Tag Archives: Growing up

The Infamous Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

I know I recently wrote about myself at 66, but this week I have been thinking about myself at 34 (cough::: err, almost 35). It’s that time of year when you sit down with your boss and discuss your 2 to 5 year plan, or at least it is if you’re a teacher. Thinking about my answer, I could not help but trace back 5 years.

Five years ago today I was in Lake Tahoe with my boyfriend. It was Sunday, the day after our first set of friends got married. We had stayed at Harvey’s and ended up in an outdated two queen room so that I could see the lake instead of the parking lot in our first assignment. Looking out over the glory of Lake Tahoe, I wanted the future to be mine. I wanted Alex to propose.

In that odd state of wedding fever, we ended up with a dog. Maybe I thought a dog would make us feel more like a little family. We had visited the pet shop the day before and fallen in love with a toy poodle. He was boisterous and tiny, a baby. As soon as we left the pet shop, I was sick to my stomach. We sat in the parking lot beside the lake and I felt like I was going to throw up. I called the pet store and asked if we could return him. They told me no.

Achilles turned Preston represented a lot more than just a dog. He meant grown-up responsibility, the kind that lasts more than a decade.

Achilles turned Preston represented a lot more than just a dog. He meant grown-up responsibility, the kind I wanted but didn’t know how to handle.

It was my first recognizable panic attack. Before I did not realize my emotions sometimes made me sick. I did not know if I could manage the decade plus responsibility I had just signed up for. I feared our noisy inward-opening apartment on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley would kick us out. We weren’t allowed to have pets. I don’t know what I was thinking. Alex sat patiently as I lost my cool, my whole body trembling with anxiety.

We drove home slowly, the dog, then named Achilles, peed on me more than once. We stopped at my parents’ house and let him play in the backyard, my brother and sisters and best friend sitting in a circle in the grass as he ran between us, stopping at each person for kisses and playful bites. I simultaneously loved and feared him.

We made it back to Berkeley at nightfall and discovered sneaking him up and down the stairwell to be a daunting feat, neighbors passing, looking quizzically, the apartment manager potentially lurking around any corner. That night, neither the dog nor I slept. He bounced around the apartment and cried, helpless. I turned in fits of nausea constantly concerned he was pooping or peeing or alerting the neighbors with his yap.

The next day I went to work a mess and sat in my cube searching for an answer instead of performing my duties as an economic analyst. Animal rights activists pulled down my posts on Craig’s List and PetFinder instantaneously. The Bay Area is good for shaming people into keeping their ill-acquired pets. By some stroke of luck, one of my best friends and her mom had been looking for a toy poodle. That evening, Achilles became Preston as I passed him into my friend’s loving arms somewhere off the road between Sacramento and Berkeley, tears in my eyes, guilt in my irresponsibility.

Everything turned out okay. The shame disappeared, Preston became the prized dog of a family with an actual dog door and backyard. I came to grips with the fact that I had an anxiety problem. I read books and saw doctors. I refused medication, but tried countless natural remedies. It has been three years since my last anxiety attack, the day I quit my job with less than two days notice to begin my teacher residency program. Since then, I have been fine.

Five years changes a lot. I went from a cube to a classroom, dating to married, a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Berkeley to a house in Sacramento, anxious to often complimented for my calm. I don’t know what changed exactly. Maybe it was making the conscious decision to stop being scared and live more in line with who I was meant to be. Maybe it was the decision to take one day at a time, instead of freaking out over next week, next month, next year. Perhaps it was all the reading, or the change in diet, or the exercise, or the yoga. I really don’t know. It wasn’t an instant process and it’s still not complete.

So, when I am asked where I see myself in five years, I have no idea. Mother or childless, teacher or writer, or still both. Low-income school or private where I can be myself more often. Teaching yoga to high-risk youth, or part of some organization that fights the fight I want to champion. Living in Sacramento or on acreage in the foothills or on the other side of the world. I have no idea. All I know is that the last five years have taught me to follow my heart and keep working hard toward what matters. The results may not be perfect, but they will be better than I could ever imagine.

Which leaves me with my usual question, what about you?

My favorite picture from 2008, Carmel, beach, friends, Alex. Some things don't change so much.

My favorite picture from 2008, Carmel, beach, friends, Alex. Some things don’t change so much.

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I don’t wub dubstep.

“Mrs. M, would you like to listen to my favorite dubstep song?”

“I would wub to.”


“I would wub to… wub, wub, wub.”

Loud, fake 11-year-old laughter from a kid who walks around saying “wub, wub, wub” all day for a reaction. You’d think he’d like my joke a little better. I’m officially part of a different generation, you know, the older generation that makes puns. Thankfully, I still get a few unexpected laughs here and there.

For those of you who know nothing about dubstep, there is a lot of wub, wub, wubbing going on, (try saying those words in a deep voice). In fact, the most intense dubstep sounds like a scary car going down the street blasting its music in the middle of the night. For me, it’s more reminiscent of a horror movie than something I would listen to for pleasure.

Still, when the same student asked, “So do you think I’m weird for liking it?”

I replied, “No, I listened to interesting music when I was a kid too.”

I did. Blood Hound Gang is case in point. The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire… However, dubstep is proof I’m getting old(er). It makes me feel like I’m about to have a migraine, (don’t tell my little sister, pretty sure she goes to dubstep concerts).

Funny thing, I picked a card in my yoga class this week about letting go of my past self. I gave this a lot of thought. All I could come up with is that my vision of myself as the shy kid is no longer relevant. I guess my distaste for dubstep just goes to show the no longer a kid thing is definitely true. I would have loved all the noise.

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Fairy Lantern & Adulthood

Believe what you will about herbal remedies, I’m taking a handful. Last night I decided to look up what each remedy is claimed to achieve, since I’ve been taking them rather blindly under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Going through the list, it all made sense. Various aspects of my physical challenges addressed. But there was one I forgot to look up.

Fairy Lantern. Such a sweet, whimsical name. When finally I remembered, I typed it into my phone and started reading, first while standing in front of the kitchen sink, then while sitting on the counter so engrossed in what the Fairy Lantern description had to say that I couldn’t be bothered to move to another room.

I love the symbolism of the flower that never fully blooms but is much heartier than it appears.

Turns out Fairy Lantern is not about the physical but instead about the mental. It’s about avoiding growing up. I read the words thinking this is not me. I went to college, got my Master’s degree, pay my own bills, am married, hold an adult job, own my house. I’m a grown-up, damn it… Why do I need Fairy Lantern?

Then I began to think. 29 is the year I have decided I get to be a kid a little longer. I tell myself 30 is when I’ll really grow up. A little piece of me always wants to sell our house and go be bohemian vagabonds. Part of the reason I became a teacher was because I wanted to live in the world of children, to see the world through their eyes, where everything is new. I write to escape. I still dress like I fell out of an Urban Outfitters catalogue, (at least on the weekends). My blog banner is a chick I used to carry in my pocket as a child that I believed gave me super powers…

In a way, I have Peter Pan syndrome. I refuse to really grow up.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Many of those attributes are good and important to my happiness. Likewise, I have met many adults much older than I am who adamantly tell me it’s alright to never grow up, that they never did either and are happier for it. However, I have to ask myself, why is this message relevant to my life now?

I overheard a student yesterday tell her classmates she never wants to grow up. She reminded me of me. I used to say that all the time as a child. But where does that idea come from? Can’t we still be young and whimsical while embracing our desire for adult roots? That may be where I am changing the most. Suddenly I want to root myself more deeply. Sacramento is finally beginning to feel like my home instead of the place I’m constantly trying to leave.

I’m not quite childlike enough to believe that this magical little herb alone is going to change me into an adult. It is however causing me to reflect on my life and why growing up has always been such a bittersweet process. I know I’m not alone. I’m part of a generation that is taking a long time to grow up.

I always thought I’d be pleased when I began to look like an adult because I have felt so frustrated to be mistaken for a teenager well into my twenties. Now that I’m beginning to look just a little bit older I find myself oddly annoyed. Maybe I do cling to my childhood more than I realize.

I cannot help but think of Peter Pan when Tinkerbell is brought back to life by the simple request to clap your hands if you believe in fairies. My little sister would stand in front of the television and clap her hands wildly, insisting we all join her. I didn’t get the symbolism then, but I get it now. Even if I have more growing up to do, I never want to stop believing in fairies.

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Grown-Up Halloween

If you like my writing, you’ll love Katie’s. Check out her new/old blog that she moved from Blogger to WordPress this weekend:

Grown-Up Halloween

Yes, I’m slowly convincing every blogger I know in real life to make the transition…

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My Unfolding Story: San Francisco

When I was a little girl, I would sit for hours in front of the hotel windows in San Francisco inventing stories about the people down below. My favorite was at night, when the streets were almost empty, and I could use a pair of binoculars to invent scenarios for the lone figures still roaming the sidewalks. I loved watching the cars spiral down from the tops of parking garages, the police cars patrolling late at night.

San Francisco was the big city, alive and wild. There were rules for how I walked on the inside of the street and held tight to my dad’s hand. These rules were exciting because they implied a certain danger as I grasped first his hand and then the crook of his elbow, my arm eventually through his as I grew older. Today we still walk those same streets arm-in-arm.

Visiting San Francisco each year to spend the night during the holidays was not just our family tradition through years of less and more, it was also an education in the world around me. Homeless people, transvestites, activists, street performers, doormen– these people were all less visible in my childhood version of Sacramento. Unsurprisingly, San Francisco fascinated me, the nexus of its existence Union Square, my family’s yearly destination.

When finally I was old enough to pick where to live on my own, it had to be San Francisco. In a misguided vision of starting my own sweatshop-free apparel company, I fell into a job managing a national apparel store in the Union Square shopping district. I only lasted two days, my college idealism short-lived when confronted with the realities of folding overpriced sweaters and teaching pretty teenagers to use cash registers for practically minimum wage in a city where renting a converted living room space from a newly-divorced law student cost me $1,100 a month.

Even though my first attempt at Bay Area residency only lasted mere days, there was still one single moment that stood out as one of those moments you hold onto forever. After work the first night, I climbed aboard the MUNI headed toward the Richmond District and found my seat on the crowded bus next to a stranger. It was dark and a group of my younger employees were huddled nearby chatting eagerly. They were stylishly clad in the clothes my company forced them to buy. I was too.

From the window, I could see the St. Francis, the same hotel my dad’s dad would take him to as a child, and where my dad took me and my brother to stare down at the tiny ant people on the street. In that moment, I realized I was one of those very people. I lived in San Francisco and was starting my very own grown-up story.

I was proud of myself for becoming a resident of the city my dad taught me to love. I independently navigated public transportation, just another face through the bus window that a visiting child might wonder about. Of course, that story was not the one I chose to keep. I went back to Sacramento just a couple days later, abandoning a hefty deposit, a disappointing job, and my childhood dream of starting my story in San Francisco. Of course, I returned again, more triumphant in my second round as an economic analyst in Berkeley, but that first round cemented my attachment to the San Francisco of my childhood, to Union Square.

Sitting in my St. Francis hotel room this morning, watching the sun rise over the bay, I could not help but again feel connected to these prior versions of myself. The little girl making up stories from 30 floors above Union Square. The teenager walking arm-in-arm with her dad. The recent college grad riding MUNI home from her first day of work in the big city. I may not live in San Francisco now, but Union Square is still a major part of my story. It’s the yearly destination for my family’s big December Christmas trip, and today the place I sat and reflected on life.

I could not help but think of the future versions of myself that will sit and look out over the same view five years from now, ten, twenty. My story is still unfolding. I’m excited to see what comes next.

Union Square at sunrise was not something I ever saw as a child.

In an effort to achieve balance, I didn’t bring my laptop on our little trip. So when I inevitably woke up wanting to write this entry, I had to write on thirteen little sticky notes that I stuck one-by-one on the window.

…still captivated by the view no matter how many years pass.

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