Yesterday found S. and I having lunch in one of our favorite Pittsburgh pubs. Over glasses of wine (me) and pints of beer (him) and a nutritionalist’s nightmare meal, we tried sorting out why we’ve felt aimless and somewhat bereft since the holidays.
Oh, certainly January, no matter how much you hope for it to turn out differently, is no great shakes. It’s been cold – so cold – and gray, and the snow just keeps falling, the temperatures keep dropping and the PROBLEM with January is that warmth is nowhere nearby. There is also the post-December let-down – I mean, we moved into our house, prepared for the holidays, hosted, adopted a dog…some sort of adrenaline release is only natural after a month like that.
But S. is feeling bluer than even the above events warrant and I am not sleeping well and experiencing some tell-tale anxiety signs and yesterday, because we are who we are, instead of allowing ourselves to wade separately through this time, we sat down to talk about it.
On the surface (and even below it) it feels embarrassing to admit any sense of sadness. We both have secure jobs (well, as secure as any jobs in America right now, which is only sort-of, I guess). We bought a big, eventually-to-be beautiful home in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Our dog’s only problem, albeit a big one, is separation anxiety. We have enough money. The conclusion we came to first, then, is that we are simply selfish selfish people who just can’t ever be happy in the moment.
The second conclusion we came to, after dismissing that one as a bit harsh, is….that this is it. And we don’t know what to do, when this is it because this has never been it, for us.
Oh, I certainly don’t mean to imply that we will be working these jobs and living in this manner ad nauseum for the rest of our lives, but the thing is, we probably could. And what’s more, for the next several years, this is it. S. wants to stay with his job long enough to implement and execute a capital (I think) campaign – I want to stay with mine for several more years, too. Our house, so full of potential, is crying out for renovations and updates. It is time to invest – in our jobs, our home, our community.
And we have never, ever done this before. Throughout the first decade of our togetherness we have always been onto the next thing barely before the first had begun. First a graduate degree in religious studies at Duke for S., then a one-year stint in West Virginia, then an MFA in writing for me, then law school for S., then the move back here to Pittsburgh. Our days, nights, summers, weekends have been dictated by pages to be read, papers to be written, exams to study for, resumes to create. We never bothered our pretty little heads very much with churches or volunteering for more than one-day stints or learning our way around whatever state we lived in simply because we knew that one day we would no longer be there.
But now, here in a city we love, we are here. In my imagination our lives here will be beautiful. We will garden and renovate and go to church and I will write novels and S. will work on his scholarship and our home and neighborhood will be an anchor for the work of the next several decades. And I believe my imagination is at least half right.
This kind of investment takes work. And even while we move forward towards this life, we are forced to shed, in a way, youthful us. Perhaps that sounds overly dramatic but there is, I think, a sense of loss for S. and Courtney in their twenties. We never had the money our friends had but our sense of adventure combined with our belief in higher education carried us quite far, and there is nothing quite like the uncertainty and curiosity of opening the door of a new apartment and looking out towards a new city and wondering what it will bring you, whom you will meet.
Ah, but it is time to let the younger version of us go. They smoked. They liked hanging out in bars much more than they did hanging out in the gym. They were most often fueled by marlboro lights, coca cola, credits cards and a sheer determination for perfect grades. They never slept much.
So many people were there for us along the first part of our journey. Our parents gave freely of their time and their money when we needed either. Friends housed us when we had no place to stay. Professors and bosses mentored us and believed in our futures. Even now, during this month of pause and reflection, I can feel the tug of the people who need us in return. S.’s mom will be undergoing eye surgery soon. One uncle of mine is losing his eyesight while another uncle just lost his mother. My mom is about to lose a beloved aunt. S.’s youngest sister is about to graduate college. Friends are undergoing their own struggles. It is time to begin giving back the generosity poured on us all these years.
It is time to begin the work we set ourselves up to do. To write and read, to give of our money and our time, to be attentive to the ones we love without the distractions of endless semester demands. To implement good health practices for our otherwise somewhat shoddy ones, so we can live a long long time.
It’s natural, I think, to falter in times of change, to question the choices that led you to the present. We are so lucky, to have each others hand to grab, to look at each other and say, let’s be the people we promised each other we’d be. It’s weird to me that it feels somewhat like sadness, but I believe if we move through the first stage, an admittedly hard stage, we will find ourselves on the other side, happier, healthier, and moving beautifully forward.