Today’s mission between work tasks was to vacuum the apartment. Instead, I baked a plum pie/tart/thing, and shredded an entire giant bag of paperwork from 2005 – 2007.
Why I still had every single bank, paystub, phone, gas, electric, etc. statement from those years is beyond me. Aside from being a paperwork hoarder, I think I held onto this symbolically. For a moment such as today.
Before I dive in with my story, here are some questions for you:
- If you look back 15 years, what was going on in your life? Physically, overall health-wise, emotionally, spiritually, financially, with your job/career and community, relationships?
- What did your life really look and feel like? No rose-colored romanticizing glasses, no doom-tint either. Just honest to goodness: what was your experience of your day-to-day life?
- What does your life look like now? Physically, overall health-wise, emotionally, spiritually, financially, with your job/career and community, relationships?
- What have you learned in the interim?
- Where have you grown the most?
Look How Far You’ve Come!
2005-2007 was this period of time in my life where I was an art teacher (my official title was “arts director”), and I lived in a big beautiful apartment in a historic house in Providence, RI with skylights(!) and my cat Norton. (My landlady was amazing, I loved her so much.) If the breeze was juuuust right, I could smell the ocean in my apartment. This was the time in my life that I last lived alone, working a “full-time” job. Because in July 2007 I moved to Brooklyn…
It seems rather fitting, now that I am “alone” again, to revisit this brief period of time where I was working full-time but still “single” so to speak.
To embrace the person I was, and step more fully into who I am becoming.
(That is what the journey of healing is ALL about. Embracing who you were and who you are, with love and kindness!)
Back in 2006, I made $29,000 as a “highly qualified teacher” (meaning: I had a Master’s degree), teaching full-time. I was so stressed out that having a second job was just not possible for me. I remember getting home from work, collapsing on the kitchen floor, and crying nearly every day. Between work stress and overwhelm, financial stress, and untreated PTSD, I was a mess in every sense of the word. I knew that I needed therapy – but I couldn’t afford it. I worked with one of the school’s clinicians (LCSW) as much as I could, but I needed more than a coffee session here and there. My health? We’ll talk about that another day.
As I was shredding, all of these memories floated up
I remembered how I juggled bills from month to month, had a ton of student loan debt (near 6 figures!), and massive credit card debt… I found notices that my phone was going to get turned off. Credit card itemized bills with nothing but groceries and gas for the car on them. Payment slips from the very same credit card statement where I made minimum payments on a maxed limit. Having to choose which utility bill to pay that month. Rent paid in installments. Never being able to pay anything in full.
My bank statement said I had $20 in savings, and nothing in checking unless I got paid on the closing day of the statement period.
I remember using whatever spare change I could find to pay for gas to get to/from work. Hoping there was enough gas in my car for the rest of the week’s trips, before pay day. On more than one occasion.
Getting sick with a UTI (or some such thing requiring antibiotics) and not being able to afford the copay and the prescription. (It was after this incident that I started to take studying herbs more seriously!)
Yet, I remembered the good things too
Long nights listening to music and making art. Drawing after drawing after drawing. Naps on the couch with Norton (my cat). The windows open in the summer letting the breeze in the apartment. Voraciously reading books on Jungian psychology, alchemy, and myths. Spontaneous summer trips to the beach, not too far away, just because I wanted to go. Walks at the park with a friend. Night-time phone-calls with the man who I would ultimately marry, and how we’d fall asleep talking with each other. Making the most of what I had, even if I was so deep in debt I had no idea how I’d get out!
As I finished the last shredding from that period of my life, I said, “wow, I have been through so much.”
“Pam, look at how far you’ve come!!!”
I often feel like I’ve somehow missed the boat on important life-things. I don’t have a lot of the things that I always knew I wanted. Sometimes I feel that I’m “behind” in some way for not having them yet.
You know what I’m talking about… those nasty comparison games that our minds play with us sometimes.
Having a “review” day is important to bring perspective that growth IS happening. That things do change. That things can and do get better.
It’s just happening at the pace that’s unique to ME and MY JOURNEY.
It’s also about realizing that I am different now, yet still the same in the core-fundamental ways.
And so, this is about gratitude, yes. But also about remembering.
Where and how you started.
What life was like.
What you felt at the time.
What you dreamed of.
Who you were.
Sure, I don’t have everything that I dreamed of, but I have so much more than I did 15 years ago. And sometimes, I still feel that part of me, the part that says “we’re barely scraping by”.
That’s why days like this are so important to have. They’re an inventory of sorts.
For me, that’s looking at the bigger picture and feeling good about where I started and where I am now. Perhaps, 15 years from now, I’ll look back on this post and say, “wow, things have changed so much!”
15 years ago, where were you in your life? Where are you now?
Going to do laundry now, because, apparently, that’s more enticing than vacuuming.
We’ll figure something out.