Quick recap: Back in my small town in Canada I was a somebody. I had a high profile career and was very successful at it. After 20 years, many of the last of which were living in burnt out bitterness, I needed to make a change. But, I’d built up such an expectation of excellence within the community who knew me and a reputation built on ego and acclaim (and a closet full of expensive shoes), that leaving that life—and identity—wasn’t as easy as I’d thought: other people didn’t want me to (other professionals, clients).
I burned out and wanted to fade away.
All that time, energy and investment building up a career and community image only to want to escape it. I started living a secret, alias life in a big city in another country (Seattle), meanwhile commuting back and forth. (The details of that life are in my upcoming memoir.)
In my big city world I was ordinary, a nobody. A mixed-up nobody, but I loved it.
It was my chance to remake my self. Of course, I’d spent so much time creating the one character I’d become, I didn’t really know who the real me was. That became part of the adventure.
Finally, I collected my courage and officially quit my career. I sold my house, my furniture, and my fancy car. I couldn’t quite part with the shoes, however. (I admit they still slumber in dust bags and designer boxes tucked safely away while I figure out whether they will fit this new, evolving me.)
Like so many freedom-finding souls who make their way to California, I followed suit—renouncing designer suits and Seattle—and found even more of myself in Venice Beach. This place is a melting pot of pot-smoking hippies and suspender-wearing hipsters, of odd balls and the ballsy, of overpriced homes and of the home-lacking, of artists and con artists, of yogis and youth of every age. And with misguided misfits, I found a place to fit in without standing out.
Recently, a friend from home emailed me with kind intentions asking me if I was truly happy.
I replied that I was looking to be—to feel ordinary. That unless and until I wouldn’t be subjected to looks of sympathy or pity or simply She’s lost her mind, ‘home’ wasn’t a comfortable place for me. People expect greatness of me there. (At least three random people have told me this, so it’s not just coming from a narcissistic me.) Here, I am ‘me.’ A simpler version of me, but one that is content with that.
That night I had a vivid dream. I was hiking with another friend from back home, another person from my old life. We were about to traverse down a steep, densely forested path, which I sensed lead to the ocean. From the top of the trail, he started leading to the right. I’d never noticed that path before and looked to the left where there was no trail whatsoever, only overgrown shrubs, sharp, dry twigs and exposed roots attached to evergreens clinging for their lives.
I pointed to the left and said, “I’ve always used that one.” Even though there was no that one.
My friend chuckled, amused, “You always take the most challenging path.”
I was baffled because I’d never noticed the obvious human-enhanced path he so naturally took. I followed him to the trail on the right. Though it was also steep and rugged, it had a semblance of man-made stairs and handholds and was well used as evidenced by the worn edges and smoothed places people had stepped or grabbed.
This right way was also rough but much safer than the left way I’d always used. It also offered dual options for descent: two routes weaving into each other. He chose the easier route, I followed on the more difficult one.
I woke up wondering if the dream meant anything more than an acknowledgment of my innate nature to forge my own path and of an inert rebellion to follow. I thought about the email I’d received from my friend saying.
I email her and tell her how my days are filled with riding a bicycle on the Venice and Santa Monica Boardwalks, to fill my lungs with sunshine and fresh air; with farmer’s markets and fresh produce to satisfy my belly with organic goodies; with giving out granola bars and hugs to the home-lacking to sooth my soul; and writing pieces like this for ej to gratify my need for creative expression. I tell her I’m sure there are destitute vagrants there for me to love, but it’s much warmer here! And I’m not ecstatically happy here but I’m less unhappy than I was there.
I have food, clothing and comfortable shelter. I have enough for my happiness.
What have I (re)learned? Sometimes, we have to run away from our old world to begin a new life. It can mean moving from one company to another or one country to another. When we forge our own path in life, many people won’t understand. Some will be jealous, others inspired, and a few will be downright confused, but most won’t really care. Everyone has their own lucid dreams going on in their minds that influence their take on it. And that’s perfectly okay. Some people require less change. And that’s okay, too. Whatever we do, ultimately it matters not.
I’ve abandoned big paychecks and bitterness for beaches and sea breezes, and I am still a somebody. I am me.
Homework: Live my life, love my life, forge my path. Live my dream.