To get myself through the day, I used to listen to a lot of podcasts. The tasks required of me at work were mostly mundane and mindless, so the background chatter never distracted me. Instead, it transported me somewhere else, outside of the gray walls of the cubicle and into the creative minds of the podcast’s storytellers. I got to a point where I had exhausted This American Life’s entire 20+ year supply and was re-listening to episodes, just to hear the calming cadence of Ira Glass’ voice.
There was one episode – I can’t remember much about it now – that had something to do with love. And obsession, I think. A man had left a note for a woman he missed, missed so much it scooped out his insides, and his line, his words (whether they were actually his or not I will never know) compelled me to grab my stack of post-it notes, scribble it down, and keep it there, on my desk, for months and months.
There was something so powerful about it. The grammar nerd in me grappled with whether it was, in fact, correct English; the romantic in me stared off into space, knowing just what the man felt, having felt that same feeling so many times before.
And so the post-it sat there, in the corner of my desk. I didn’t tack it on the wall with my other work-related reminders. I didn’t place it in a drawer or attempt to hide it. I just let it float around the desk, day in and day out. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away.
Two weeks ago, I quit my job. I walked out of the gray office building, feeling the mass produced carpet under my feet for the last time. I cleared out my multiple attempts to make the cubicle “homey” — tiny colorful vases, magnets from Spain, a wrinkled poster of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss,” photos of my sisters and Marc and Juno. I said goodbye to the people who mattered to me. I stepped into the elevator without a single regret in the world, the post-it floating on top of my grocery bag of belongings.
After my last day, my friends met me at a bar downtown for what they deemed my “retirement party.” The following week, I would be embarking on one of the most harrowing and exciting journeys my crazy career path has seen so far: opening my own tutoring business. No longer would I try to find a place where I fit. No longer would podcasts have to save me from my own reality. I could, finally, start to write my own story, and hopefully help some other folks write theirs.
Before my friends arrived at the bar, I ordered a sweet sweet Sazarac and chatted with the bartender, a guy from Philly who still seemed new to Austin, even after being here for almost as long as me. As I sipped, completely content to be by myself for just a moment, there was one word I could think of to describe my state of mind, the emotion I was feeling: CLEAN.
I’ve had my fair share of clean getaways. I’ve escaped from painful breakups, packing up my things and moving to a new place at just the right time. I’ve left numerous jobs without angst or friction, just a pure desire for something other than they could offer. I moved to Austin, left my roots behind, and started something in a sunnier place.
When I turned 29, I was certain (in my own far too dramatic way) that I had run out of getaway cars. I thought I was too old for things to be genuinely new again. As my Sazerac dwindled in the glass, I realized that this might be one of the most electrifying getaway cars I’ve climbed into so far. I have no seatbelt. The windows are open. There are suitcases tumbling out of the trunk. My hair is sticking to the chapstick on my lips, the strands blowing crazy in the wind.
After happy hour, we all stumbled out of the bar giddy and happy, taking retirement photos on the front steps of the bars, giving big hugs and high fives before going our separate ways. Andrea and Rob came back to our house and we made a fresh, crisp mess of antipasto salad – cucumbers and red onion and provolone and olives and peperoncini and romaine.
We drank red wine that stained the table and our lips. I attempted to make pizza crust, from scratch, with old, stubborn yeast – and failed miserably. I served a simple red sauce on top of the brittle, cracker-like crust with mozzarella and parmesan and basil.
They ate every bite. Andrea and I picked at the crumbs at the end.
While Rob and Marc chopped up our Christmas tree in the backyard and made a crispy, crackling fire from the branches (those of you who know them, that’s your cue to laugh), Andrea and I had a moment. She asked how I felt about all of this – this new, fresh start.
Maybe it’s the fact that I had just made a meal of imperfect food that everyone ate anyway, or maybe it was the three Sazaracs in my belly. Maybe it was the hysterical scene of two city boys with a saw and a Christmas tree, the warmth from the fire, or the buzz from the time spent with friends I adore. Maybe it was the free-fall that comes with throwing out the grown-up rule book and writing your own.
I felt struck by something I couldn’t see or explain. There is no word for it. Not lightning, but close. “So good.” I told her. “I feel so good.”
When I start to question my decision to leave the old life behind, I take myself back to it. I feel the lumbar-supporting desk chair against my back, I picture the downtown view, I see double computer screens scrolling in front of me, I try to remember the comfort of a good salary and great benefits. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I see the yellow post-it on my desk.
It’s not even what it says, really. I love the quote – I think it’s stunning and heartbreaking and true. When you’re a writer, and you read something you wish you wrote, there’s a part of you that yearns, almost worships, until you find your own version of it. I think – when I wrote that down – that I knew I wanted something else for my life. Something with words, something that helped someone else, or something that simply made me feel whole.
As I continue to find my own words, I am so excited to help others find theirs. This is a joy for me – tutoring, connecting, cultivating a lightbulb moment for someone. Though the last couple of weeks have been gloriously terrifying and real, they have been mine. And that is so worth the hustle.
Check out the new biz here.