Friday, February 10, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness

Throughout my entire teenage and college life, I found myself in quasi-serious relationships. I'm a romantic at heart and the white-picket-fence-babies-minivan mantra was (and is!) what most southern women want whether they would ever admit it or not. 
It's what I wanted at one point, too. Can't deny it. It's embedded into our southern-born DNA.

The Mrs Degree

You go to school. You meet the love of your life. You get married. You move back to your hometown (or somewhere relatively close). You have kids. Those kids grow up. Go to school. Meet the loves of their lives. Get married. Have your grandkids. 

And the cycle continues. That's how it's supposed to work.

It's what makes small towns so close knit and keeps a community strong.

Well me, I was the misfit. 

I followed my heart to Florida in 2005, and by 2007 was stuck in a place I never thought I'd be -- I  wasn't with the love of my life, I wasn't married, I wasn't back home, and I didn't have kids. I remember looking around my very first one bedroom apartment 600 miles away from home thinking well what now

I was alone with no friends, and had a job that was promising for the future but didn't make ends meet.  I had never been single for a long period of time, and had never supported myself without financial help from school loans or someone to share the bills with. 
What to do?

Like the Taurus I am, I stubbornly decided to prove that I could do it on my own. No time to feel sorry for myself -- so I hit the ground running.

In the Sunday paper one morning there was a listing for servers/bartenders needed at a local restaurant. I had waited tables in college and knew how nice awesome it was to walk out with wads of cash in my hand (heck, I'm still jealous even today, who am I kidding)- working two jobs was going to be tough, but it was a good temporary solution and I figured maybe I'd meet some friends there too. 

Done and done. 

Little did I know how many people I would meet and how much self-evaluation I would encounter.

I realized I didn't even know what I wanted for myself. For so long I had been morphing my wants and opinions into whatever everyone else wanted or liked. What does Mary want? What does Mary like? I had no idea. It's very similar to that scene in Runaway Bride, where she doesn't even know how she likes her eggs cooked. 

The group of people I worked with were so open minded that it allowed me to form my own opinion on things without being judged or criticized.There were the goody two-shoes, the alcoholics, the born-again Christians,  and the ones that have a record in the Pinellas County System. You had the mothers and fathers trying to make ends meet for their kids, and you had the college students just trying to make a few extra bucks to pay their cell phone bills. It was one big dysfunctional family, and they carried me through my self awakening while I got my groove back.

At this point in my career, I had gotten promoted with my hotel company and didn't "need" my serving job anymore, but it's where all my friends were and I had fun there. So I kept it going on the weekends.

It was chaotic - it was dramatic - it was long nights and early mornings - but it was family, and that's how families work sometimes.

Thank you to my St Pete family for getting me through what could have been a dark time. Just like the great Whitney Houston, I will always love you.


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