Courtesy of Shannon Bradley-Colleary over at The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful, I’ve learned perhaps the best and funniest rule for a life-long trash mouth like myself:
I had a birthday a few weeks back–May 29th, to be exact–and ever since, I’ve been reflecting on what I want to do this year. It wasn’t an intentional reflective period, it just happened that way.
Steve just celebrated his 30th birthday on Monday. We enjoyed a quiet but fabulous night out, eating all of the food at Smith and Wollensky (including 12 oysters, 6 littlenecks, three sides-for-two, and two massive steaks…and drinks…and there was beef carpaccio in there somewhere too). Steve, like many, does not love celebrating birthdays because to him, they seem like non-events. Paraphrasing how he sees it: congratulations, you didn’t die this year. But me being me, I still insisted that it was special–it is!–because if nothing else, I’m glad he didn’t die this year. Romantic, huh?
While we enjoyed our first drinks–I, a glass of pinot noir, Steve an Old Fashioned–I toasted to another year, and asked Steve what he wanted to do with this, his 31st year. He thought, then responded. I won’t share his response here because poor Steve didn’t sign up for every last thing that comes out of his mouth to be publicized because I have a blog. But I will share with you what I said when Steve turned the question on me.
In this, my 29th year, I aim to:
A while back, I attended a professional training on how to influence people. My takeaway was really this: talk less, listen more. In order to really hear what the other person is saying, I need to keep my mouth shut and let that person frame the discussion him/herself. I am so trained to reflective, active listening (too much mediation training?) that I think it has taken over my ability to listen and hear.
Will this change everything? No. Will I all of a sudden become a mute listening robot? No. When I told Steve about this intention, it came with the caveat that he sort of has to do the opposite: talk more, listen less. See, we’re very different. I’m a Meyers-Briggs E, he’s an I. I process externally, he processes internally. It can make for a lot of seemingly lopsided conversations, in that I’m talkatalkatalking and he’s absorbing, silently. Then, minutes or hours later, he contributes a neatly organized sentence or two that sums up his whole position, and there I was, yammering on about mine forever because I think out loud and didn’t quite know how I felt about it until I said it out loud a few times.
My E tendencies won’t go away, his I tendencies are here to stay, but we’ll try to shift the balance and see what happens. It’s a stretch for the both of us.
Also, I think I have ADD.
When we were still in RI, almost a year ago, we developed our first Five Year Plan, or our 5YP. I know, you’re thinking: How Soviet of you! The goal at that point was to build our savings–liquid and retirement–and equity in our home, develop our careers, and ultimately relocate to a different area five years down the line. To accomplish these tasks, we had charts and progress goals and check ins, networking and career skills plans, you name it. It was legit.
Well, we sort of did it out of order, huh? We shifted career gears quickly, decided to relocate, sold the house in three days, and BAM now we live in DC, new shiny careers and all.
Nothing major went by the wayside, but I’d like to take a step back and figure out what we need to do to get back on track in terms of liquid and retirement savings, especially. We need to discuss our goals and how we want our life to look and feel, and what we need to do–financially–to get there.
Honestly, what we need is a sit-down with a financial planner. But, we don’t have the same financial goals as many couples our age, and that’s making it harder to find someone who will give advice specifically for us. I want someone who can tailor advice to the following: we do not want kids and don’t need to plan for them and don’t want to be asked if we’ll change our minds every year (seriously world, noyb), we have owned a home and eventually will again but probably not in the next 5 years, our student loan situation is very different from that of our peers, our salaries took a hit when we moved to a more expensive area but can rebound, we are saving for retirement, we could be saving more for general purposes, we want to enjoy our lives more than we want to trudge through them. Internetz, FIND ME THIS ADVISOR. Someone who knows that we might be able to retire at a sensible age, that we’re not doomed to a life of visit-less nursing home times, and that we can have a little more freedom in our estate planning.
Some of my smaller goal-making tasks in my To Do And Then series have addressed this, specifically rolling over my retirement moola to my new employer. There are more steps, though. Time to figure out what they are and how to get there.
Some people can sing as beautifully as the angels, some can slip in and out of a dramatic role seamlessly, and then there are the graceful dancers and nimble, powerful athletes. But me? Nope. I can’t sing very well, and even so, my nerves keep me from belting anything out unless I’m safely sealed within the confines of an empty, moving car. I can sort of act out little bits but I can’t actually act act. My dancing is more like seizing, and my athletic skills are, uh, non-existent. You know what I can do, though? I can cook.
I tell everyone who will listen that if I could, I’d stay home all day and cook. And eat. And feed other people. It’s when I feel my best. I feel like it’s the one talent I have, the one art form at which I excel. I have a natural instinct for cooking, and dammit, I’m proud of that. I truly love it.
I’m not going to culinary school, I don’t want to be held to learn proper measuring and conversion methods, nor can I be bothered with the food safety unit that comes with every single culinary lesson (botulism schmotulism). So I’ll cook at home. And I’ll feed anyone who will eat. Usually, that’s me, Steve, occasionally Hala, and the dogs if they are lucky (ooh la la, boiled chicken and white rice!). I like being in my kitchen, I like watching people eat and enjoy food–mine or otherwise, in the least creepy way possible–and I like the feeling that comes when that bite, that meal, that taste hit the spot for whomever is taking it in.
I want to do more of that:
nourish myself and others more. With food.
Lucky gal I am, I have some people to explore this with.
I worked on the judging thing last year and made some great headway. It boils down to this: I have no idea why certain people do, dress, act, say, smell, whatever how they do because I am not them, I am not in their life, and I simply can’t know.
And it’s none of my business. And it’s none of yours.
And by pointing out those differences in a bad light, I’m the asshole, not the superior one.
I would want the same courtesy extended to me.
Simple as that. I believe the same basic concept applies to the complaining bit: by focusing on the bad, you are not improving anything. Focus on the good, work with or around the bad, move the eff on.
I recently read somewhere that a marriage has to get used to–comfortable with–the season-less life without kids, mostly by making seasons and special carve outs within the marriage. As I mentioned above, we are the only people who will be occupying this family. Dogs, sure; friends and other family, yep. But for our family unit, it’s Steve, and it’s me, and that’s it.
Relishing our relationship and keeping it interesting and vibrant is important. Usually, you can find us sitting on the couch scrolling through our phones, yelling at the dogs not to bark at birds or old people or air, with Dexter on in the background (see: the past week). But sometimes, we want to go on a date. Something special. Doesn’t have to be fancy–a walk for some ice cream, or a trip to the super market on a Sunday morning will do–but we need to carve out concentrated time for our family; for me and Steve.
Date nights shall commence. We haven’t dated anyone in over a decade, and that includes each other (…we’ve been together, exclusively, since 2002), so we might be rusty at first. But we will enjoy this and see where it takes us, because honestly, it’s our future.
I feel at home when I know my way around, know and use my resources, and can confidently navigate between routine, known options and known-but-novel options. We’ve started to do this with our little section of town, but I want to expand. I want to entrench myself in my new home and have a go-to place for X and a you-have-to-try-place for Y, and I want to just go and try and do.
There’s so much we haven’t done yet, and so, in concert with dating one another, we’ll try to maintain a rolling list of places to go, things to see, neighborhoods to visit, restaurants to try, walks to take. A passport, of sorts: when you’ve done it, check it off, but keep adding.
I think that the “DC as Home” concept will really be most tried around the holidays. We are going home for Thanksgiving, but not for Christmas. So, Christmas in a new city it is!
Here’s to a fantastic, growth-oriented 29th year, self.
And then, we moved.
We sold our lovely home in approximately 73 hours (bidding war and all, huzzah!), Steve shipped down to Washington, D.C. to live with my best friend for a month so he could start his new dreamy job, and I spent 30 days packing everything we owned, selling or donating the rest, and wrapping up work at my (now) former job.
Steve flew back up to RI from DC late one Thursday night, we slept on our mattress in our empty home, and at 4:00am the next day–Friday–we loaded the mattress into the U-Haul, I loaded the pups into the car, and off we went.
About eight hours later, these two champs were in their new home (I mean, so were we, too, but they were particularly baffled by the process).
I was terrified of moving the dogs–I had read one too many horror stories about maladaptive dogs. My favorite? The absolutely realistic Hyperbole and a Half… ha! Thankfully, we only had 1.5 hours of screech-yodel-crying (Edith), and one big ole peanut butter vomit (…Aggie, I think, though Edith kindly buried it in the sheets for her, nice sister).
Slowly, our amazing movers started hauling things into the apartment.
Three weeks later, it’s almost completely done, but that’s another post for another time.
My bff Hala came over that night with wine, Chipotle, and a friendly face. It was so nice to relax, even if it was amongst all the boxes. All. Of. Them.
But we still weren’t done with RI…not quite yet. Had to actually, you know, *sell* the house. Like, close on the sale.
So the following Tuesday morning, I attempted to fly home to RI for 36 hours (attempted = airline canceled the flight as we were literally about to take off…!). Mission was eventually accomplished (thank you Amtrak!), closing went beautifully, and back to DC I flew on Thursday morning.
I start a new job on Monday–a wonderful hopefully eventually permanent job!–and I cannot wait. Playing housewife in my excellent apartment has been lovely, but it’s time to rejoin the world of the working, thinking people.
We live literally one block over the DC border in MD, a short walk to two lovely grocery stores, all the shopping, and a metro station. We’ve walked more now than before, and I got a FitBit One to keep track (“It doesn’t count if you can’t count it,” right Hala?) and it will be fun to track.
So, that’s what I’ve been moaning about for a while. We’ve been itching for a big change, Steve started applying for work all over the place once we realized that there was no real reason–aside from our families, who are mobile–to stay in RI. There was no growth. There was nothing to do that hadn’t been done. There was no…no…there was no culture of progress or intellectualism in Rhode Island, and that was unacceptable for us, so we left. We moved to Nerd Central, where everyone is up on current events and dork things, and we love that. It’s not for everyone, but we’re certainly not everyone. If we had wanted to continue living in the suburbs surrounded by unchangeable towns and minivans and the “that’s not how we’ve done it for 20/30/40 years!” mentality, we could have stayed. But we didn’t want that, and it was the right time to change.
And then we moved.
And then we were happy.
Apparently I needed to be more specific when I explained why we moved. Saying that we didn’t like it apparently meant to everyone else that it was awful place and you’re a moron for living there. That is absolutely not the case. We love Rhode Island. It was just time to go. When you’ve been in a place for almost 30 years and nothing seems as though it is changed for you, and there is nothing new on the horizon for you and the people you love, it’s Time to go. At least it was for us.
The state’s motto is Hope. And we didn’t have any.
The biggest problem we had–if I’m going to articulate this clearly, though I don’t promise nor do I owe a complete articulation–is that for almost 30 years neither one of us had ever been challenged. We were always rewarded for doing basically nothing. Never trying anything new. Never going anywhere new. While we were certainly rewarded handsomely for our efforts and for our hardwork, we simply didn’t see it going anywhere. For us. I can’t stress the “for us” enough. I didn’t think that that needed to be articulated! I only presume to speak for myself and in this case Steve also. I’m not saying that there’s NOTHING to do in Rhode Island. But when you’ve lived there for almost 30 years we really don’t want to go to the Newport mansions or go to Thayer Street or boating or dining in the excellent albeit numbered restaurants. We wanted to try something completely new. We wanted to discover brand-new places. Coventry is always going to be in the same place. There’s nothing new beyond those borders. It almost started to feel like Pleasantville. This is not a revolutionary feeling and I’m sort of surprised that people seem to think that I’m hammering on some raw untapped nerve when I say that sometimes people grow up, live in a place, and then want to move that’s okay.
Plenty of people move to (or back to!) Rhode Island, make beautiful things, have wonderful families, and make a lot of change. And I love that. And I welcome that. But it wasn’t going to happen FOR US. I’m proud of growing up in a place as feisty and tenacious as Rhode Island. And with this much history as Rhode Island. And a place as beautiful as Rhode Island. But it was time for us to move. And that’s all I meant to say. I’m sorry if I offended some of you, and I genuinely missed that people could think that this is about them or that it somehow diminishes their Rhode Island-ness–it’s not and it certainly doesn’t–this is just a saying “we moved FYI here’s why we were we were unhappy now we’re happy.” I guess I didn’t think that needed to be explained, but here I am like a damn fool saying too much.
We know that every place is essentially the same. And that people are all essentially the same. But we needed a new adventure, the circumstances were right, so we decided to go. That’s it.
I apologize for any typos, this was written on my mobile.