When we talk about how to survive, we might be referring to the survival from an accident or an illness. But is that the only type of survival we have to experience?
How about the survival of life? How do girls survive junior high school when all of a sudden their best friends of grammar school take the bitch pill and turn against them? And then in high school, when they think those same friends have gotten over their bitchy early teen years, only to find out that those friends will just be bitches for life? How did we survive that? By being stronger!
And as we passed on to college, maybe with a new group of friends because we had lost respect for the ones we had since grammar school…we also began to have a new perspective on life. Our teachers and classmates filled our heads with the idea that the world was ours for the taking. It was time to decide what we want to be when we grow up. Some of us made that decision…really nailed it down. “I want to be a doctor.” “I want to be a lawyer.” “…a teacher.” “…a mother.” Whatever it was that we had wanted. And some of us succeeded at doing exactly that…and nothing more.
I started college thinking I had wanted to be an accountant. (I don’t know why…or don’t remember why.) I used up my first two years taking business classes only to eventually decide I had wanted to major in psychology, so I spent my last two years fulfilling the requirements for psychology…leaving no room for me to take any type of underwater basket weaving courses. I literally went from one major academic class to another one until I graduated…with a degree that only left me qualified to go back to school.
I toyed with the idea of law school…but I always knew I never wanted to be a slave to my job. I always knew that I would want a good work-life balance. I always knew that I would want to have the time away from work to spend doing my own thing…whatever that may have been. Life took me in a whole host of directions…from Criminal Psychology to full-time bartender to temp receptionist for a law firm that really did become my passion.
I worked for that firm for 7 1/2 years during which time I was able to also obtain my MBA in Business Mgmt because my work day was a strict 9-5 job, I was able to have time enough for my studies. But that made me qualified to work 60 hour weeks which I see now burned me out anyway. I was only able to watch my mother die from the sidelines because she never let me move home to care for her and never allowed me to take any time off from school to help with her doctor visits, pain management and overall daily care (something she felt I should have been spared).
So what happened after I burned out? I thought it would be a good idea to take time off from the real world to go scuba diving. And not just on vacation…I literally gave up my life for what most people consider to be a hobby. That took me to beautiful Cozumel, Mexico where I was able to dive amazing dive sites and witness incredible sunsets and meet some of the most amazing people. A culture I embraced and joined with a man with whom I had thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with.
But I think my “system” rejected it because it was completely uncharted territory for me. Did I love him? More than I’ve ever loved anyone! But during our relationship, I lost what little of my family I still had left. And when my “system” rejected our relationship because I had never been taught how to maintain such a relationship, I found myself to be completely alone.
Sure, I have always had tons of friends…women who I have always been able to convince to do anything with me. (Lunch for 5 hours while ignoring their responsibilities to their own families, daily running routines/therapy sessions, drinking bouts at local gin mills…all during which I would just tear apart any other man I was dating at the time…knowing, deep down, that I just did not belong in another relationship but yet using them as my reason to stay exactly where I was…geographically.
Until one day, I woke up and said…”Ok, Catherine, it is time to finish growing up!” It is now time for me to stop acting like I am still 25…stop making out with good looking men I might randomly meet because it makes me feel good at that moment. It is now time for me to decide where and how I want to spend the rest of my life. And I now realize that it can not be where I am. Granted, I no longer live in Cozumel…I do now live in a major city with professionals. But everyone I meet tends to treat me as though I am at summer camp…just visiting. So it is now time for me to go back home…back to where I am from so that I can finally face my life and its responsibilities again.
As hard as I tried for it not to happen, I do realize now that I had become a slave to my job before I left the States. So the first thing I will do when I am back home is look for a job that can be contained within a 9-5 schedule again. To allow myself to have the free time away from the office to work on me again. I know that I am a good survivor of life. I am good at “rejecting” relationships because I know they are outside my comfort zone. What does that mean? Well it means that my comfort zone only includes me. I am a graceful warrior…as I spontaneously fly off to dive in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language at 35 years old, I had not really been thinking about anyone else except myself.
I recognize now how much I hurt so many of the people I left behind…people who could use me to return to them…people who could just really get used to being able to see me again on a regular basis. (Even if it is just for my funny stories about my “dramatic” life, which I just tell so well.)
But I am still a survivor! I am still good at keeping people at a distance… responsibilities and obligations…using excuses like, “Well I’d love to except that I have to work.” …anytime things get too serious or uncomfortable for me to face head on. So this time, as I walk the mean and lonely streets of NYC…I hope to be able to face my fears of commitment as I tackle my daily obstacles with the new knowledge I’ve gained by being away for 8 years. I hope to be able to not be afraid to be more emotional about life and things that go wrong. I hope to be able to say that the loss of my mother is behind me. And with my butterfly tattoo on my shoulder representing my mother always having my back…I hope that I will just feel as though she is always with me and always has my back…instead of my missing her all over NYC again. I hope to be able to say it when things are not “fine.”
I also hope to be able to handle a relationship like an adult, for a change. For the next man I meet to see who I want to be, instead of where I’ve already been. Someone who appreciates my future, not just talks about my past. Someone who is interested in joining his future with mine. Someone who is more of a caretaker for me, rather than someone looking for me to help him re-live his 20’s with him. And I also hope that I will be able to be selective faster than I’ve been. (Granted, most of my latest relationships have been pretty short-lived due to my ability to read that the men I’ve chosen have just not been the right fit for me.)
When asked, “How do you survive so easily?” I would have to say that it is my ability to walk away from situations that don’t work out for me any more. It is my ability to realize it before I resent it. I also don’t have the attachments that many people have that might limit me from being able to do exactly that. Some may think that’s sad…while others may be jealous of the freedom it gives me. Furniture is not something keeping you in one place…or a car or an apartment lease…or a wardrobe. Those are just material items that can easily be replaced. (Trust me, I’ve already done that!)
But what we do always need to remember is that as we move through life…whether it be literally from one city/state/country to another or from one age range to another…it is ourselves that we must bring along. And I believe that it is my ability to survive, roll with the punches, that will allow me to continue to survive through the next chapter I am about to start writing…that and the huevos to do it! (And we all remember, I have those too!)