So, I know this question was meant to be the prompt for last week’s Travel Tuesday, but what can I say- I’m a procrastinator.
Still, after I read the theme- I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
“Where I came from and why I left” is a pretty loaded question for me. Only recently have I really thought about it and accepted it myself. The more I think about it, the more I realize how necessary it was for me to do what I’m doing and how it’s really changed everything.
I grew up in the state of New York, way out on Long Island in the itty bitty little hamlet of Baiting Hollow. Baiting Hollow is part of the township of Riverhead, which is a pretty big town, as far as “small towns” go, inhabited with a diverse population of 34,000. Spread out over 200 square miles (67% of that being water), we had everything from farm fields and vineyards to beaches and wetlands.
My school years were pretty much extracted straight from one of your typical American movies. School pride. School sports. Homecoming. Prom. Senior pranks & silly fights. Everyone knew everyone else’s business. Weekend football games were the biggest thing to hit the town. The school moms gossiped just as much (if not more) than the students. There were families whose grandparents and great grandparents and whoever the hells other ancestors settled down 800 years ago and family roots still remained. Just like I said- typical.
For anyone who knows of Long Island or even knows it well, my town is far from the “common” Nassau County standard. Long Island is exactly what the name suggests- extremely lengthy. While a lot of the island acts as suburbs for New York City, Riverhead, located at the last exit of the dreaded LIE, is a good two-hour’s drive from the city. It’s pretty much your last stop before breaking out onto one of the ‘forks’ heading north towards Orient or south towards the Hamptons.
As a youngster, I loved my town. I had awesome friends, amazing parents, a safe neighborhood and plenty to do in my free time. Still, I knew I was getting out of there as soon as I could.
Finding a long-term job and settling down in Riverhead was never really in the cards for me. Growing up it was a great place to be, but even when I was little I had plans to fly far, far away for college- Oxford & UCLA firm on the radar (I wish). I always had big dreams, intense passions and a burning desire to explore, all of which couldn’t be accomplished in an isolated town surrounded by water.
I may not from the ‘real’ New York as you know it, but deep down, I’ve always been a New Yorker.
I always had that drive, that thirst for more. I always lived a life in fast forward, anticipating the next step, working towards the next goal. I wanted to succeed and I wasn’t afraid to work for it. Kind of comically, this is the main reason I left. Of course none of the before mentioned are necessarily undesirable qualities, but anything in excess is poison.
Anyway, I’ll try to share the short & sweet version…
In elementary school I set out on all different types of businesses ventures from selling handmade greeting cards in my parent’s legal aid office and handing out babysitting flyers around the block to washing the neighbors cars and selling lemonade at the end of my three-home cul-de-sac. I started a joint-savings account with my mother around this time and tried to be really careful with how I spent my money. Visions of a bright future full of fancy cars, enormous houses and expensive clothes consumed my mind.
By my 14th summer, I had become tired of selling my old toys and running my various neighborhood schemes. I wanted a real job. And so, I applied for my working papers.
At 14, I started my first big-kid job as a beach club ice cream girl. I served the summer holiday trust-find kids, taking close notice to their nonchalant pretentious behavior. Two years later, looking to increase my wages a bit, I began my first restaurant job as a hostess. After two years as a hostess, making close to minimum wage, I observed where the real money-making positions at a vacation destination were at- behind the bar. At 18, I requested to learn the wonders of mixology from the inside out as a bar-back. After a few months, I had worked my way up to the glorious role of bartending. I worked at a nice restaurant in the Hamptons, where flashy patrons would slip you a $100 bill for having a nice smile. The money was good…. if you worked for it. I was addicted.
During my university studies, I decided to pursue my passion for fashion and made it my goal to find a place for myself in the industry. I knew how competitive the industry was and I became really nervous about finding a future job. I wanted to get a leg up; I wanted to get ahead of the crowd. My sophomore year I lived in career services drafting resumes and cover letters and perfecting the art of the interview. I sent my resume out everywhere I could think of and several times skipped class to drive to Manhattan whenever an opportunity arose.
By the time I had graduated college, I had 6 fashion internships under my belt. I had spent all of my school vacations slaving away at the bottom, and I was more than okay with that. Actually, I really enjoyed it.
If they needed someone to stay late, I was always the first to raise my hand. When I was finished with my given task, I begged for more. I volunteered for the bitch work with a smile and I was never unavailable.
I thrived on impressing my superiors and adding another letter of recommendation to the pile. It felt good. But I wanted more.
It became a vicious cycle where nothing I did was good enough for myself. I became obsessed with climbing the professional ladder as quickly as possible.
By my senior year, I had sucked up to the right people. I had made my good impressions. I’d put in my time and I was ready.
I guess somewhere deep inside of me, I knew once I truly started the climb, I would never stop. I took a peek into my future and saw 50+ years ahead of me, slaving away at a cubicle, cultivating a certified workaholic. I wasn’t ready for that part of myself to run wild. As much as I wanted to continue my progression, I knew it would be suppressing my other dreams of living abroad, exploring new cultures and seeing the world.
I started second-guessing my choice of the competitive fashion industry. Questioning what other opportunities might be out there. Thinking about what I could be missing out on. Obsessing over the future. I honestly ended up freaking myself out. I knew if I began a life in New York, I’d never leave. I’d get caught up and I’d be stuck. I wasn’t ready to completely let that part of myself go. Not just yet.
It’s way too easy to set aside dreams as “maybe one day’s” which later turn into “what if’s.” I didn’t want to chalk up my dreams to some distant fantasy; I wanted to make them a reality.
I know.. sounds like a personal problem, right? Well, yeah. That’s exactly what it was.
SO, I guess the moral of the story is, there was nothing wrong with where I came from. It was me that was the problem. I wasn’t ready to settle down and accept my future just yet. I had some unfinished business to attend to.
As for right now, I’m attending to that business and I can’t be too sure how long it will take me, where it will take me, or where I will end up. All I know is that I’m lucky that I’ll always have home. Home’s a great place. But most importantly, home’s not going anywhere.
Coming up I’ll be sharing how differently I feel about the working world now. Look out for “How Living in Spain Changed Everything.”