Spring Cleaning

I’ve had a major itch lately (and for most of my life) to just do… something. I think I have a chronic nostalgia, but for what? I’ve never been able to figure it out. 26 years now.

I haven’t written here for over a year, mostly because I’m not very interested in blogging anymore. There are a handful of design blogs that I still read daily, but I learned a long time ago that my personal blog was never going to become a hot-spot for traffic. But today I feel like writing.

Spring is finally starting to arrive. Today, at least, it’s 79 degrees and sunny. Just a few weeks ago it was snowing. I’ve learned in the past 14 months or so that I’m not a winter person. When I was younger, I complained endlessly about being hot or sweaty. Now I know that there’s nothing more miserable to me than endless snowfall and shoveling and being homebound due to crappy road conditions or a car that just can’t hack an icy hill. Also several weeks of sub-freezing temperatures. There’s nothing fun about it.

On that note, my car has been dying a slow death for the past several months. I’ve been casually shopping for new ones by browsing online. There are a few contenders, but I haven’t felt ready to pull the trigger until very recently. Three months ago my goal was to find a quality used car for no more than $8,000, and to buy it outright. I was talking with my dad while in the gym a few nights ago, and he said something along the lines of “None of us knows when we’re going to die. It’s important to save for later, yes, but it’s also important to do some living now.” I walked around the lot at a dealership yesterday and now I’m ready to take the plunge on a car payment.  I’m not even sure who I am anymore.

On another personal note, I’ve been single for over 8 months now. I have almost zero interest in dating and I can’t figure out why. I’m 26 – approaching 27 – and I keep having the realization that I’m now nearing the age where there’s a chance that I’ll truly be single forever. The thought of that makes me a little sad. Gynecologically speaking, I’m already past my prime child-bearing years. I have zero maternal instinct and no dreams of future children, so this isn’t something I’m worried about, but I’m approaching 30 and it would be nice to have found that life partner by now. I just have no desire to date. I wish I could just skip all that and land in the part where it’s already comfortable and easy with someone.

Now on to the biggest part: probably the reason I felt like blogging today. I quit my job. Friday is my last day, after 2 years and 4 months there. I have felt trapped in my career ever since I started on it, really, and it finally feels like time to do something new. Unfortunately, I’m not breaking out entirely to pursue a life-long passion or to do something heroic. But I’ve lived with complete mental atrophy for over 2 years now and it’s time for a change.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have a job with more personal freedom than is imaginable: I can go in late, leave early, take well over an hour for lunch, wake up and work from home just because I feel like it whenever I feel like it, and I have unlimited paid vacation time. Those are the things that have been nearly impossible to walk away from. But as I mentioned, I’ve been bored out of my mind 40 hours a week for over 2 years, I have no personal relationships with anyone I work with, and there’s no room for upward mobility in a company of only 25 people. So I’m moving into a new role in a much larger, much more established company starting next Monday. I hope it goes well, but I’m also approaching it realistically.

I’ll be giving up all those time-related luxuries, but I’m hoping I’ll gain new relationships and some new skills. I negotiated for extra vacation time, and my new boss is someone who I have previously worked for and admired. There are pluses, I just have to keep reminding myself of them. I don’t expect this to be my dream job: it’s still the same field and I’m still not passionate about it. But I’m looking at it as an opportunity to do something new for a while. If I hate it after a year, I can find something else. That’s my mindset.

This is a pretty big change. But I’m knowingly taking it on in an effort to get out of the life rut I’ve been in for so long. Even things like being in the office earlier (I’ve settled into a routine of going to work at 9 and being one of the first people there) and having to accrue vacation time are things I’m trying to view as new and exciting challenges, rather than pure annoyances.

So in a nutshell: I’m making some changes, I fully expect them to be difficult at times, but I’m ready for it because I’m choosing it. In a year, I want to know that even if I hated it, at least I tried. That’s what matters.

Move

Today’s A to Z ‘life goal for my 20s’ is a big one: moving to a new city!

Obviously, having just bought my first house, this isn’t on my immediate to-do list.

But the thing is, with the exception of 4 years in college, I’ve lived in Charlottesville since I was born. That’s 25.5 years minus 8 semesters. I go through love/hate phases with Charlottesville, especially during the spring and winter. In the springtime, I remember how beautiful this town is, and how amazing it is to be able to get from the city to the country in about 10 minutes flat. We have wineries galore, and lots of unique events to experience nearly every weekend. In the winter, not as much goes on here, and I get depressed by the cold and the snow and the city’s inability to clean it up properly.

Sometimes I find it comforting that if I’m out somewhere with my dad and/or my grandma, we’re guaranteed to see at least one person that they know. But now that it’s also starting to happen to me, I like it less. There are tons of people still in this town who I went to high school with, but was never close with. I don’t enjoy those run-ins. Sometimes I crave the idea of moving to a new place and starting entirely from scratch — somewhere that no one knows me and there’s zero chance of running into an old acquaintance in the grocery store, or the hair salon, or walking down the downtown mall.

I’m not sure which place makes sense as my next home. During its good times, Charlottesville seems like the perfect fit for me. But I’m sure there are other cities out there that could hold even more possibility. Luckily, I’ve got some time to explore.

LAX

Today’s A to Z post is about a trip I’m hoping to take this summer: to Los Angeles!

One of my good friends from grad school is working in Los Angeles until August, and I’m hoping to snag a flight across the country to visit, explore, and catch up for a week this summer!

Travel is pretty high on my to-do list for the rest of my 20s, as is maintaining relationships with people I’ve lost touch with. This trip will fulfill both!

Any travel tips for visiting Los Angeles? Any favorite spots or must-see attractions? 

 

Job

Today’s A to Z post on “My 20-something goals list” is the big one: the J-O-B.

I obsess about this topic all.the.time. I spend 40 hours a week in a job that I find unfulfilling, only to come home and spend at least 8 additional hours a week job searching: submitting countless applications that inevitably go unacknowledged, and stressing about what exactly it is that I truly want to do with my time.

The fact is that I have no idea. I’ve been asked many, many times: “What would you do if you could do anything?,” and I never have a succinct answer. When asked what it is that I don’t like about my present job, the most concrete response I can give is that I just don’t enjoy the work. I don’t feel passionate about what I do (perhaps because I don’t produce anything and I’m not responsible for any tangible product?), and that makes it hard to go to work every day. The flip side, though, is that I have no idea what I feel passionately about.

I’ve often read that your 20s is the time when you’re supposed to try out many different jobs – often even several different career paths – before settling into your 30s with a stronger sense of self and a steady course for the rest of your adult life. If this is the case, I’m screwed. If I can’t get someone to reply to one of my infinite job applications before I hit the big 3-0, the path I’m on will become my life’s course. And I just can’t take that.

Does anyone have any advice to offer on how to figure out which job is the right one for you? Any career changers out there? Anyone (like me) still struggling with what exactly it is that fires you up?

Investment Property

Today’s A to Z post on the theme of “my 20-something goals” is about Investment Property.

I achieved my life-long goal of buying a house in January. I’m currently renting out a bedroom to a roommate, which helps cut down my monthly mortgage payment.

HOWEVER: now that I’ve got one house, I don’t want to stop. My next goal is to buy an additional property every five years. (If I’m being honest, I’d prefer to do it every 3 years.) Eventually (but hopefully sooner than later), I’d like to be able to live off of the income from my various properties.

I live in Charlottesville, which is known for extremely high real estate costs. I find this to be supremely frustrating, but it’s a challenge that I think I can overcome. I’ve learned that there are deals to be found, if you’re willing to be patient (which I did when buying my current house — I checked the MLS every day for close to two years!).

Being a landlord fits nicely with my life-long love of houses and my desire to live freely outside of the 9-to-5 office setting. Now all I’ve got to do is make it happen…

Hobby

Whoops… I kind of let things slip a bit over the past few days. I skipped the A to Z posts for E, F, and G. (If anyone’s curious, E would have been ‘Exercise,’ F: ‘Fun,’ and G was undecided.)

Today’s topic is Hobbies. As in: I need one. And searching for jobs doesn’t count. I’ve been job searching pretty much non-stop for 3 years now – ever since the spring semester of my year in grad school. It takes up SO MUCH TIME, and I almost never hear back from anyone I send applications to. Ugh. <endrant/>

But seriously: I need a hobby. I need something with which to fill my time and keep my hands and my brain occupied. I need a way to channel the creative juices that have been run dry since, oh… forever? Clearly, I’m unhappy with my job and I need to find some inspiration outside of work.

When I was younger, I took gymnastics classes. That’s probably safe to cross off the list at this age. I also took horseback riding lessons. It can get quite expensive, but that’s something I’d consider doing again. I’ve never played instruments because I’m terrible with all things musical, so that’s another no. I never really enjoyed team sports, although they’re a good way to meet new people. But most athletics aren’t high on my list. Maybe an art class?

I’m interested in learning new skills, but I’m never happy being bad at something. I need a guaranteed ‘win’ to start with, so that I don’t get scared off.

Does anyone have any hobbies that are easy to get started on, and sure-fire successes?

Design

Today’s A to Z post topic is Design.

When I was a little kid, I used to dream about houses and then wake up and scramble to sketch out the floor plans before they vanished from my memory. My favorite notebooks were graph paper so I could complete to-scale drawings. I used to (and still do) monitor the local MLS daily, and back when my mom was a Realtor I’d beg her to take me to see fresh-on-the-market homes that appealed to me. I rarely miss the Charlottesville Parade of Homes, because I’ve always been interested in the latest and greatest trends in new home construction.

I started watching Trading Spaces on TLC way back before interior design was “trendy.” Once HGTV hit the big-time, I spent my teenage years glued to it rather than anything on MTV or any of the other networks watched by my peers. I knew from the time I was 8 or so years old that I wanted to be an architect when I grew up. I took two years of Technical Drawing and Architectural Drawing classes in high school, only to have a crisis of confidence my senior year and decide to apply to college as an undeclared major, because I didn’t think I’d get in to Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture.

I majored in English (because it was easy and I was good at it), and I regret settling. During my senior year of college, I applied to grad schools, two of which were the Masters in Architecture at Virginia Tech and the Masters program in Interior Design at George Washington University. I was accepted to both. I turned both offers down. I’ve regretted it ever since.

I’ve spent the four years since college graduation immersing myself in interior design and DIY blogs every day. I find myself feeling alternating surges of jealousy of those bloggers who jumped on the bandwagon circa 2009, before the DIY-blog train took off, and anger at myself for not doing the same thing (even though, to be fair, in 2009 I was a senior in college with no money and living in an apartment with three strangers – not the best material for a design blog). I can’t help but think that there are so many DIY/design bloggers out there who don’t have any actual design skill, but who instead have gotten by on a lot of luck and good timing.

Anyway, this hateful venting isn’t where I set out to go with this.

Interior design, architecture, houses, and real estate have been my passions for my entire life. I know this. But I haven’t acted on it. More recently, I’ve become interested in event design, wedding planning, and even print and graphic design. I have no idea if I have what it takes to turn these passions into a paying career, but I’ve been paralyzed by fear of trying for far too long.

So that brings me to my next goal for my 20’s: Design something. Be it a fantastic room for a client, the blueprints for my next home, or even just a logo in PhotoShop – I have to start somewhere. I’ve been itching to see my design vision accomplished for well over a decade. I owe it to myself to produce something real. (And maybe to share photos with the internet.)

Is there anyone else out there who’s ever denied a life-long dream? What happened when you acted on it?