The Move

I wanted to move. As a young(ish), single professional, I reasoned that I could find a home more suited to my personality and lifestyle, with retro bathroom tiles, wood floors, and indie-rock-loving neighbors. I could even get a cheaper place to save money that I desperately needed to pay my stubborn credit card balance.

I was paying too much for my tiny cinder block place surrounded by weeds, stray cats, and inebriated neighbors with junk cars and piles of trash sharing my driveway. Sure, it was close to work, had good neighbors, and a quaint view, but I wanted to walk to my car in the morning without having to traipse through wet grass, loose dirt, and gravel to where I parked my car. I wanted to wear high heels without getting scuffs just walking to the mailbox. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind having house numbers on my apartment, washer and dryer hookups— even central heating and air! A girl could dream.

The hunt began. I scanned Craigslist, met with property managers, and toured a dozen “adorable” apartments. My sights became attuned to any 12”x18” sign proclaiming “for rent.” I drove for hours on the weekend and after work through desirable and affordable neighborhoods, writing down phone numbers of potential leads. I cruised the areas that were home to my favorite restaurants, quirky shops, and cultural venues… Ooh, five minutes from the Florida Theater… walking distance from brunch at Biscotti’s… a short bike ride to Five Points. I was determined to find a better place, one that carried possibilities of dinner parties and redecorating and sexy rendezvous with a newer, more swanky, and less frank boyfriend than the one who kindly reassured me that my place “isn’t that bad.”

I went through cycles of hope, excitement, trepidation, exasperation, and moments of “almost, but not quite.” I excitedly told friends and family about the impending move. I imagined it would revive my flagging spirit and relieve my burnout at work. The move promised a change of scenery… a fresh start in a place more reflective of my quirky, stylish side. A place with curb appeal and a dishwasher. As simple as my needs were, that sounded like a dream come true to me.

At some point, though, the hunt started to lose its luster. Nothing was quite right. I found a great place in a great neighborhood but someone else just put down a deposit. Then there was the perfect duplex apartment: kindly landlord, washer/dryer, big windows, fully renovated and bursting with character! It was a steal and the place I had dreamed of! The moment I walked in I fell in love. I decided to think about it for a few days. That was when, reluctantly, I was forced to acknowledge its not so perfect location right next to a busy— AND LOUD— train track. Yeah, that.

With each near miss, my attention shifted away from the search for my next home to the unique charms of my current one: a neighbor who was now a dear friend and confidant, a safe yard where my dog Luna and I could play after a long day at work, and the picturesque setting of a tidal creek that soothed me with its cypress-framed vista and soft breeze.

"Adorable" and "bungalow" would be overly generous, but I had to admit that my simple surroundings did have the slightest flavor of a rustic cabin getaway. I lived each day amidst herons and birdsong and brushstrokes of of sunrise and sunset— even rainbows— reflected in the lovely water’s surface. The dock welcomed me home and offered a serene platform for yoga stretches after my run. In season, figs and Japanese plums and pecans were ripe and bountiful for eating straight off the tree. Neighbors shared luscious tomatoes and peppers from their gardens with me and always had a smile and a greeting; yet they respected my privacy completely. I felt safe here. At home.

As I started to let go of the urge to find a new apartment, I sensed a wise part of me tug at my spiritual shirt sleeve like an insistent child. When I stopped long enough to listen, it calmly and firmly asserted this truth: you don’t want to move. You want to move forward.

I didn’t want an apartment, I wanted a renovation of my self. I was keeping myself stuck, overlooking important realities just as I had almost been willing to overlook the deafening train that would have been my neighbor had I moved into my “dream” apartment. I lived frugally but was accumulating debt ever since my divorce. I worked long hours for little pay. I told myself I didn’t mind, because I liked my work and was gaining the experience I needed for licensure. I told myself it would get easier, that I was in transition after the divorce, that I would learn to manage my time better, that this was where I needed to be right now. But all the passion and emotional rewards in the world didn’t satisfy a nagging sense of disappointment and dis-ease.

The divorce was 3 years ago, not 3 months ago. In my work I had accrued the necessary hours for licensure months before. Why hadn’t I moved on? Why didn’t I live in a gorgeous apartment, drive a nice car, and have time to unwind and enjoy? Why didn’t I at least have the counseling license to show for my abilities and experience?

Why? Because I sold myself the myth that I didn’t have a choice. I had chosen the yoke of martyrdom and claimed I wouldn’t be able to move on until I had my license. That excuse held for a while, but there was nothing in my way now except my own self-pity, avoidance, and procrastination. The metaphorical blood was on my hands; I held the incriminating knife of self-sabotage. It was a familiar feeling, one associated with a long tradition unfinished projects, abandoned hobbies, procrastination, somedays, and underachievement.

I had a backlog of messes ranging from a rusty grill in need of gas to a pile of documents waiting to be shredded; unread magazines stashed under coffee tables, clothing to be mended, and vacation pictures boxed with empty photo albums; overdue dental appointments and unanswered emails. The piece de resistance was a small stack of pre-addressed thank you cards from my wedding 8 years before. 8 years! Most had been sent just after the ceremony, but somehow I had allowed myself to put off the most important ones— those to our family members who hosted, funded, and attended to the details of that special ceremony. I told myself they needed special sentiments that would take more time to write. But 8 years wasn’t what I had in mind.

Everything was in bad shape. But professionally, the biggest shadow was cast by the foot-dragging of my licensure application. For months I had been qualified to take the exam. I had completed the required supervised hours that took two long years to accrue. Yet I had avoided making a move. Until now.

Once my tragic neglect of self-responsibility was exposed to the light, tasks beckoned me. Instead of guilty, I felt determined. Motivation overtook complacency. I gained momentum with each small step, and my goal appeared more and more manageable. I diligently applied for testing permission, registered for a test date, set a study regimen, and trudged along through the process of studying until I reached the point of saturation.

I passed the test with ease. I took the required continuing education classes, sent the fee, and now I am a licensed mental health counselor. I now have the credentials to do what I’ve been doing for years anyway. Perhaps it’s just a piece of paper. But to me it represents perseverance. Completion. Integrity.

Now, where did I put those wedding thank you cards?

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