...then the Universe is trying to tell you something. Now, this might not be the response you were expecting. You, like me, were probably taught that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. I've always thought of myself as a "glass half-full" kind of gal, but after two years in weekly therapy, I've come to realize how often the words I choose come out as "glass half-empty" (or worse..."what if I run out of water? what if I break the glass? ugh. then I'll cut my hand and it'll be a bloody mess." I won't take you down the rabbit hole of my subconscious mind, at least not today. I have an announcement to make here.)
Right. Back on track I go. Now, if you don't already know this, my parents are awesome people. But often are pretty different in their approaches to life. My dad is definitely cautious and skeptical of things too good to be true; my mom is practically unflappable in her optimism. You could say I was raised to be a cautious optimist. A cauptimist, if you will. And it's remarkable how this shaped my character and, as a result, my life. I've worked really hard to find the balance between having a steady paycheck and having a fulfilling artistic life. And sometimes, it's been REALLY hard to maintain that balance. As many artists do, I've been juggling two careers for the better part of my time in New York. I'm grateful for all that I've done, all that I've learned, and for the fact that I actually have a 401(k). But I've been feeling for a while that the security blanket of my day job has actually held me back in my creative pursuits. Not so much that it has kept me from, say, singing at the Metropolitan Opera, or even necessarily from having the kind of career that I think I'm actually capable of as an artist. (It would be easy to use my job as a scapegoat -- everyone these days seems to want someone to blame for their disappointments, and Lord knows I've done it. But that doesn't serve anyone, especially me. I like to think of myself as a pretty emotionally intelligent person. Emotigent, if you will. And as an emotigent (can be either an adjective or a noun; in this case, a noun), I knew that blame disables us from taking responsibility for our own happiness. But I digress again.) Anyway, over the course of the last two years, when I had a brilliant and incredibly objective therapist who engaged my rational mind in identifying patterns in what I had thought was a hopeless, tangled mess, feelings for an almost desperate need for change were bubbling up along with the need to use my creative mind more often for things like problem solving and seeking opportunities and, more importantly, for believing that the things I dream are possible. Seemingly all of a sudden (though I know this had been building for many years), the overly-cautious patterns that I'd been using weren't working for me anymore. New York seemed overwhelming. My job, more stressful than ever. My health, not so great. More back and neck pain. More feeling of unrest. A burning need for everything to be different. EVERY time I left NYC for a gig or a vacation, I thought, "I could live here." and I would fantasize about what my life would be like in whichever city I was in at the time...except I wasn't making any plans.
So Eric and I started talking really seriously about leaving the city. For two years, it has been a constant topic of conversation. Last year, we almost did it. We nearly up and moved to Nashville, where we have a few really good friends, where it was green, and hip, and growing, and where it was still early enough in its population boom that we could afford to buy a house. But somehow, it didn't feel right, and I decided that it must've been because I wasn't done with New York yet. Eric waited patiently, but my inability to make up my damn mind was holding him back, too.
We both decided that 2016 was going to be the year for change. And was it ever. Just not in the ways I expected. In June, my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Oh, the irony. My mom, who has completed twice as many half-marathons as I have with Team in Training (an arm of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society), was diagnosed with a blood cancer. Gah. Then the world lost a bright star, pianist, teacher and friend, Lloyd Arriola. He was gone in a flash and entirely too soon. I had been meaning to reach out to Lloyd for some time, and the realization that I had waited too long and had lost my opportunity hit me almost as hard as his passing. I learned in no uncertain terms from Lloyd that life happens in the PRESENT, not the future. It all started to seem pretty clear that we would move to Los Angeles. I'd been feeling so far from home for so long, and I think I'd kind of known for the last several years that I would end up moving back home.
Now, while our reason for heading back to L.A. wasn't a happy one (though I'm thrilled to report that while she doesn't quite have the energy she used to, yet, Mom's numbers are good and we're hoping that she'll just be on maintenance drugs for the rest of her life as there's no cure (yet) for this cancer), here's where the whole "If it sounds too good to be true, then the Universe is trying to tell you something"-thing comes into play. In my growing desperation for change compounded by an overwhelming fear of making the wrong decision, I'd been so worried about all of the unknowns, the variables, the things that could go wrong, that I wasn't seeing all of the possibilities, the opportunities, or the things that could be AWESOME. Once I reframed the unknown as positives, everything started to shift.
We took a 10 day trip to L.A. to try to get our lives lined up -- jobs, a place to live, and a clue about what we were about to do. We had lunch two days before Thanksgiving with a friend who put us in touch with her landlord and who effectively found us a lovely place to live with a flexible lease in THE PERFECT NEIGHBORHOOD, just to get us settled and on our feet. It seemed almost too easy, but I thought, "This must be what synchronicity feels like." Even though the apartment is about half the size I thought I needed, the rent is such that I won't have to find a full-time, corporate job just to pay the bills. I can make a life, and not be desperate to make a living. I will actually be able to teach part-time, pursue opera and voiceover work and take a few health coaching clients, AND I'll be able to help my family, who will be a short 10 minute drive away. (Oh, and I'll have granite countertops for the first time in my life, plus it's walking distance to a spin studio, a yoga studio, an amazing sushi restaurant, and the Gold Line on the Metro. Holla!!) This same friend gave me a lead on 2 community music school teaching gigs (thanks, Kate!), and my mentor Ann (truly one of the most remarkable people I know) threw my name into the ring for a collegiate teaching job, covering a one-semester maternity leave. People are helping us out left and right. We didn't manage to get any job interviews while we were out there, but the other day Eric had 2 phone interviews for a job to which he would be able to ride his bike to work. He's been itching to ride more, so this would be a dream. Please keep your fingers crossed for that in-person interview!!
The Universe truly conspires for your success. Once you take the leap, watch the opportunities reveal themselves to you. But be ready for them to come from unexpected sources. I had such a huge moment of clarity just walking around the Whole Foods in Glendale -- I could actually breathe. In a supermarket, of all places. Shopping for groceries in NYC is such a nightmare of crowds, crowding, crowdedness and crowditation. I actually opened my arms wide in the aisle by the nuts (if that's not telling, then I don't know what is) because I could. The Whole Foods at Columbus Circle seems like Bedlam by comparison.
What makes this decision to leave New York hard is the relationships I have built with people here. My friends & colleagues at NYGASP. I mean, I have worked with some of you for 13 years!!! I love you all. Our friends in the music ministry at St. Francis of Assisi, where I have sung for at least 9 years, if not 10. (I've been there so long that I honestly don't remember when I started.) I got my first offer to join the NYCO chorus in the days between Lloyd's death and when we told my mom we were moving. (Please hire me again. I'm only a few hours away...) My friends at work. You made the really hard days bearable. My boss, who made so many things possible. The other lasting and very dear friendships I have made over the years: oh, how I will miss being able to see your faces. But wait! Thanks to FaceTime, this isn't goodbye, it's just "see you later." We're planning some sort of gathering before we leave town, so stay tuned, because I'm going to need to stockpile some serious HUGS.
Oh, and don't think that because we're relocating that I won't be back. You haven't seen the last of me. However, should you decide that the California sun is calling your name, either for leisure or for life, you just give me a holler. In the words of Tom Bodett, "We'll leave the light on for you."
And now, if you'll forgive me, I have boxes to pack. Sending love, light and hope.