To be honest, I haven't felt like I have anything to say.
There's certainly a lot going on in my life - which is a mish-mash of work, projects, friends, and art - but I spend less time on social media then I used to and no longer need that external validation to help me see my worth.
My days are busy. I work Monday through Friday in an office, which I love. I work on projects that I am proud of, and feel like I'm finally settling into my new title of graphic artist and videographer. I actually get paid every day to design stuff and be artsy and brainstorm and code and film and edit. Can you believe that? I never, ever thought I'd be here.
You see, ten years ago, my health wasn't doing so well, and I had to move back in with my parents. This was hard, yes, but what was harder was realizing I'd never be able to do 12 hour days in a writer's room, or spend 16 hours editing or filming stuff. I had a list of people in television development and had been sending out resumes while living in Los Angeles. I was looking for a cheap apartment as I did this, knowing this is where I was supposed to be.
And then I left.
That was hard. It was a dream I'd had since I was little and first fell in love with the serial storytelling of television shows and now it was...gone. Done. My body had betrayed me and I was back in Illinois where I spent a majority of my time in bed or doing art.
Those years were hard. I had friends, but didn't go out with them all that often. When I think back to those years, I think of the studio I made out of one of the bedrooms, watching daytime tv with my mom, and spending my weekends/Thursday nights with my good friend Jamie. I did a couple of meetup groups, but stayed to myself. I took on various part-time jobs and spent my free hours in lots and lots of pain. It kinda sucked, but I made the best of it.
I was also wildly depressed and suicidal for most of that time.
Things only got worse, of course, and I moved across the country. But this time, I made friends. Friends who I talked to all the time and saw weekly and did things with. I built strong friendships that, to be honest, saved my life on many occasions. I'm sure they don't know how often I was ready to check out. I knew, at that time, that the only way I'd ever be independent was if I married someone. Which is stupid and probably sexist or something, but I was grasping at straws. I lived on the razor's edge of living with my parents and knowing I wouldn't survive if I didn't.
When I got out of the hospital and saw all the messages left for me, I realized people would notice if I were gone. And that I had a great circle of friends who were willing to do so much to help me. From offering me a place to get away from it all, to going out and doing art, speaking plainly to get to the truth, to texting me to see how I'm doing - these are all the kinds of things my friends have done for me lately and I don't know if I can ever adequately thank all of them.
A two weeka ago, I drove out to San Diego for vacation. I stayed with Bunny, whom I met on Facebook and instantly clicked with. Her apartment was amazing and I hope I can spread some of that awesome magic to my own room.
We went shopping and chilled and did art and chatted until 2 am like girls at a sleepover. We admired roses in the Rose Garden and took reference shots before sitting down to rest and do some sketching (we also saw a crane totally catch and kill a gopher!).
I spent a couple of days there, then drove up towards LA, stopping to visit with D, my mom's best friend and my second mom. I hadn't seen her in at least seven years, and was so happy to see where her life is right now. I'm so happy for her and proud and was so, so happy I could talk about Mom with someone who knew her well. Hearing D say she's proud of me, and that Mom is proud of me really meant a lot. We always want to make our parents proud.
I met up with Becca at her in-laws' and we spent three days roaming LA, finding all the cool stationary and fabric and art shops we could. We visited Venice Beach and Santa Monica and the flower district and Little Tokyo and more. It was amazing and fun.
I'd been looking forward to this trip because, while I'd met A for dinner in downtown LA about three years ago, I hadn't been back to my old neighborhood in ten years. I wanted to see it, to capture that feeling of this is right for however long I was there. We got a chance to drive my favorite road up over the Hollywood Hills (Coldwater Canyon, I love you and your winding turns!) and then there we were, in my old neighborhood.
I almost started crying. Here was a place I'd loved, and missed, and dreamed about for years. The place where my dreams were alive and I was young. The place I thought I belonged.
But then I realized I didn't want to be there, not yet.
My life in Phoenix isn't perfect, but it's mine and I love it. I love where I live and work and the people I spent my time with. I love the art scene here and the weather (even if it is 102F as I write this) and all the opportunities I've had since moving here.
I found a job where I get to produce videos. I get to write and film and edit. I get to play in Photoshop and Illustrator all day. And then I go home to my comfy house and kick back while drawing or writing or sometimes, I just allow myself to watch a movie.
On the weekends, I see friends. There's always an adventure to be had, a place to go and relax and be me.
California is expensive. It's also beautiful and fun and a place I'd like to get back to someday.
I'm just not in a rush anymore.
Here's what I've learned about dreams and wishes: you have to be patient and specific.
When I was little, I wanted to be a writer. I never was specific, though, and I was able to become a writer anyway, just not in the way I thought I would.
Then I wanted to work in television, writing and editing projects. Now I get to do that and more, just not in the place I thought I would.
I wanted to become an artist and write books and teach classes. Now I do art and share my knowledge for free-ish, in a different way and down a different path (more on that this week).
The thing is, life has a way of bringing you back to your dreams in a round-about way, asking you how hard you're willing to work to make those dreams come true. And then, when you go back and re-visit a dream, you realize you're not the same person anymore, and that dream isn't dead - it's just shifted, morphed into something better.
But you need those old dreams to remind you how things work out if we step back and shift our perspective. They allow us to see a snapshot of who we used to be and hold it up against who you are now. We all grow and change, and our dreams should, too.
I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I'm no longer carrying the heavy sadness that's lived in my heart for ten years. Knowing what I'm capable of assures me that it'll happen if it's meant to be. But why don't I see where all this takes me?
I could have never dreamed of the life I live now. Sure, I rarely have enough money and eat food pantry food. I'm constantly stressed about finances and my health (my neck issues are getting worse and they suck). But I'm also ecstatic that I'm finally living as an independent woman.
And here's something for my fellow Spoonies: I spent ten years thinking I'd never be able to move out, or live on my own, or not be in a shitload of pain. I thought my life was as good as it was going to be. That I'd always be in pain and unable to do stuff with others. When I was visiting with D, she kept asking me if it was okay for us to take a long walk. "You were a mess in high school," she said. And I was. There was little I could do without pain knocking me down the day after.
(In fact, this still happens; I got home last Friday and didn't get hit with the intense muscle spasms from all the driving I did until Thursday. I have spent the past few days in bed resting and sleeping after a visit to the ER due to the level of pain I was in.)
You can build a life. You won't always be in pain, or be this sick. Sometimes, you'll get a reprieve. And in that space, you've gotta rack up all the life adventure points you can because you don't know how long it'll last.
But don't think about when it ends, because maybe it doesn't. Maybe you get a little better and can do more. I work all day, yes, but then I spent the whole rest of the day resting. It works for me. And maybe one day, it'll work for you.
And for the love of God, let others live their own dreams and love who they love, regardless of gender.