I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.
From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple pig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children…..and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America….and beyond these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar
No, no, I’m not about to stick my head in the oven, and I don’t think that one has to choose between having a family and travel, or anything of the sort. But right now I do feel a bit like Sylvia, sitting in that fig tree, with dozens of choices hanging above just waiting to be picked. Only I can’t seem to decide, and I worry that as I sit paralyzed by indecision, my choices slowly disappear.
My life has never taken the linear route. In grade school I was on a path: I was getting a scholarship to a good high school and I was an exceptional equestrian. I was going to go to a great college, preferably one with an equestrian program, and eventually compete professionally. Instead, in 10th grade I started skipping school and fighting with my mom (who then sold my horse) and came dangerously close to failing a few classes. I went to a mediocre college in mid-Michigan, partying way through to graduate with an also mediocre GPA. But still I was convinced that after school, I would move to New York City and get a glamorous job in Public Relations. Instead, I moved to downtown Detroit and got a low-level job planning conferences for accountants. But that wasn’t all bad. I met Dan, and we all know how that worked out.
Still, I wanted something else, so we moved to Seattle. It was a great two years during which we figured out how to be adults, and we got engaged. But we wanted something else, so we moved to Chicago, where I went from being an event planner to a full-time travel writer. After four years here, I still love this city, but…..you guessed it, I’m ready for something else.
I want to live a hundred lives. I still want to live in New York, at least for a few years. I want to be an expat and still have dreams of spending a year or two in Prague. I want to call Buenos Aires home. I want to live on a farm and run a small agritourismo. I want to live on a vineyard and drink Pinot Noir every day. I want to live on the beach and go to bed every night to the low “whoosh” of the waves, and I want to live in a highrise and hear the chaos of the city two dozens stories beneath my feet. I want a house in Grosse Pointe, where I can walk to the hunt club for my riding lessons, and I want a loft in Detroit where I can stumble home from a dive bar in the eerie quiet.
And now that I am freelancing, it would be easier than ever for us to pick up and move anywhere we want. Instead of worrying about finding two jobs in a difficult market, we only have to worry about one. We can move anywhere Dan can find a job. We can stay here, we can move back to Detroit, we can move to New York, or San Francisco or Portland, and we can even move abroad, where Dan could teach English.
And the choices begin to overwhelm me, so right now, we’re staying put. Our lease is up at the end of August. We haven’t even begun to look for new apartments. We have however, been looking for jobs for Dan. Here in Chicago, in Detroit, in New York, in Portland, in San Fransisco, in DC, and in a dozen other places. If the right one comes along, we’ll consider it a sign – a perfect, juicy fig falling directly into our hands. So we sit, waiting for the fruit to fall, hoping it happens while the figs are still ripe, and before the cold December slowly turns them to a dead, dull, rotted brown.
Photo by ~Prescott
I’m pretty sure it’s got to be hilarious to be a dentist. Just imagine: you get to make someone look like an idiot as she tries to answer your questions with a drill in her mouth, you get to laugh as she struggles to keep her totally numbed mouth closed and ends up drooling all over herself, and you probably spend your happy hours laughing about her insane behavior while hopped up on nitrous.
Take my recent dentist visit for example. First, let me say, I love my dentist. When I had an intensive scaling and planing procedure done (in which plaque is painfully scraped from deep inside your gums), I was given a sedative pill. I was awake, but barely conscious of what was happening. When it was over, my husband took me home and put me to bed, and when I woke up, the whole thing felt like a dream. If only all visits could go like that.
But this time I was just there for a quick filling. I sat down in the chair and was given nitrous (what can I say, I’m still a baby about the dentist). I closed my eyes and clenched my fists while novocaine was injected into my gums. The feeling in my mouth slowly decreased, the nitrous kicked in, and the dentist returned to begin the procedure. As she worked, she talked with the hygenist about an upcoming trip. The hygenist didn’t believe that airlines now charged for checked bags. The dentist replied that Spirit even charged for carry-ons. She look at me, I thought, for confirmation. “Yes, ” I said. “They charge for everything.” And then I let loose a high-pitched, near-hysterical giggle, the kind usually emitted by asylum inmates in horror movies.
“Okay, done.” The dentist sat back and pulled off her gloves. Wait, that was it? I looked at the clock and realized I’d been in the office less than 15 minutes. I carefully stood up; my head felt gigantic. In a daze, I handed over my credit card, took my receipt and began the walk home, which I realized would take more than twice as long as I’d spent in the dentist’s office.
Passing people on the street, I tried to appear normal, but it was nearly impossible. My face felt all wrong. Every few feet I’d raise my hand to my mouth, ready to wipe off any accumulated drool, only to discover that I’d somehow managed to ingest half of my bottom lip. Passerby on the street stared, children screamed. Okay, maybe not. But I still felt like the Elephant Man.
Finally I made it home, where I could let my mouth hang open freely until it regained feeling. Yes, those dentists sure must get a kick out of their jobs, I thought. Then I pulled out my receipt. For 15 minutes in the chair, I paid over $200. And that’s probably what really gets the dentists laughing.
Shortly after my sister got married, she moved to Florida with her husband, who was from Michigan but had family down south. A few years later, my mom and her husband migrated to the sunshine state as well. Never one for stifling humidity, possible death by gator, and the crippling insecurity brought on by being surrounded by surgically-enhanced trophy wives, I opted not to join them. Instead, I go see them once a year or so.
Every time I go to visit, I worry that my 6-year old niece, Stella, won’t remember me. I worry that I’ll have to try to win her affection all over again or impress her with how awesomely fun I am (which is not very much; children normally freak me out a little). But somehow, no matter how long it’s been since she last saw me, she still seems to adore me. I am constantly confused, amazed, and delighted at this discovery.
While I’m still on the fence about whether or not I want kids (with one leg creeping over to the “no” side), I love being with Stella. I love watching the sense of wonder and discovery that a child seems to posses. And it doesn’t hurt that she also thinks I’m particularly awesome. If you ever need a self-esteem boost, just borrow an adoring niece for the day.
The last time I visited, Stella was in the living room watching tv with her father when a Victoria’s Secret commercial came on. A tall, thin, leggy model with long dark hair strutted on the screen. “Look,” Stella yelled, “it’s Aunt Katie!” I heard her father laugh in response. “Wow, Stella,” he said, “that’s really nice.”
Okay, so maybe the kid’s a bit delusional. Perhaps it’s time for the parents to take her to get her eyes checked. But I can’t help but wonder if maybe we’d all be a little better off if we saw things the way Stella does. If everyone was the best version of themselves. If everything was new and shiny and exciting and dramatic. Of course, during that same visit, Stella sliced her foot on a wicker basket, and as a few tiny drops up blood welled up and ran over her toes, she wailed “I don’t want to dieeeee!” so maybe there’s also something to be said for the wisdom that comes with age.
Tags: chicago, love, spring, winter
No, this isn’t about me and Dan. This is about me and Chicago. You see, for the past four or so months, I’ve been kind of mad at Chicago. Okay, really mad. So mad I was thinking about divorcing this city and hooking up with a new one – a warmer one. (This is just about the most-ironic post you will ever read, because while I detest the winters here, I hope to someday live in Iceland. Wrap your head around that.)
Winter in Chicago pretty much sucks. At first it’s not so bad. The city blanketed in a layer of fresh snow is pretty beautiful. Sipping hot mulled wine at the Christkindlemarkt in the glow of Christmas lights while snow falls gently from above is pretty romantic. Then reality sets in. It’s freaking cold out there! So cold that being outside without the proper gear for more than three minutes will result in hypothermia. So cold that freezing (as in 32 degrees) actually sounds warm. So cold that you don’t want to leave the house because it’s painful to be outside.
And so I don’t leave the house. I don’t go to the gym. Instead I sit on the couch under layers of blankets. I eat heavy carb-laden meals. I wear warm sweatpants and I don’t notice live in denial about the amount of weight I’m gaining. And that, my friends, is how I have arrived at my heaviest weight in five years. (Ugh, just typing that makes me shudder. The embarrassment of sharing that fact is only offset by the hope that at least people will think “well, at least she isn’t always this fat”).
And just when I was at my snapping point, when I was looking at apartments in other cities and seriously considering telling Dan that we had to move, spring arrived. Yesterday it was over 60 degrees. I met Dan for sushi and as I walked down the street in a jean skirt and boots, a t-shirt and a cardigan, the sun shined down on me and I was so happy, I forgot all about breaking up with Chicago.
As much as the city sucks in the winter, it rocks in the summer. The city just comes alive when the weather turns nice. Beers gardens and sidewalk patios are everywhere, and walks that I would not even consider in winter (like last night’s 40-minute trek to the sushi restaurant) are undertaken happily. I go outside, I go to the gym, I walk, I run, I eat less, and by the end of summer, I no longer hate myself for being overweight.
Of course, then January rolls around and I become a Chicago-hating, weight-gaining shut-in once more. But I won’t think about that now. Right now, the sun is shining, it’s warm outside, and I’ve fallen back in love with the city.
Sometime on Thursday, February 18 – was it 9:22am, 10:54am? I can never remember, plus with the time change….whatever, it’s my birthday all day – I turned 30 years old. I entered my 31st year on the planet. I joined what some call “The Dirty 30 Club.” Wait, what?
No, sorry. I may be 30, but I refused to label it as dirty. Nor will I call it “flirty.” Blech. Just 30 is fine with me. I didn’t freak out about it. I don’t feel “officially old” and I see no need to cute-up the idea of getting older in order to stomach it more easily. Actually, I’m feeling pretty damn content about where I am in life right now.
Last year, I wrote a little post about the things I’d seen and done in my 29 years on Earth, and though I copped to not always feeling like an adult, I was feeling secure in that. One year later, I still don’t always feel like an adult. And what I’ve realized is that I may never really feel like one. I may never feel that maternal urge to bring forth a child. I may never own a house. I may never be completely debt free (damn you, college loans!). And I am 100% okay with that. Because the things I do have – great friends and family, an awesome job, a perfect-for-me husband, and a life of adventure – are the only things I need.
In the last year, I went from freelancing on the side of my day-job to freelancing full-time to being fully employed as a travel writer and editor at a great website where I get to work with fantastic, passionate people. I visited (and fell madly in love with) Iceland, and went to Denver (twice), San Antonio and Austin, Louisville and Lexington, Washington DC, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Hawaii, and South Africa.
I spent time with family, attended two kick ass weddings, went ziplining (twice), rode a horse on the beach, saw two active volcanoes, was mugged at knifepoint, snorkeled for the first time, saw the bats of Austin, swam with sharks (kind of), went dogsledding, rode an Icelandic horse, added a fourth continent to my tally, flew a plane, visited a coffee plantation, swam with dolphins (also twice), rang in my birthday in New Orleans, and generally had fantastic time.
So, what’s next? Well, I’ll be working on some exciting projects at BootsnAll, traveling to Colombia, New York and Prague, plus other locations to be determined, committing to finally and for good getting and staying healthy with good eating and consistent exercise, and working on accomplishing more goals on my life list.
I think 30 is going to be a really good year.
If you’ve arrived here at my new blog, chances are we’re related or very good friends. If not, “Hello!”, “Welcome!”, and possibly “Sorry about that.”
My name’s Katie. I’m a newly minted editor and (relative newbie) travel writer. I’ve been writing about travel since September of 2008, freelancing full-time since November of 2009, and since February of 2010, I’ve been working as an editor and staff writer at the BootsnAll Travel Network.
I started with a little travel blog of my own, which has been sadly neglected for the last seven months. Rather than return there, I decided to launch a new blog (which had its own false start in October) here. While most of my travel writing will appear on various BootsnAll sites, here you can expect to find my general ramblings, thoughts on the world, and tidbits from behind the scenes of life as an editor.
I hope you stick around, and I hope you enjoy what you read.
A) I hate when people say “bless you” when I sneeze. Because then I have to say “thanks”. But why should I say thanks? They didn’t really bless me. And even if they had the power to do that, why does sneezing warrant any attention from on high (other than the fact that people used to believe your heart stopped when you sneezed)? We don’t say “bless you” when someone burps, or yawns or performs some other involuntary bodily action. Can’t we just let my forceful expulsion of germy mucus mist go without comment? Or at the very least not force the event to result in me saying “thank you”? Imagine if everytime I farted, I turned to the person next to me and said “thanks”.
When Dan and I first started dating, I told him if he was going to insist on saying “bless you” when I sneezed, I would say something equally useless when he did. After months of me saying random words and nonsense phrases after his achoos (“schandenfreud!” “glocken pepper!”), he finally just stopped acknowledging my sneezes.
B) Today Dan watched Pirates of the Caribbean while I wrote. When a character said “Huzzah!” I looked up and asked Dan why we never say huzzah. Our marriage needs more “huzzah” I said.
C) Hours later, I sneeze. Dan (from the other room): Huzzah!