It's not Mercury Retrograde. It's Life.
this week I met with a good friend. technically speaking he's an old boss of mine - not that these details matter - but because we are (so) obsessed with labels ( people desire clarity, the "give me so that I can compartmentalize. group. avoid vagueness. space of the unknown. allow me to be in control )
Okay, FINE. For you, for this particular story - let's "label" him Friend.
This is a friend who took a chance on me when I was 25, anointing me with the challenge and privilege in becoming the face and the voice of Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets. Looking back - now that I'm 31 - I cannot fucking believe he allowed that to happen. (what were you thinking?!)
I remember what I felt when I received the call. "Alyonka -- you've got the job. How quickly can you move to New York?"
The bruised part of me hid my excitement. I wanted them to feel lucky to have me. "I'll do my best to make this happen as quickly as possible but I need to wrap up some things first."
I had nothing to wrap up. We - humans - are constantly playing games with one another. A dance. Show me yours and I'll show you mine, maybe. And then when you feel like you're starting to get to know me, I'll slam the door in your face just enough to leave a crack open so that you keep on working hard to get inside the real me. Let's keep the tension building because secure relationships are boring (they're not).
Sound familiar my anxious and avoidant friends? Yeah, well, it's because many of us play this out in our dating lives and all other types of relationships.
(((( if you've attended my Workshop, you know INTIMACY is something I'm working on... ie; i try reaaaaaaaallly hard to stay far away from this game ... the one foot in, one foot out, hedging my bets, planning my hurting, before I'm hurt. It's a waste of time - take it from me ))))
Back to Friend. At 25, after a few months into the gig I remember thinking, I'm better than this. I deserve more - granted this was coming from a space of working insane hours and balancing a job that should have been done by more than one person - I felt that I was missing out on something better.
I am sure (now) that my attitude was totally off point. I was 25. Yes, I'd already spent 4 1/2 years in the industry, jumping from Pittsburgh, to New York, to Toronto, and back to New York. But that had been work in a different sport. In a different realm. For a different company. I'd paid my dues but not the 10,000 hour dues. I deserved A LOT for the work I'd done and the work I was doing -- i worked my fucking ass off -- but I was only 25, and only a few months into this new field of work. I was lacking PATIENCE.
The interesting part here is that it wasn't so much about the MONEY or the TITLE (even though these conversations later surfaced) what was building were ANXIETY-ridden questions of "is this enough?" and "when will I get there?".
The anxiety, and my lack of patience, festered and boiled into an inability to be in the present moment and a lacking of awareness that there is a certain kind of process to things.
Upon hearing my complaints, Friend (and Boss) would sigh, sometimes roll his eyes, and firmly say, "well, this is life".
I paraphrase (i'm sure there was more that he'd say) because I'm not sure that I was really listening to him because Friend's answer wasn't the answer I wanted to hear.
What I wanted to hear was an answer which included a solution, a "here's why this is happening this way, and if you just do x,y,z, and you work hard enough you'll get there, and then from there, you'll go here, and then you'll be at the top and that's when you'll finally feel the anxiety fade, and everything will be enough and life will be perfect." As if that's some sort of a reachable reality.
At 31, I know better.
At 25, I didn't care.
At 25 I was tired of waiting.
I laugh. Like, I'm actually laughing as I'm writing this because this shit is hilarious.
Waiting for what, Alyonka? To reach some sort of point of success? To have some sort of number in my bank account? To win awards? To get the "dream job"? The "nice" apartment? The title? The guy?
I'll be honest - by 30, I achieved all of that and more. I've been nominated and won awards. I've had a great number in my bank account. I've had the "nice" Venice, Abbot Kinney apartment. I traveled and posted the "right" kind of pictures on my instagram. I had the "title". PRODUCER at VICE! Wow. Peoples eyes light up when you say that (try it). I had "the guy", although he never had me.
And that's kind of the point here: none of these things, or these places, or these people HAD ME. Because none of it was ever good enough for me. And so, I was either in the past sourcing what seemingly worked, or looking into the future for what seemingly would be better.
And my plan? Well, it was always a plan of exit. One foot in - one foot out. Break before Broken.
By the time LIFE HIT ME AGAINST THE FACE. By the time it LITERALLY LAID ME OUT FLAT, I was so consumed by the rat race, the not enough, the more more more, that it took me a moment to realize that I had almost lost my life.
When I say Life, I do mean all the things that I have just mentioned -- job, money, status, guy, apartment, etc. all those things went too -- but I'm talking like, literally my life. The facing death, kind of losing my life.
And so you see -- when we're either too far out in the past or the future -- the present quickly becomes six years later and I find myself at 31 sitting with my Friend thinking, why was I so damn ungrateful.
Why, Jeff? Why couldn't I have just ENJOYED THE PROCESS, and listened to your words when you said it's a journey, not a destination!
Because NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR THAT. Nobody wants to hear that it's not Mercury Retrograde. It's not a bad streak. It's not all the things going wrongly or poorly or falling apart - even though they can. IT'S JUST LIFE. It ebbs and flows. It has streaks of black and white and grey and everything else in between -- because no one ever said it would be easy, or a guarantee, or a final destination.
I think the only thing we can do (or control) is our CHOICE. We can either CHOOSE to embrace it in its' present, or do what we do best: work hard to escape its' past, or worse, sprint furiously towards its' future.
When we're neither here nor there, we're nowhere. And 25 quickly becomes 31, then 40, and 50 and so on...and ALL THE GOODNESS IN BETWEEN, falls by the wayside, because we were never truly there.
So at 31, after sitting for yogurt and scones with Friend, and divulging all of my instabilities in this current iteration of Alyonka, I'd take moments in between breaths to tap into my intuition which quietly kept surfacing whispers of "ride the wave...ride the wave...ride the wave" to me.
And then I heard myself say, "you know what, Jeff? It's really hard right now. Really. I am a nomad. I move from apartment to apartment crashing on beds. I don't have a steady income. I'm building a business from scratch. The New York market is fucking tough. It's expensive as all hell. My health isn't perfect. My surgery set me back. I'm terrified of intimacy but I'm working on it. And I don't know what my future holds much further than the month of August. I AM STANDING ON NOTHING." And then I took a breathe and said, "but you know what? I'm fucking happy."
Because here's the thing: what I've got is myself. I'm standing on a foundation - on ME - that I've built from scratch. And yes it's tough. But it's fucking easier than it has ever been before. Why? Because I'm in the present. I'm dealing with the here and now. With ALL THE SHIT that bubbles up in the Discomfort, in the Silence, in the Stillness, and in The Unknown. I'm not comparing to the past and I'm certainly not waiting for a distant future. I'm dealing with LIFE in the best way I can. And that's enough. I'm enough. And so are you.
So the next time someone says, "damn...this mercury retrograde", smile and say, "nah. it's just life. ride the wave my friend. it's all a process without a particular destination, and just enough."