On Fire

Y’all… it’s been a rough couple of days on my end. I woke up yesterday at 3AM feeling like my insides wanted out and only barely made it to the porcelain bowl in time to let them attempt their escape. I subsisted all day on goldfish crackers and coconut water, then choked down some chicken and brown rice at the end of the day with some success. On the bright side, my day in bed with this flu allowed me to finish my latest read (Rumaan Alam’s Rich and Pretty) and start a new one (Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life). I unfortunately missed one of only seven days left at my job and felt too nauseous to even look at a computer screen to write.

Questionable gut health aside, I’m pretty damn excited for the changes coming in about a week. I am at last doing what I said I would do the last time I quit my job to chase a dream. I’m actually taking the leap of faith, the scary slash in income and the total upheaval of my schedule in the pursuit of the career and life I really, truly want. I thought I’d share how the big decision finally came to pass.

It all started with England. As I prepared to leave on my two week trip, I was typing up a “while I’m gone” email for my team at the apartment community I manage. I’d originally picked March for my big adventure because that would typically have been our slow season; in an unforeseen turn of events, my owners put our property up for sale and the whole “we shouldn’t be too busy” thing went clean out the window. In the middle of putting together my Vanessa Bible for handling the workflow, I overheard my boss on the phone telling a vendor of ours that I'd be out for while. When asked where I was going, she said she thought I was going off to chase Harry Potter or something.

I walked over to her office with my best, “Bitch, what?” expression and explain to her that my fervent desire to visit Britain wasn’t just about HP. Yeah, I had the Warner Brothers studio tour planned but it’s not like I was going to try all the phone booths in London to see if they were portals to the Ministry of Magic. I gave her the whole rundown of what England meant for me, all the literary allure from childhood to present day. She looked at me with wide eyes and said, “You aren’t coming back.” I told her that of course I’d return, but she was adamant and we both laughed as joked about imaginary scenarios where I met a beautiful Englishman with a flare for bookish Latinas and started a new life in the English countryside. The last thing I said before I left that afternoon was, “Just watch, the property is going to sell while I’m gone.” It was a joke, of course. Sales like these usually take months.

So then I got to England and my world was set on fire. The big stuff on the trip was of course impressive: seeing The Mousetrap in the West End, visiting the Jane Austen Centre, touring Lacock Abbey and the Roman Baths and standing in front of Tower Bridge. But it was the small, quiet moments that bowled me over – drinking a pint at a local pub with the friendly faces of folks I met only moments before, being served tea by warm and lovely folks who called me “love and “darling,” driving through streets lined with tightly packed brick houses, living and breathing the lush and timeless beauty that is the English countryside. It was everything I ever hoped it could be. 

It was my trip to the British Museum during those first few days in London though that really put a shift in motion. I was getting ready to hop off a bus at the British Library but the intersection was packed to the brim with people and typical London traffic. I decided I’d head to the museum instead and exited the bus when a woman tapped me on the shoulder. I took my headphones out of one ear and she asked in an American accent if I could please direct her to the museum. I revealed that I was not myself a local and she said I’d had her fooled, and it’s a miracle that my head didn't immediately explode.

We agreed to walk to the museum together and talked along the way about the reason for our travels. She was on vacation during spring break and so I imagined she was an educator. I explained that I was on a bit of a “read pray love” trip to see a place I’d fantasized about since childhood. I casually threw in that I was hoping I’d find the inspiration I needed to finally make a career out of my passion, to be a writer and possibly a librarian. She lit up and looked at me incredulously. “That’s what I did!” she beamed, and I looked at her dumbfounded.

When my words failed me and all I could do was stare at her stupidly, she went on to tell me that she’d been a corporate attorney for most of her adult life. She woke up one morning, exhausted from her impossible hours and drained of motivation, and decided enough was enough. She quit her job, went back to grad school for a Masters in Library Science and was now a librarian at a private K-12 school in New York - hence the spring break. Tears came to my eyes as I thought back to just a few days ago when I’d stayed up late to look up online MLIS programs. I think I said something real eloquent like, “You stole my life!” She was nothing but gracious and gave me all kinds of tips for applying and finding a job afterwards. As we got to the steps of the museum and prepared to part ways, she touched my arm and said, “Do it. You won’t regret it.”

The rest of the trip was a dream; inspiration found me at every corner (pssst: peep those blog posts to read all about it – more to come in the future). When it was time to come hone, I looked forward to seeing my friends and family. The anticipation of regaling them with tales of my travels was matched though by such a palpable sadness. I'd left beautiful Britain behind entirely too soon, before I could even scratch the surface on it's beauty. So: it was settled. I'd have to go back. I set up price alerts on all of my usual travel sites and wondered how I would convince my employer to give me another two (or three??) weeks of vacation in a few months. 

The following morning my boss text me and asked me to call her as soon as I could. I expected some bad news about a resident or employee. I did not expect to hear that our property had sold. SOLD. Less than two weeks and it sold. Because it sold, I’d receive a nice little stay-on bonus so long as I remained through close of escrow. I started to laugh like a crazy person, tears streaming down my face as I cackled. This was it, it was my sign. It was a little financial boost to make things happen, a transitional period in which to make my move. I made some inquiries, searched my soul, and then spoke the words out loud to my boss: I was going to quit. I'd apply for grad school. I'd go back to England, for longer this time. It all became real in what felt like a flash.

That was months ago. My time with the company is drawing to a close. One week from today, I will hand in my keys and walk out of my office for the last time. It's time. 

England will come later this year. For now, I’ll be working in South Park, my dream neighborhood, at two stores called Gold Leaf and West Grove. One is a home décor and gifts store full of beautiful, curated items that I want to buy all of (but won’t). The other is… get this… a book store. A freaking BOOK STORE. And as part of my work at the book store, I will get to help in the organizing of San Diego’s first ever book fair. Both stores boast amazing people who I’m so excited to work with and for. I’ll work weekends, make a hell of a lot less money and I’ll have to get my own health insurance. I’m going to really have to up my freelance game, but it will force me to write harder and more often.

My writing will need to be better focused. I made the mistake of being too ambitious. In my desire to reach as wide an audience as possible, I tried to write about anything and everything. I know better now: my writing is clearer and more effective when my subjects are things I'm truly passionate about. You'll see some changes to my website and a honing of the topics. I know that I love books, I love telling stories, and that I'm newly passionate about more natural, holistic approaches to health and living in general. Oh, and tea. I love tea. Maybe I should rename the blog, "Books, brew and brujeria."

Lastly, I’m commemorating all these changes with a few physical ones as well. I’m foregoing the gym in favor of yoga, Pilates and barre classes. I love the way these other activities challenge me, the focus they require and the intention they inspire. I’m finally getting a tattoo I’ve always wanted – a beautiful quill on my left forearm to remind me of what I’m setting out to do. I’m dying my hair a crazy green turquoise balayage to cap it all off, something I’ve always wanted to do and never could. I feel liberated. 

I don’t know why it feels so different this time. Maybe it’s because I reached out to more people for help and received encouragement in droves, or because the people in my life who called me crazy the last time seem so supportive of it this time around. Maybe it’s because I’ve spoken my intentions aloud, worked harder towards them, took a bigger risk and stopped caring so much what might happen if I stumble along the way. It’s still terrifying like before but somehow so much more exciting. I’m going with that feeling and trusting that what makes me uncomfortable is probably exactly what I should be doing. I’m ready for whatever comes next, because it’s all in the realm of what moves me. 

I use fire to describe a lot of things: love is friendship on fire; lust sets my skin on fire; dancing sets my soul on fire, travel sets my curiosity on fire. I feel like I'm getting ready to set my whole life on fire and it feels so natural that I just have to trust it. I thank you all for following along while I light the match. Here's to letting it burn.