! =)) and thus, I am now sharing with you (and the rest of the internet...).

    Also, sorting through the conscious/subconscious is so hard. I wish I had a road map and tour guide and translator!