Ten Years of Living (Part of) My Dream

Remember how you used to get your teacher off track by asking her personal questions so that she'd cover no testable material? Well today's that day. On Beating a Quarterlife Crisis, Kristi Eaton recently asked about how we figure out where to live. This got me thinking about when I was 24 and completely lost. In other words, feeling like many of you do. And to prove that I work hard not to dole out ideas and advice that I don't struggle to follow myself (despite my quip in my profile, I abhor when people do this), here's a portion of my twentysomething tale. We shall call it The Residential Portion.

At 24 I was enrolled in a PhD program I hated, about to earn a non-terminal master's degree (AKA:  A Degree Worth Nothing in the Real World), and had no prospects for life after dropping out of grad school. But I knew - knew intensely - that I had to quit (which is a rich topic for another post; quitting is an awesome skill to have).

The only stable part of my life was my husband, whom I'd met in high school and had hung onto during the tumultuous "seeing other people" college years before marrying "young" at 22. (By that point, we'd already been together for seven years so we didn't feel young.)

But my career - along with my purpose, my dreams, my goals, my entire existence for being - was a total wash. I'd done what you all are fearing so hard:  I'd gone down the "wrong" path.

Washed up at 24. <tsk, tsk, tsk>

So I did what any reasonable twentysomething would do:  I moved to Maine.


Wait. Maine? Don't you mean New York City or Los Angeles or some other glamorous hot spot? Certainly you don't mean Maine. What twentysomething wants to live in Maine?

Portland, Maine

Well, not many, that's true; Maine suffers from an outflux of young people, called the savory term "brain drain" (I always picture chunky blood going down a sink when I hear that...yuck). But I'd dreamed of living in Maine since I was in 7th grade. It was my one true thing. Well, other than always wanting to be a writer, but that was so not happening. I mean, who takes a creative path with no guarantee of income and a certainty of rejection? No one reasonable, especially not someone with the logical mind that gets you enrolled in a social science doctoral program.

Since high school, my husband and I had said we'd move to Maine when we retired. There we were, though, just two years into marriage, our lives in complete disarray - me having panic attacks from the misery of grad school; him working for Enterprise Rent-A-Car after failing one of the standardized teaching exams in New York (there's the twentysomething dream: washing cars while wearing a suit & tie. Woo hoo!) - and so we looked at each other and said, "Why not now?"

You know, because 25 is the new 65. Or something like that.

I quit my graduate program, the hubby arranged for a transfer with Enterprise, and on June 1, 2003 we moved just outside Portland, Maine.

I had no job. I had no prospects. But I was in Maine! My dream state!

And why was it my dream from the tender age of 12? Oh, you know, because of reading. I'll let your mind fill in the blank with some literary classic set in the state (perhaps some of Longfellow's poetry? Or The Country of the Pointed Firs? Or even The Beans of Egypt, Maine?) Alright, alright, it was a teen horror trilogy The Fire, The Storm and Something I Forget. Oh yeah, high class reading!

All I know is that when I read about the rocky coasts, the foggy days, the lobster boats, I felt in my core I belong there. It's an inexplicable feeling, but I am a firm believer that we all hold this about at least one thing - whether it be what we want to do for fun, or for career, or where to live, or what type of people we want to be around. You can try to analyze it and figure out why you feel it but you'll never figure it out. And you should not; that would be to disembowel the unicorn.

Such is my draw to Maine. In my decade here, the dream of Maine has given way to reality - some of it harsh, like ice dams on the roof that leak into your home and make your ceilings dangle like utters - which was my greatest fear when moving here:  that I'd be sorely disappointed and no longer have a comforting vision to cling to during hard times.

Here's what I discovered, though:  It's much more painful to keep yourself from something you want, out of fear that it might not work out, than to live with the realities you encounter when you let yourself see all of the bumps and warts and beautiful ugliness of that thing.

All in all, it could be said that my life has, so far, unfolded completely differently than I'd expected.

As a child - a progressive modern girl who soaked up Free to Be You and Me - I thought I would secure my career, then find a man, then have kids, eventually retire, then move to Maine, then pursue the hobby of writing.

In actuality, I found a man, moved to Maine, pursued writing, had a kid. And eventually, I suppose, there'll be retirement, but I don't much care about that since I'm already writing in Maine.

This is how a life is constructed:  one bit at a time, not necessarily in the order you planned. When everything is falling apart, you can choose to identify and develop the one thing that you know is true and real and swells from somewhere deep within you and then let the other pieces come in their due time. Or you can cling to your plan. And be miserable.

By taking the "wrong" path in my life, I found the right one. If I'd done career "right" the first go round, I'd still be living somewhere else, doing something else, longing for Maine, longing to write, longing to be.

Instead I am being. And loving it.

I wish you as much. And more.

And now back to the material...

The Way Life Should Be. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)