When I was twenty-two, I quit my first job out of college. I had $200 in the bank. I packed everything I owned in my Dodge Avenger and sold what didn’t fit, listed my room on Craigslist, and made the four hour drive to Pittsburgh, PA to live with my grandparents.
That was 2012. And here I sit, back in the city I once gave the finger to.
I learned a lot in those years. I found myself into situations I never pictured myself in. Situations that even I, as open as I am with my life, have never written about online. I got involved with less than amiable people. I lived in three different states. I got fired from three different jobs.
In 2015, I gave my notice at the only job I ever truly loved. I moved my life to Boston—a city where I had no friends, no family, and no connections. I got fired in six days.
I got fired after returning from my first new business meeting in New York, by a twenty-seven year old in a miniskirt who said I was inappropriately dressed because my “shirt was made of cotton.” You think I’m joking.
I almost sued that company. It took two hours in a boardroom to recant the hellhole that was the past forty-eight hours of my life, describing the real-life sequel to Mean Girls to a partner at the firm.
That night, I was speaking on the phone with my Grandfather (possibly the only person I adore as much as my brother), a retired lawyer who went to undergrad at Princeton and graduated top-of-his-class at Harvard Law. This is what he told me:
“Your happiness will be adversely affected if you do not let go of this. If you get some sort of small compensation, it will be peanuts to the unhappiness you will feel. And no matter how much time passes, it will not make you feel as though you were fairly treated by these people.”
I emailed my attorney and told him I was dropping the case. I called my old job and asked if they had freelance work for me. I survived off $35 a week in groceries—the only thing I allowed myself to purchase outside bills and a gym membership. Within three months, I hugged my roommate (who continues to be a lifelong friend), loaded up a uHaul for the second time that winter, and drove back to our nation’s capital. My first night in DC, I spent one thousand dollars on an exterminator for bed bugs.
There will be people in this life who treat you unfairly. You will go through really shitty situations and sometimes, find yourself involved with awful people.
You will feel like a dark cloud is hanging over you, and that ALL OF THIS, just MUST be your fault.
And you could be right. Go deep inside yourself and really ask yourself which problems are due to a fault of your own, and which are outside your control.
I watched my dad undergo surgery for cancer just months before I moved to Boston. That was not my fault. I got the short end of a toxic work environment. That was also not my fault.
But I was running without a destination—running to anywhere that wasn’t Pittsburgh—and that WAS my fault.
I moved to a city I didn’t want to live in and took a job I didn’t want.
My friend Suz once told me, “Our lives are like the human body—it has the power to reject something that doesn’t seem right. Just as our bodies can reject a foreign organ, our lives can reject situations it knows it doesn’t want to be in.”
Every time life hit hard, I found myself thinking, why is it always me? Those hits were just warning signs—trying to steer me away from harm, back to where I was supposed to be.
Today, I live above a coffee shop in a rent-controlled apartment that HAS to be hazardous to my health. I owe $1,003 to the DC Parking Authority. The owner of the Chinese restaurant next door used to hate my guts for strong-arming him into letting me search his basement for my fuse box. And then flooding his kitchen four months later. I continue to have really bad luck with cars.
The past five years—the mistakes, negativity, fuck-ups, and getting fucked over—makes new hits that much more manageable.
I am grateful for every single thing that happened, situations I never thought would be funny, and people I thought I would surely hate forever. I’m glad everything happened exactly as it did. I’m so thankful for the people who advised me and lead me out of my own mess. You will read about them a lot.
Just because you fucked up, does not mean you are totally fucked.
Cheers to that.