A welcomed change for 2008, plus, I was ready to make my own changes.
I had been ready for a while, but reluctant to do just anything and without a sense of direction or purpose, I was at the ready of the starter’s gate with no where to go. Then Barack Obama was elected President of the United States and I must admit, my whole perspective about my job and my country changed.
I had been a Hillary Clinton supporter, in large part because as much as I respected and admired Barack Obama, I couldn’t see this country, my country electing him to lead it. I could see though how his campaign ignited my daughter, Sydney’s, political fire and interest in politics and her country. Then Obama won the Iowa primary and I thought if there was ever a chance this man, this black man could be President in my life time, I better do my part and support him. On election night, I remember driving from my friend Bonnie’s apartment in Dallas, to my Mom’s apartment in Arlington full of hope, full of possibility. By the time I made it to my Mom’s Barack of Obama was declared the winner. I’ve felt pride before, especially as a mother, but this was about my country and the trajectory we were taking as a people and I was moved. Soon after he was elected, a position in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., became available and for the first time, I knew, I wanted that job.
Rather telling for someone who, with 21 years under her belt as a federal employee for the Labor Department’s regional public affairs office in Dallas, was considering an early-out retirement, often proclaimed no interest in working in Washington and who was restlessly comfortable with where she was. And, that’s the point. I had gotten too comfortable. And, I needed more. I wanted more. But, was I really willing to give up the known of the comfortable however restless I was for something I knew nothing about. And, add to the shaking of the comfortable, giving up my house, my home I had lived in and was proud of for 12 years.
I had applied for the job right after the election and I wasn’t sure…with the change in administration…that the hiring process was still a go. I did find out, when the job opening closed, I had made the cut, but that was it. Then on Jan. 16 as the previous administration was walking out the door, I received a call from the out-going Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, David James, offering me the job. I was stunned. This was one phone call I had not expected. I sincerely thought hiring for the position had been tabled and possibly even scrapped until the transition team and new folks had become firmly entrenched after the inauguration. And, I was okay with that. Although I had rarely spoken to James and never met him personally, he assured me that the team who selected me wanted me there. I was, without question, their top choice. And, that once I accepted, he would need to get the information into the personnel office’s hands. I didn’t have much time to quibble because that was his last day and one of his last acts as the assistant secretary.
I needed time. I needed a few minutes to digest this. I needed to call my children and my mother. I just couldn’t say “yes” without talking to them first. James relented, surprised that I would need time to think….after all, according to him, I did apply for the job. No interview. No bringing me to Washington to grill me on my expertise and years of experience. Just a phone call to say the job is mine. Do I want it?
Well? Do you?
I called my people, my son, my daughter, my mom. They knew I had applied so this wasn’t a complete surprise to them, but I was really still in shock. All I heard from them was “go for it,” “take it.”
I was ready for a change and a change is what came into my life. The pieces came together. Nothing had to be forced. Nothing had to be manipulated. Things fell into place. I accepted the promotion, which did not pay relocation costs. I found an apartment on-line. I put my house up for sale and I was in extreme down-size mode in an effort to ‘let go’ of the things and a life I no longer felt gave me purpose and that I was attached to in an effort to begin a new and report to work on March 2.
Truth be told, I don’t really know how I did it. Twelve years of stuff in a two-story 3,000 square foot house. I knew there were those things money could buy again and there were those things that no matter the amount, could never be replaced. Then there were the things that I needed to surround myself with that made wherever I was destined to live feel like my home. I took a long hard look at the life I had created and really looked at the stuff and as I was editing my life, the stuff got edited too.
You’re giving that away?
There were books and books and books, Oprah magazines, quilting magazines, fabric galore, Barbies, beanies, black Santas, black memorabilia, you name it, I had it. I had safely accumulated so much stuff and had so much room in which to keep it hidden that as I was bringing it out to toss it, sell it or give it away, I was absolutely amazed and frankly disgusted with myself for having kept all this stuff. It’s easy to do when you have the space. But, I no longer would have the space. My apartment in Washington, unbeknownst me at the time I agreed to rent it, was ridiculously small. In fact, my pea brain could not fathom how small it actually was until I saw it for myself and…well….cried. I’ll get back to the crying jag later.
The upstairs of my house
The downstairs of my house
It had been my intention to either start tossing or giving away a number of items. But, there was no real inspiration to do so because I had the space. As the family genealogist, I had become the repository for all things family and quite frankly loved it. For a few seconds, when I was being offered the job in Washington, I did think about all my stuff and what would I do with it. I decided, and rather quickly, not to let the stuff be the reason I didn’t say yes.
From the second I accepted the job, I didn’t exactly know what was next. Something wonderful kicked in and I just went to work. The process of ‘letting go’ isn’t easy for a collector like myself. But, I was ready. Really, ready. I had enjoyed most of the stuff for years and unless I was ready to just stay put for all eternity, something had to give. I was already familiar with letting go in certain ways and now I just needed to follow through with it. I had come to know that if my intention was to travel east then making choices that set me to west, wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to go. If I wanted to set my life on a different course then I needed to make choices based on the course I was setting my sights on. My sights? Sounds like I have some kind of vision. Well, I don’t. I’ve allowed myself to feel and experience what feels good, what speaks to me, what tickles my brain. There was no master plan. It was more like a convergence.
I was divesting myself of the things I had allowed to define me so I could free fall for a while to see where that takes me. I had been the dutiful wife and the devoted mother, putting my family first. And, now that I was no longer someone’s wife and my children were able to fend for themselves, I no longer wanted or needed a road map or prescribed set of rules and order to follow. I have always had the uncanny ability to land on my feet. I’ve always trusted in that and now it is was time to dust that off and turn it back on again.
The first D.C. digs….that brought on the crying jag.
The drive from Texas to D.C. was absolutely exhilarating. It made me realize how beautiful this country is and my desire to see even more of it than I already have. I got to Washington, early Saturday, Feb. 28, so I could get to the leasing office before closing and pick up the keys to my apartment. I knew it would be small, but this thing was tiny. Movers were bringing my bedroom set, green recliners, red leather sofa, cherished books, a bookcase, my small sewing table. I had my car packed with the simplest cherished items that I would need before the movers arrived. I wrote in my journal on that day, “I gave myself permission to go thru space shock, but the truth is, I really was not prepared to deal with how truly small my apartment is. I’m sitting on my twin blow up bed and I’m really trying not to freak out. For a few seconds, I was ready to retreat, go back to my spacious home. I feel a wee bit claustrophobic and I’m in my living area. My bed will take up half the space in this room.”
Around this time there was a Daily Kabbalah tune-up message that pretty much answered my calling: “When we go out of ourselves-our comfort, our nature, our selfish desires-we begin our true spiritual journey. Today, find one way to go outside of your nature. This is a great way to dramatically change your life and create a new destiny.”
Thankfully that new destiny landed me a bigger apartment. Management got wind to my disappointment and called me the day before my furniture was to arrive to see if I’d be interested in a one bedroom apartment on the 4th floor. When I saw it, even though the price tag was a lot more than I had budgeted for, I took it. I had to. And, I’m glad I did. Everything I brought with me and the movers delivered, fit in here perfectly with a little room to spare.
Loving my one bedroom D.C. apartment with the zoo entrance view
I initially debated selling my house, but as much as I enjoyed living there, it was time to let it go too. I got what I needed out of it. Even though my house ended up being on the market for a little more than seven months, with a realistic starting price in a descent market and two price drops amounting to about a $30,000 loss from what I purchased the house at 12 years ago, I finally was able to close that chapter on Sept. 28 when I became houseless.