Jane Pauley and Alex Dunphy completely hijacked my original post for today. Sorry readers, you’ll just have to wait till tomorrow to read about my love for World Market. Or homemade body scrub.
Two things to preface about this post. One, the overall theme (if you will) is nothing you’ve not heard 1,297 times before. I just know from personal experience it’s not something we always take to heart. Two, this is a rather personal entry; it’s not about lip gloss or watching a movie. So here it goes…
My name is Nikki. And I’m an obsessive compulsive planner.
Almost every step of my life up until June 4, 2013 was more or less strategically planned and entirely over-thought. I knew very early on where my bread was buttered. I was never going to be a beauty queen or a star athlete (really, an athlete at all). I always had self-image and weight issues, for which I was of course made fun of by both kids at school and even family. I knew the only way I was ever going to stand out and be recognized was academically and eventually what I achieved professionally. So I might have overdid it. My parents were called into see the teachers because they thought I was under too much pressure at home…in elementary school. My mom had to explain it wasn’t them, it was all me. All of the stress and scrutiny of performing well I placed on myself. My therapists over the years have mixed opinions as to why this was, but I’m way too sober to go into that.
If you saw last night’s Modern Family, you know I was Alex Dunphy growing up. I wasn’t quite as smart as that character is, but the same obsessive drive and sense of over-achievement was always there. Where I ended up graduating from college (not where I started, but from where I graduated), where I worked after college, the job I accepted in LA, how I got married, how I got divorced, how I moved back to Dallas…it was all extremely methodical. Whether or not it seems like it reading this, please believe me when I say it was all VERY much planned. I always knew what my next step was and a general idea of how long it would take me. Uncertainty was not in my vocab. Yet neither was the expression “stop and smell the roses”.
I’ve always used the show How I Met Your Mother as the perfect example of focusing on the journey and not the destination. Yet it’s also always annoyed the hell out of me, because it took so long to meet the freaking mother. See where I’m going with this? I never knew how or wanted to focus on the journey. The JOURNEY doesn’t necessarily put food in your mouth or a roof over your head. If you focused on the journey you weren’t guaranteed to make the intended destination and not making the intended destination meant you were a failure.
And there have been many minutes, hours and days since June 4 of last year that I’ve felt like a failure. Not to my parents, not to my friends, but to the worst possible person…myself. That was the day I was officially laid off. You don’t work your ass off since you were 16 years old, become the only one in the family to graduate from college, strategically plan your career, only to end up unemployed. It doesn’t matter the circumstance under which I was laid off had nothing to do with me or my abilities and could happen to anyone. If you had told me at the end of 2009, as I was blissfully preparing to move back to Dallas, that at the beginning of 2014 I would be out of work for over seven months and still single, I would have needed a straightjacket and the largest bottle of vodka you could find. This was not the way things were supposed to be. This is not what I had planned.
As Jane Pauley described it on KERA (our local NPR affiliate) today, I had planned all my off-ramps. I knew exactly what highways to take and where to get off. No stopping for pee breaks, folks. But then the bloody freeway went and ended last summer. I was forced off, then utterly lost without a map and Siri, that heifer, she wouldn’t help me. Thus began what I (now) call the scenic route…I still have no earthly idea where it’s taking me. After pulling over for a lot of begging and praying, hours on a yoga mat, miles walking the M Streets, gallons upon gallons of red wine, an unexpected major friendship and more crying than you ever thought humanly possible, I’m finally okay with that. I’m not just saying that, y’all…I MEAN IT. I’m okay. It’s going to be OKAY. So if you, too, are going through anything similar, I promise you, it’s going to be OKAY. And do you like a good road trip? Bring chips and M&M peanuts. Please and thanks.
I know what this time wandering back roads and getting stuck in ditches has been about (let’s see how far I can take this metaphor…). When I saw Alex Dunphy and who I was then and heard Jane Pauley and realized where I am now, I was so very grateful for it all. There was no way I could have actually planned for this to happen.
Now if I could just not plan my way into a husband, I’ll be good…
We both know you’re not going to be here forever, this is just a weigh station on a road to bigger and better things – Ron Swanson, Parks and Rec