A few weeks ago I went out with a guy visiting SLO on a month long sabbatical from work. Spoiler alert: we won’t be procreating. I should’ve let the fact that he was consciously sober and seeing what it felt like to be “off the grid” as an initial deterrent, but hey, who am I to turn down hiking and free tacos?
In between bites of chicken and stilted conversation about misusing Ecstasy, I tried to find something we actually had in common by asking how he was enjoying the area. He gazed off at the people strolling downtown, gave a little shrug, looked me up and down and said,
“I like it so far. It’s very… quaint. Not really a place for ambitious people, though.”
Cue non-discreet eyebrow raising and a sudden fascination with the flecks of cilantro on my napkin.
Here’s a first impression tip, not just for Jonathan, but for all baseline-polite human beings: know your audience. You don’t tell a new mommy you think all infants look like overgrown potatoes. You reserve your potty mouth and sexual innuendos for your peers, not your parents (unless you’ve got a mother like mine, in which case, bless you). Likewise, you don’t tell a post-grad who purposely moved to the very place you’re currently enjoying a burrito that she’s chillin’ with a bunch of unimpressive bums.
Maybe I’m being hypersensitive. It was just an outsider’s observation, after all. God forbid dudes picked apart every offhanded comment I’ve ever made during a first date (“Can I just get, like, the cheapest beer on the menu?” “No, I’m pretty sure this is One Direction,” and “Are you going to actually kiss me, or what?” to name a few). Maybe he forgot “quaint” is usually a cute euphemism for “tiny-ass-shit-hole,” or that anyone taking a 30 day hiatus from their own life probably shouldn’t pass judgment on the choices of others. Cut him some slack, would ya?
But even after the obligatory car seat side hug and a tacit agreement to never speak again, his words stuck with me. It’s one of those seemingly insignificant insults that just happens to strike a personal chord and subsequently sucks major dick. Don’t get me wrong—I do consider myself a talented, intelligent person. I know not to go around sticking forks in electrical sockets, and I have the transcripts to prove an institution found me passably book-smart. I feel justified in occasionally tooting my own horn and gettin’ a lil huffy with sabbatical boy. But being “ambitious” isn’t exactly something I identify with. I have a hard time describing myself as driven when I’m inherently directionally challenged and have no idea where I’m going. I spend my days counting down the hours till lunchtime, 5 o’clock, Saturday morning… any time but right now in hopes I’ll have that ah-ha moment and figure out what I want other than “more.” I have a lot to be grateful for in life, and sometimes it feels like enough. But I’m still looking for that one special thing. The one to make me feel satisfied and whole even when all else is gaping. The can’t sleep, can’t wait, can’t believe I’ve ever considered any other possibility thing everyone’s always hinting at.
I’m not sure where to start looking, though. My lease here is up in August, and I’ve been telling people I want to move to San Francisco. I’ve got it all rehearsed. I say at first the city life sounded awful, but now it sounds exciting; that it’s full of outlets for art and meeting new people and I’m ready for that kind of change. It’s bold and adventurous and just what I need. But honestly, I’m scared shitless. I’m nervous to leave this town where streets are named after nuts and fruits and the owner of Chili Peppers knows me by name. I’m terrified at the thought of moving to a city where rent costs the blood of your first and second born and everyone is creative/brilliant/wonderful, get in line little girl. I’m worried I’ll give up somewhere charming and familiar only to realize I’m not being held back by my location or by a lack of opportunity but rather my inability seize it. So I purposely keep my hopes and dreams small. I keep them tucked away as musings and what ifs and let strangers like Johnny boy make me feel less than because disappointment is the worst and I’m a baby. I know this about myself. It’s not something I’m proud of, and I’d like to think being aware of the problem is a step in the right direction, but fear has made me complacent, not motivated. I’ve become comfortable not asking too much of anything or anyone because at least then nothing bad can happen.
I don’t want to wake up when I’m thirty-four and realize I’ve lost not only my decent ass but my window for socially accepted trial-n-error screw ups. I don’t want to feel like I wasted all my time waiting for my fairy godmother to shove me under a giant neon sign flashing “This is the right path, everything’s all taken care of, grab a perfectly warmed brownie for the road, would you dear?” It doesn’t work that way. We’re all a little lost and naïve, and it’s not tragic, it’s hilarious. I want to be comfortable with that mindset instead. To rest assured wanting & trying & failing are all one fun package deal, no substitutions. Maybe it’s not the traditional definition, and maybe it’s not something you can explain to a stranger over Mexican cuisine, but I don’t know… being OK with all that sounds pretty ambitious to me.