May 15, 2011

You're Not Really A Loner...

"You're not really a loner. Sometimes, I think you just play one on TV. You're actually very social."

He's right. He's good like that. He always calls it as he sees it. And after 8+ years, he's seen a lot from me.

We all worry about my personal life.

"In Vermont," he said, "you almost had to be alone." I was often alone when I lived in Vermont. On some December nights, I streamed Delilah on my laptop for company and the version of Silver Bells I knew as a child. I wrote for hours on Sunday evenings. I coasted down the side of mountains on dark roads with only my thoughts. But. The memories that arrive the fastest are the evening gatherings under the rising moon with blueberry pie and the nights grouped around the television placing bets on Survivor. I vividly remember nights falling asleep on her futon to the sounds of Finding Nemo. How many times did I try to stay awake for that movie and fail miserably? So many times. I spent weekdays in our one-room office with people who knew to pause after delivering a joke - it would take me a few seconds to burst out in laughter. I had a place down the hall in his office where I could go when the world stopped making sense. Where I could go at 6:30 am on a Tuesday morning, shaking with shock and still in my pajamas.

"And in Maine you always had someone around." It's true. Our 1L classroom hit capacity at about 20 people fewer than we had in our class. I had an attached-at-the-hip partner-in-crime for most of law school. She cultivated my love of coffee and we worked together through every code book that came our way. We hardly slept but when we did we could still give a quality pep talk mid REM cycle. We kept each other going. I had a best friend who would lay with me and giggle on the hard wood floor and who would show up at my doorstep without my asking on dark nights. A best friend from college who reminded me that I was still, first and foremost, a person rather than a law student. I had roommates that became friends and friends that became roommates. Friends that became family. But I also built walls high and thick in Maine. I learned fortress architecture along with case law. Things-I-Can't-I-Focus-On-Right-Now filled the moat and too much jumped ship before I could spot anything from the third floor of the law library. If I had know, I would have said to hold on. I am coming. These books, these bricks, they block everything.

"I worry that you are isolating yourself in DC. I know there are people in DC you are hesitating to reach out to." Am I? Or am I just playing isolated on TV? Would it be different if I had a ring on my finger? Would time alone mean isolation then? Independent and single doesn't answer anything, though. At certain times of day, I worry too. At least when he phrases it like that. But I do have a personal life. I have spent five of the past seven weekends with people I love. My weekends spill over into the weeks and my phone battery drains. I have trips planned and emails still waiting for a response. My co-workers and I can exchange a glance and burst into laughter and about each other - we know enough, we know so much. I have loose plans with people here I look forward to seeing. I'm hesitant, yes. But I feel silly telling him that I scramble to find time alone, time to take a breath.

Five years from now, when the wedding dresses hang in the back of closets and the diaper genie sells for best offer at the neighborhood tag sale and crayon drawings hang on the refrigerator... it's those days I worry about. Do the moments I love now, hot morning coffee in cafe corners and silent nights writing, the moments I spend alone but not lonely, do they mean I am building thicker walls? Can I blame it first and foremost on this career - and how often I do - when so many from that "ivory" tower have walked the aisle and I'm still standing alone? Did they teach us that a career is a dichotomy of a personal life? Did I learn that lesson wrong or too late? How is it that just now I have to face it, name it, adjust to it? When in the mountains and in the library, I had both and neither but never this worry.

And now. Not enough time for life and love and career, always out of order and all three just out of reach.

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