Tuesdays With Mindy: Leveling Up
About 9 years ago I took this amazing road trip with my two best friends. We traveled to California, New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico in about a week by car. I quit my job for this trip. I turned 21 a few days after I returned, the final stage in severing youth from adulthood.
This trip and this time in my life was supposed to change me. Change everything. It felt that monumental.
But the funny thing about change, is that you can’t schedule it. You can’t craft an experience or a moment and then say, “this means something.” And have it really, actually mean something.
Life doesn’t work that way. It’s far more complex. And far more simple.
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I think of change building in your body like XP points. After you’ve amassed a certain amount of experiences, your brain signals your body that it’s time to grow. Become more mature. Better at some things. Wiser at others. You spend a lot of time contemplating what that change will look and feel like.
And then all the sudden it happens. You level up in an instant – in the middle of a fight with your spouse, during a long weekend of drinking and visiting with friends and family, sitting at a table in the middle of a conference eating yogurt, walking down the street to catch the bus. A scale gets tipped and you suddenly have this strange new power and better vantage point to engage with the world.
I’ve been struggling with some major life changes this year. Debating about embracing unemployment and the opportunity to completely alter my career trajectory or just getting any kind of freaking job that will pay me decently and provide a measure of stability. Mentally wrestling with the idea of reproducing vs. traveling. Struggling with balancing health, work, personal interests, friends, and family. Dealing with immense job-related pressures I have never encountered in my 12 years in the work force.
This last week kicked off the relentless pace of the summer season. Sunday night drinks with a friend from out-of-town – meeting with ladies who are straight shooters and wise old sages.
Deciding to answer people’s polite inquiries about my future with decisive action rather than passive hemming and hawing. Substituting the word “unemployment” for “sabbatical.”
Finally: this strange trip to the Oregon Coast this weekend. Truth be told, I’ve been dreading it for weeks. Not sure why. The idea of leaving Portland. Interacting with a group of people I am not super familiar with. The anxiety of sleeping in a bed that is not my own. The strong desire of late to spend my days off curled up on the couch. Work stress stretching out on the horizon.
When we turned off the long road from Corvallis to Tidewater my stomach was in knots. It was dumbfounding. This used to be a place I LOVED going to. Like a small slice of heaven.
And instead of feeling happiness and excitement, I was counting the minutes and miles like they signaled some kind of doom.
Perhaps it was my subconscious realizing that I was not going to emerge from this weekend the same. The scrambling sensation of clinging on to the coping mechanisms that have allowed me to survive the last 9 months. Not trusting that I’ve really leveled up and can manage whatever is facing me with a sense of confidence and calm that have thus far eluded me at every turn.
But it happened. Somewhere between making that first left off of OR-34 on Saturday and waking up in the car as it traveled through Salem on Monday afternoon…my scales tipped and I’ve gained something new.
It’s terribly unfortunate that an enlightened state only lasts for so long. In the blink of an eye, my experience points will mean nothing. I’ll have to start all over again – fighting, learning, navigating the map to get some kind of new achievement.
I’ve also described it to people recently as being on a roller coaster where you’ve reached the top of the crest and you can see for miles around. The next three months are going to be some kind of dip, which will no doubt put me in another situation where I’m dreading something I should be celebrating, on the brink of leveling up and gaining a new perspective.
Whatever the case may be, I really needed this weekend. No matter how I struggled against it.
Maybe it was the nature. The calm, still waters of the Alsea. The turbulence of the ocean. The laughter. The good food. The pleasant feeling of being intoxicated for nearly three days straight.
But I don’t think I’ve ever felt readier to face what is coming than right now. I feel prepared to unlock all sorts of achievements and kick the game of life square in it’s balls.