October 20, 2012
My mother will tell you that when I lived in Japan we talked more on the phone at international rates than when I was in college a mere 35 miles away in the same county when it wasn’t even long distance.
Like many young people of my generation, 5 minutes after I graduated, I packed the car and headed to the Big City. It was a rite of passage: apartment shares, furniture bought in garage sales, and first jobs.
Since then: Paris, Tokyo, New York, Washington DC – my personal and professional tour of World Capitals.
Now, at midlife, I find myself packing up and heading to the small city (formerly large town) of my youth, to share a house with my Mother, not so much furniture (I’ve shed myself most of it) and hopefully, one of my last jobs. I feel a little bit like the Flat Earth skeptics, nervous that if I sail too far into the sunset, I’ll fall off the edge.
Today’s career launchers and career transitioners have more in common than we would like to admit. Many of them find they can’t afford to leave home; many of us find we can no longer afford not to return there. At opposite ends of the spectrum, we’re going to have to meet in the middle in the workplace. We may find four generations there.
And a funny thing happened on the way to the homestead: I started looking forward to it. Home cooking, my old Raggedy Ann and teddy bear greeted me. So did all the memorabilia from my world travels. “Home” now looks a lot like a Pier 1/World Bazaar: my Mother’s adult version of putting your drawings up on the refrigerator. Here are all the Mother’s Day, Christmas and assorted gifts sent home from hither, thither and yon.
“What IS that thing?”, she asked me, laughing. “It’s some sort of wall hanging from Korea – and right now I can’t remember why I thought it was so attractive.” But I don’t have to wonder about all the photos. There’s my cat, who lived to be 20, and outlasted many boyfriends. If they ever gave me a hard time about her, I would say, “I’ve known that cat a lot longer than you, and if I were a betting person, I’d say I’ll probably know her longer.” I did.
And there’s my grandmother, a debutante during the Roaring Twenties, who was my staunchest supporter about going to Japan in the first place. She said, “I’m afraid if you don’t go, you’ll always regret it.” And the last time I saw her, on an annual trip home from Japan, “Biggest mistake I ever made [saying that to you].” No it wasn’t. It was the best – ever!
I’m actually not a big fan of nostalgia. I try not to look in the rear view mirror too much and avoid miscellaneous strolls down memory lane. But, I did spend one afternoon out at my alma mater, where I was one of the first female graduates. I felt a bit like a dinosaur, or if I slowed down too long someone might try to stick a pin in me as a rare specimen.
Running into relatives resulted in an immediate invite for a holiday dinner – and I am really looking forward to that, too. I have lived in cities with no known relatives for 25 years.
And, miracle of miracles, in a state which supposedly has the second highest rate of unemployment in the US, this preliminary job hunting trip yielded two good sets of interviews. One of them is actually in my field – directly related to my expertise – right up my alley. And amazingly enough, they had kept my resume on file from when I first approached them one year ago. I am cautiously optimistic.
So although change is never “fun”, it’s inevitable, probably necessary and often for the better.
I have made wonderful friends during my stopover in Washington DC. I’ve written about some of them in this blog. A close friend I made in Tokyo is actually originally from Washington, and we’ve reconnected there, too. But I also made great friends in my immediate post-college city. I’ve mentioned that one of them inspired one of my recent blog articles. We’ve reconnected, too. There are nice people everywhere, and quite a few have already reached out here – from the folks willing to interview me once, twice and thrice to the cousin who’s faithfully mowed my mother’s lawn while I gallivanted all over the world.
To say that life’s not about the destination, but the journey, is a cliché. But the truth is, I’m on the road again!
Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here!