A Weekend Without A Voice--A Spiritual Trip Down Memory Lane

Things are kind of weird, things are kind of odd.

 

I feel like over the last 6 months, things in my professional life have circled back around. It’s the same cycle it’s undergone since the ripe young age of 18, when I knew what I wanted out of life and set out to claim the world. As time has passed, life has happened; traditional adulthood has happened, and while it’s brought with it a wonderful sense of joy and traditional accomplishment—completing college, living on my own independently and travelling internationally, securing a real, adult job and both buying and selling a house. With each additional step or traditional mile-marker, I’ve felt a little further and further away from achieving what I want out of life. And quite frankly, I’m not even sure what that is.

I have a solid salary pay, a stable(-ish) job, and a growing 401k. I have the house with the fenced in back yard, the four-legged companion who has traveled this nation by my side, and I can afford mishaps when life throws them my way. But while I have the roof, the truck, the career, the location—all these benchmark items, one thing I no longer have is time. I no longer have time for myself, to relax, to re-center. The time feels stolen, stolen from the time I should be out running my dog, time I should be cooking or cleaning, writing letters, doing taxes, or paying bills. Time I should be spending dreaming, and planning, and achieving. Without time, I no longer dream, but instead have a void where my passions once were.

And it’s nice, because the more self-aware I am about this, the more pro-active I can be towards fixing it.

As the sun breaks on winter and the days begin to feel more and more like spring, not only am I planting lavender and transplanting my budding tomato sprouts, but I’m cultivating the soil that the next great Andy will be.

In my adult life, first, I was an Airman. I was a student. I was a female electrical engineer—one of three in my class. I love God, and Family, and Country, and placed military, academic, and physical achievement above all else. I was serious. I was a badass American Fighter Pilot In-Training.

But that world came crashing down faster than the notice you get for a cadet-run honor violation. From being medically disqualified, to being too young and inexperienced to truly know how to deal with people and politics and adults in the real world, little 19-year old Andy returned to civilian life lost, angry, and set for blood. With the biggest chip on my shoulder, Andy became the protected veteran. The salt bag. The shadow in the back of the room that noticed everything and spent 5-hours on a Friday night in the gym. The caffeine and hate flowed most strongly, then, as I had yet to learn to let go and move on. To adapt to the defeat. Something I still haven’t learned.

As time progressed, I found a friend. A friend that helped me open to be, but for a brief moment, an undergraduate college kid. Previously a strong purveyor of dark, quiet holes, finer establishments, and whiskey, I started to take a step back and loosen up. Having spent my 21st birthday alone in a new town, I finally was dragged to my first college bar at the age of 22. With my Marines sweater from Annapolis zipped up, and my trusty camo ball cap brim pulled down, I shot pool in the upstairs floor of a well-worn college dive. As my boots sloshed through spilled beer, I felt myself begin to relax—begin to realize that this thing was a moment in life I needed to embrace. Throwing a few cold ones back, the final semester of my victory dash passed in a blur of Tinder dates and bar crawls, ending my chapter at OSU.

Many of my fondest college social moments—moments of inter-personal growth, occurred that last semester. 2 years passed by with my nose shoved in a book and headphones blasting at the gym. I set lifting records I still haven’t broken, I ran my first marathon, embraced new employment and through the ups and downs I squirreled away savings for “the future”. But as I hugged new friends goodbye and drove the family mini-van up North, I opened the door for post-grad Andy to stumble her way (figuratively) through the ins and outs of Amish country.

My lack of ability, or disinterest, rather, in getting along well with others my age began to set me apart positively and negatively as I transitioned into my full-time professional career. Being a young female left in charge of an all-male team, being a young engineer tasked simply with “make it better”, and being a responsible young adult left in charge of an entire manufacturing facility, only to lean on other salaried employees of roughly my own age (yet less experience), I found myself turning productivity numbers never before hit. Implementing design changes that are now best practices, and practicing my leadership skills in a whole new way. As this era of Andy charged forward in career growth, less time was spent fostering meaningful outside-of-work relationships. Less time was spent growing outside-of-work passions. This era of Andy still believed in fierce loyalty to one’s employer, and this era of Andy turned down an offer to commission as a Maintenance Officer in the United States Air Force. This era of Andy still relied on parental guidance, still was nervous about parental disapproval. While dabbling in testing the borders, this Andy knew she needed a friend. Not the come-and-go one-time dates driving all across North Eastern Ohio to make. This era of Andy hit a new wall, a political wall. A wall that slammed me straight in the face. Flirting with unclear lines and dancing with the ambiguous levels of company policy doesn’t apply when you’re a female. Men can go golfing together before work and get hammered on the weekends at the local lake. But I borrow paint from a male or meet up for drinks with my team, and it’s off to another plant, I go.

This era of Andy was a civilian manifestation of Andy at 19. Strong in my pursuits, but still very, very, weak, socially. Strong in the workplace, strong in what we’re judged for professionally, but still very, very lost, personally.

As things at work became more and more tumultuous, I somehow found myself stepping foot into my first ever yoga studio. I found myself in December of 2016 absolutely blown away by the beauty and the complexity of the power vinyasa yoga class I ran over to on my 7p lunch break from work. I wobbled, I teetered, I refocused and tried to balance. The class highlighted in the forefront of my conscious all that was off balanced in my life. All that I still struggled with internally, and all that I still had to progress through. I was hooked.

I signed up for a studio membership and began dabbling in aerial yoga. The intricate acrobatics helped me work my way through the changes happening both personally and professionally. As time passed, however, I began to struggle. While I had struck it for but a moment, life was once again out of balance.

As I feigned interest in my new job, trying to nestle into “the simple life”, I felt myself begin to rot away. I spent my time planning, plotting, setting timelines and deadlines for what I could try to achieve. “Welding certificate in 3 months, what if I pursued a yoga teaching certificate. I’ll buy a house, I’ll become a bartender”. I lasted but 4 months before I needed to escape. On an emergency vacation, I packed up my belongings and I took my dog to his first trip to the ocean. That fateful 4 day, 3 night trip became so much more than an Oceanside Getaway. That trip was an alignment of paths far beyond my ability to alter or understand. From blistered paws to awkward encounters, the sticky, salty air of the Outer Banks gave me refreshed outlook on what lay ahead. With a hopeful heart and a tummy full of butterflies, I drove home to Ohio ready to explore what life would be like once again intertwined with another soul.

The rest of the year passed in a blur of travel, high moments, elated weekends, and ocean air, before wrapping up in a ball of the deepest seasonal depression I’ve ever faced. Escaping discontent and anger in my professional life by balling all entertainment and excitement into a few select weekends, I chased happiness disguised as travel. I left my newly purchased home still stuffed full of packed boxes and half-complete renovation projects, my mind saying it’s a smart financial move and my heart saying this wasn’t right. As each consecutive day dragged by, I woke up to 2018 and realized change wasn’t an option. Starting small, so came Turning Strawberry.

Turning Strawberry guided 2018 into the strong realization of what needs to happen. In the course of a month, I had made up my mind to find a new job. What, yet, I wasn’t sure, but New Andy didn’t care. A brewery was opening locally and I had already struck a deal with a yoga studio in Canton to get my RYT on my own time. But, as fate would have it, I was guided to drop it all—to leave it all behind. To Nevada, I went.

I sold my house, left behind half of what I owned, and spent a week road tripping West with my best, furry friend. The mountains had called, once again, under a new façade. And I was answering.

Low and behold, while it covered much of what I left, my new life was lonely and driven by work. 16-hour days became the norm, and not only was I neglecting myself, my health, and my dog, 5 months of my life passed in a haze of frustration and anger—5 months I will never get back.

Change did come, though. Finally my cries for help at work were answered and I received support—a new manager, to be exact. Suddenly, my responsibilities dropped from 174 direct reports and 5 lines to 70 direct reports, 2 lines, and 2 peer supervisors, to suddenly 60 direct reports, then 50, 45, 42…

Work is someone mild, now. Still irrationally destructive on a normal scale, but exponentially better compared to what it once was. But now that winter #2 here has passed, my life has catapulted me to more—to the greater, most enlightened state Andy has ever been.

Andy knows production management—large teams on industrial floors, is not something I’m willing to repeat. Andy, now, has set boundaries that are slowly being implemented and enforced in the most financially responsible way with the least impact to the nest I’ve created. I know this Andy sees the faults that all of my past iterations has made. This Andy no longer can sustain a sleepless existence, powered by drive and determination, primarily because to do so requires passion. And this Andy has learned there is no passion in what currently comprises my life. So the sleepless nights are driven by Turning Strawberry. By setting myself up to move on to the next. By training for my RYT, and filming videos. Spending 5 hours on editing 5 minutes of video to load onto YouTube. To be creative. To discover new ways, new habits, of improving life and the world I live in. To take a step back from everything being so automatic, and driven purely by convenience. This Andy has had her morals challenged and has failed. This Andy has found strength in that and has progressed to be a role model to those trying to find their own path. Supporting others transitioning to a more sustainable life—for themselves, and for the planet.

This current iteration of me still loves God, and family, and country, but in different ways. Spirituality has a different meaning, now. Family is still support, but it’s not the ultimate support I once relied on. And country is a mess of politics, but it’s something that’s helped me find my own political way. It’s something I’ve doubled back on.

This iteration of Andy has a new perspective of life and its pre-set timelines. As I get older and travel down this road of life, I see a different way of doing things. A different way of achieving personally defined success. A new approach to eliminating any chances of regret, in life.

This Andy is softer, and less severe. This Andy is more rooted and yet somehow more flighty. This Andy is more open—mentally and physically, to outside stimuli. 2019 is almost ¼ over, already. And I can guarantee the Andy walking into 2020 will be bolder, brighter, and yet more grounded, than I’ve ever been before. Breaking perceived prisons, returning and finishing what has been left incomplete, and nurturing the sprouts of the seeds planted a year ago.

If you’ve made it this far in reading, thank you. As I forge my way through my mid-twenties, as I make my way into this next version and into being this next person, I hope to get one step closer to finding my own personal dharma. I’m thankful that through it all, no matter what stage it is or how it may appear to be, I can share this story with you.