Things Fall Apart, It's Scientific

The other day, Sean and I interviewed a local chef for an article I was writing—well, I interviewed him and Sean photographed him, which really meant that we both got to leave work early and have someone feed us sauteed baby quail at four o'clock in the afternoon. (And I'm leaving this job again why?) On our way back to the car afterwards, we started talking about how there were so many restaurants in Charleston we hadn't yet been to in the three and a half years we've lived in the city, and Sean said "We could just stay here and eat. I'm sure it's not too late for you to withdraw your resignation. We could still turn back!"

He was only kidding, but of course it is too late. Yesterday marked the last Monday in a long time where I'll wake up and get that awful oh-god-is-the-weekend-over-already? feeling, before hauling myself out of bed and into work. Next Monday, of course, I'll be hauling myself out of bed and into the airport, but that'll be a lot easier to deal with, if only because they have coffee there. (Can you believe they don't have a coffee pot at my office? The only other place I've worked without a coffee pot was the place run by Mormons, and that was understandable. The boss bought people lunch a lot to overcompensate.)

I started out this month just having pockets of worry---you know, at the usual times: around midnight, when I couldn't get to sleep, or 4am, when I'd wake up again in a panic. Now, though, with only three and a half more days of work left, a book manuscript due on Friday, a party to host on Saturday, a suitcase to pack on Sunday, and a plane to catch on Monday, I'm finding that those pockets have turned into one long epidosde of FREAKING THE HELL OUT. I didn't help my situation at all yesterday when, in a brief moment of confusion about my COBRA benefits, I put in a request for an independent health insurance quote on some website, and since then have been bombarded with e-mails and phone calls from smooth-talking insurance salesmen who leave me long-winded messages in syrupy, dulcet tones, saying things like "I am COMMITTED to helping you OUT, Miss Burns. Please CALL ME." I've been having the interns put them through to my voicemail, but one day soon I'm going to pick up the call and say, "IF YOUR PLAN WILL GET ME SOME XANAX, YOU'VE GOT MY BUSINESS."

About this time last year, when I thought I was depressed for a week but it turned out it was only PMS, I booked a flight to L.A. to visit my brother. I could do things like that then, because I wasn't saving up desperately to make my escape (though goddamnit, considering I've now been wearing my two-week contact lenses for a month and a half in order to conserve money, I certainly should have been.) At the time, I thought I hated Charleston: couldn't stand its conservative politics and its oppressive humidity, was irritated by the fact that we never got the good movies or the good bands, that we didn't have an H&M or an IKEA or a Trader Joe's nearby, that everyone drove a Hummer with a W sticker on the back, and not the kind that said "W: The Worst."

I thought I didn't like my life here, but now I can't remember what I was complaining about. Of course, there are still things about the city that I don't like, but as my time here is winding down, I see them less. These days, all I see are the things I love about Charleston: the amazing architecture, the wealth of history, driving over the bridge in the morning with Simon & Garfunkel on loud and the sun clear and bright, and not quite hot enough yet to annoy me. I love the everpresent "y'all," my newfound appreciation of pimiento cheese, drinking G&Ts on someone's porch as the bugs just start to come out. I love that Lovely Neighbor Stacy will run up to borrow a stick of butter---yes! so neighborly! like borrowing a cup of sugar!---and that Thespian Libby and I will meet in the landing between our apartments when we're both doing laundry and she'll get my cats high on catnip. I love that Pretty Coworker Elle keeps buying the wrong shade of lipgloss for herself, a shade that just happens to be my shade, so that every week she comes in with a new product for me, and in return I'll make her a sandwich at lunchtime, which we'll eat at our desks while reading The Superficial and talking about how weird Jessica Simpson's boobs are looking these days.

When I was at boarding school, the headmistress used to deliver these homilies at Monday morning assembly every week; they were normally sweet and anecdotal, usually based around something her three year old daughter had done or said, and often with some underlying message about how nice girls like us should behave. The only one I really remember contained the usual talk about these being the best days of our lives, which we, of course---wracked with worry about exams and zits and boys, cursing the fact that we couldn't wear nail polish to school---disregarded as old fuddy-duddy nonsense. But then she said "don't wish time away," and she said it with such urgency that I sat up and took notice. I had three years of high school left then, and of course all I was doing was wishing time away, waiting for a period in my life when I wouldn't have to study for a test or write an essay, a period in my life when I might live near my family, or at least with someone whom I loved as much, waiting for a period in my life when all the stuff that seemed to matter just wouldn't matter anymore.

But of course, you never reach that period, do you? And all I've been doing over the last three and a half years in Charleston is wishing more time away, waiting for another escape route from something I've become used to and tired of. And now I've finally decided to make that escape route for myself, and on Friday I'm going to take the first step toward using it. And sometimes, at three and four and five o'clock in the morning, I wonder if really, truly, in my heart of hearts, I actually want to do it anymore.

May 09, 2006

I loved this, Holly. You still keep your sense of humour even when things are a bit dubious. You really communicate your experiences and thoughts beautifully, and without ever being maudlin or self-indulgent (which I can tend to be.)

I know that you and Sean will look back from the other side of this amazing journey and be thrilled that you took chances and made changes and lived life to the fullest.

Even the anxious parts of the planning and execution fade in the midst of actually experiencing and doing and being. And even if things get tense when you're out there, I know that you will find a way to put it into perspective and laugh.

I have huge high hopes for both of you. I'm excited to see what life brings.

gina in SC
May 09, 2006

two places to eat before you leave. Fast and French ( G and M it is also called) and the Mustard Seed. Also, DH used to sous at Magnolia's so that is also a fav. Have fun and don't worry! this is exciting !

Nothing But Bonfires
May 09, 2006

Gina, Fast & French and the Mustard Seed are already two of my favorites!

May 09, 2006

I think you have a moderate case of OhLordWhatHaveIGoneAndDoneitis. Take two gin & tonics and call us Tuesday morning.

As usual, you have articulated your feelings so beautifully. That said, however, I can't feel TOO sorry for you-- you're going on the adventure of a lifetime, and if you back out now, I can't go with you!!! (I mean that in a virtual sense, of course.)

I hope your anxiety abates enough for you to enjoy your time left in Charleston. Deep breaths, deep breaths...

May 09, 2006

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I'm a believer that you need to keep learning, inquiring and wanting more of life (whatever that may be is unique to everybody). But the day you stop wanting to learn more and experience more and lose that hunger for more, well that's they day you die.


If you could leave and not turn back like this now and then, thinking about the good aspects of where you're leaving, you'd have been wasting your days Holly. when you leave San Francisco someday you'll feel the same way.

It's when you don't want to turn and look back that something's wrong.

May 09, 2006

Ahh, yes, the last-minute jitters. I know 'em well. After college I packed up one weekend and moved to Boston (without a job). Six years later I quit my great job and moved to Eastern Europe (without a job). Six and a half years later and on the heels of some nice business success, I packed up (without a job) and moved back to the States. Then to CA (that time with a waiting job). And then, not too long ago, I decided to take another break and reinvent myself. At all of those junctures, every last one of which led to great things, I had the "oh-my-god-what-have-I-done-itis" you're feeling now. Breathe, enjoy the knot in your stomach (it means you're living life), and embark on your adventure with panache and courage.

Nothing But Bonfires
May 09, 2006

Gosh, it's getting awfully DUSTY in here. I would like to buy The Internet a beer for being so nice.

May 09, 2006

Oh do I understand, having left everything I loved for the unknown just a year ago. Your future looks so beautiful and bright, and it will be. Besides, I am already looking forward to your posts while traveling - I must live vicariously through you.

When I was at the Pentagon, most of the other junior officers complained about the area. It was expensive. The commute was long. The job was stressful. They counted the days until their seemingly endless four-year tour was over. But in those final weeks, they realized how much the area had to offer, and they went out museum-hopping and monument-touring like maniacs.

It's normal. Enjoy yourself. Don't worry too much about the loose ends at work. Take lots of pictures and keep writing about the wonderful memories you'll have of Charleston.

May 09, 2006

Wow. The nostalgia. This is one of those posts where I was totally with you each step. And frankly, it makes me a little sad, because here I am in Dallas, wishing away my own time, counting the days until I can quit my job, or have children, or most importantly, move away.

May 09, 2006

live now, while you are young enough to enjoy it! every day i wish i had done more living before i got old. it's much harder now.

May 09, 2006

The doubt will be fleeting. I promise. Once you're out there, doing everything you dreamed of doing, you'll have a really hard time remembering what you're missing.

And then its over, and you'll be in a new city, living a new dream, and somehow you'll feel the same way again as you once did about Charleston. I promise! And it will feel great.

Except you'll still miss the people. That never changes.

Also, this 4am panic you speak of? I am going through the same thing, except mine is all about this baby I'm growing that I have no choice now but to grow until it bursts out of me and demands that I spend money on diapers and wet wipes and use my own BREASTS to feed it. So yes, Xanax would be nice right about now. I'm sweating right along with you.

May 09, 2006

Awwwww. Normal, sweetie. You'll be fine.

And for what it's worth--I wish I'd done more, when I could, before I was more saddled with responsibilities (yes, two of those responsibilities are cute and wonderful and everything, but you know what I mean). You are going to have the adventure of a lifetime, and it can only help to sharpen your perspective on What's Next when you return. :)

May 09, 2006

I feel for you. Like others have said - I know that feeling so well. SO well.

It's annoying that you only start to appreciate what you have when you are leaving it. But you will always carry that with you.

The panic and doubt is normal. This is why most people don't ever make the leap. It is flipping scary! No matter how great the reward - you still have to jump off a cliff first.

Holly, seriously, you will always succeed wherever you go. You'll always attract great friends and fun experiences. You will always find love. Because that is who you are.

Fret not, my sweet, you'll be fine.

(and we're all cheering you on)

May 09, 2006

I completely understand. Even the kids I teach are starting to seem a lot more darling now that I only have two weeks left with them. Well, some of the kids.

May 09, 2006

Like everyone else, I'm with you on the nostalgia thing. Every time I've ever packed up and left a place (and I have done nothing BUT leave places for the last twenty years, really) I have suffered several weeks of "ShitwhathaveIgoneanddone?" Everything good about my current life crowds around me, inviting me to stay and reminding me, annoyingly, that no transition is pain-free.

That said, there hasn't been one adventure I've taken on with trepidation which I've regretted. I always feel I'm insane to be going to Kenya for a year, or India with an open return ticket, or to a reservation, or Iowa, and I always weep at the transition, and in the end I'm always glad I did it.

But damn, wouldn't it be nice if there were a way around the leavetakings?

May 09, 2006

Well you can come borrow sugar from me when we're living in our fantastic Victorian house in San Francisco. Would you prefer upstairs or downstairs? I'm getting those "what have I done" fears too, about my job, my life, impending marriage, moving, moving again. But I think the more we wait, the harder it gets to accept change. So just go ahead and do it and don't give yourself any time to worry about it.

May 09, 2006

I've realized that if you reach a point that you are "wishing time away", then you need to make a change. I wished it away for 25 years until I quit my job, packed a 50' truck with all my belongings (including a Great Dane and a husband), and drove 2200 miles with no job waiting.

I can't say I don't still have worries, but this is the first time I've stopped to enjoy my life.

I think you're making the right decision, and imagine all the stories you'll have to tell!

May 09, 2006

The year after I graduated college, I burned through two professional jobs, leaving after only six months at each. To be fair, the second job had a lot of people doing drugs and screaming words that rhyme with "punt" and "buck," but still: I was 0 for 2. I allowed myself to go to Colorado for a year, apply to graduate school, and do what I really wanted.

Over a year later? I'm procrastinating writing a paper, wanting to watch the Gilmore Girls, and debating what I should wear to work tomorrow. But basically, I'm really happy, and if happiness has any sort of direct relationship with how scared you are before you get here, then I earned it. I think you've earned it, too.

May 10, 2006

I'm sitting here nodding my fool head off, because the way you feel about Charleston is the way I feel about the town in which I live. I've spent so much of the last 8 months just wishing and hoping that it would GO AWAY, the politics, and the humidity and for chrissake the motherfucking HUMMERS. YES, THE HUMMERS. And did I mention the monster trucks? The ones with the bumper stickers that read "My other toy has tits?"

But, oddly, the second we start planning our escape is the moment I start to panic - attach myself like a sea urchin to the life I've come to oddly enjoy. And the fabulous - FABULOUS - editorial job that I have, not unlike yours (for example, tomorrow I'm going to cover the equivalent of a ribbon cutting, and next week I'm taking my dog to a pet psychic all in the name of professional journalism).

And really, before I left Boston to come here, the area where I lived took on this miraculous golden glow, even though there were things about it that I hated so much I could scream.

Because, I think, the thing that we forget - that I forgot, at least - is that when you leave a place, something new and more exciting takes its place. And even if it's not exciting, it can be really, really good in unexpected ways. Sometimes it feels like it's only that things are ENDING, and not that there is a new beginning. Because there is. There is always a new beginning, as long as our hearts are still beating, and your beginning is bound to be astonishingly exciting, refreshing, and just what you needed.

May 10, 2006

That's how I felt when I moved from everyone I know totally out of my comfort zone and moved to New York. Tears streaming down my face I walked onto the plane alone wondering what the hell am I doing. It was the best year of my life so far. Once you’re in it you will realize how could I ever doubt this decision.

May 10, 2006

I have this fabulous pair of thigh-high socks that could take care of your cold feet in style. Either way, I always found that anyplace I was moving away from DID tend to start looking wonderful. And Charleston will always be one of your beloved places, but think: there are new beloved places ahead.

As long as you've got Sean, you are okay. Because for me, home is where Ben is. We debate all the time about whether to stay in California or raise our children back East, and God knows where we'll end up, but if Ben is there, then any old place is a good enough home for me.

Saucepan Man
May 10, 2006

You pretty much started because we took the plunge and left metroland London for Detroit in 1975... and now it's in your DNA too! No regrets; ever.

(There is a back door, you know. Rent the Daniels Island place if you decide you want to return - but I bet you don't!)

May 10, 2006

Oh, and I found out about three more moving services that are MUCH less expensive! We must get together and PLAN! (shivers with excitement and equal parts horror of moving AGAIN) By the way, had the most divine Mexican food here tonight. Loving the CA.

May 10, 2006

Holly, we would all be horribly worried for you if you WEREN'T terrified about completely overturning your life. I go through the Oh-do-I-haaave-to? Can't-I-just-stay-at-home? thing over the smallest matters -- going on holiday, even, for crying out loud -- and all the time I know that really it will be fabulous (and it always is). Feeling fear of the unknown is good and useful. It makes us think through our big decisions and protects us (more or less) from idiocy. And, when push comes to shove, Charleston will STILL BE THERE when you get back from your travels, and there is nothing to stop you from living there again if you really want to (but you know you probably won't).

May 10, 2006

hey, enjoy that upcoming trip to London - i was there over the weekend, and the weather's lovely, and there's a big 'summer's coming' buzz happening, lot's of people eating on pavement-side cafes, lots of picnics in Regents Park, and generally a great atmosphere going on. have fun!
And i can totally relate to the freaking out by the way. I'm leaving my job and flat in a couple of months to travel around Europe for 3 months in a campervan. and i'm scaaared! (and also thrilled)
good luck!

May 10, 2006

Way to go out with a bang - quit job, pack apt, finish book manusript, pack suitcase and go on an amazing adventure. Amazing adventures always start out with equal parts awe, wonder and excitement and the big pit of dread in your stomach. Do what I do whenever I make a big decision to change my life - grab your beloved's hand, shut your eyes and just jump (be sure to have a barf bag handy just in case) - and I bet you will land somewhere amazing. I always have and the view is AWESOME.

gina in SC
May 10, 2006

you are so fun!!

May 10, 2006

I just found your website, and I am about to go through the exact same thing. Any hints on the actual resigning process? Leaving a fun and well-paying job with good health insurance to spend the summer in Europe and then do the "my husband and I are both in grad school in a new city" thing...

May 10, 2006

Oh, sweetie. Everyone is saying the exactly right thing, in that now's the time, but of course it's normal to second-guess it all. Do you really think you'll have a moment where you find yourself saying, "You know what I miss? I miss my lunch hour! Having one hour to find something to eat and then eat it and maybe have a moment of peace and quiet before I had to face the office again was the best!" or "Remember when we only had time to do stuff on the weekends?" What a grand adventure you're going on, and we are so ready to live vicariously through you.

May 11, 2006

Wow, we have the hummers and the trucks with the "W" bumper stickers here too. And I anguish over it all the time, too. But then I realize there are things about this place that I would desperately miss, and mostly it would be the familiarity. HOwever, I know wherever we'd end up, we'd end up loving just as much (if not more), and you and Sean will too. Enjoy!