I have a sentimental relationship with public transit.
What I mean is, that I romanticized a group of strangers sharing a piece of space, for a brief time, to get to a next destination. What I really think that means is that I have never lived in a city where it is required of me to actually use public transportation.
Whatever. If that makes me a tourist I don’t care. I like it.
At the beginning of 2016, I went to Washington D.C. for a work trip. Initially, I just volunteered as tribute because I like D.C. In a previous iteration of life, I probably could’ve made a go of living there. I like history. I like monuments to dead people. When I retire, you will probably find me as a docent at your local museum that highlights the history of the usage of limestones for building facades or telling people “And on this spot on this day in history. . .”
Plus, I like public transportation. And my in-laws live in D.C. so I wanted a visit. Off I went to D.C.
In context, it was a very interesting time to be in our nation’s capitol (or is it capital? I can never remember the rules). Supreme Court Justice Scalia had just died and there was an rare mood in D.C.
I warned you. I like history.
I ended up taking the train to my work conference everyday. Except on the days when I was tired of being in work clothes and took an Uber back to my hotel.
On the train ride, I felt very metropolitan with earbuds in, messenger bag strapped and coffee in hand. An album I was really digging at the time was Father John Misty’s I Love You Honeybear. On what felt like my nth listening to the album, I somehow ended up becoming obsessed with “True Affection.”
I have no idea how some songs just strike you. There’s something that happens in the context of your emotional or geographical state that it’s as though a lightbulb flashes.
Full disclosure: I wasn’t super satisfied with my job at the time. I was part of a national service/federal grant. And we did the same thing every year. There was part of me that wanted more, some sort of difference. As an achiever, I was striving. Bumping up against my limitations within my current career trajectory, wondering what I could do differently.
The conference I was attending made me wrestle with the question: “Is this what I want to be the expert in?” The content of the conference was great, and there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with my job. But I began to wonder if this was something I could do for another year; was this something I wanted to continue to pursue.
Those train rides back and forth, I would listen to this song on repeat. I was obsessed. A song manifesting itself into what was next. The same back beats replaying my obsession with change. I tend to obsess with change, and the abhor it once it comes.
It’s a weird moment, for me. Trying to figure out your need for something new within the facet of career that had mostly been good. I hadn’t been in that position very long, but it had been a very difficult couple of years. There was a lot of mess, frustration, uncertainty, dedication and what felt like the very tips of my fingers shredded into my work. I was loyal into fixing a mess someone else had left, because I believed in what I was doing.
But my sense of loyalty felt betrayed. My completely natural desire of wanting to do something different, was convoluted by my own introspection. Because I had given so much to this part of my career, it was a sense of guilt.
Why should I dare leave something that I had worked so hard for? How could I leave when it had given so much? What am I thinking throwing away all that work?
These questions rolled in my brain. A spinning metal cage of uncertainty, pinging off the sides.
All of these things are trademark “Liz” moves. I question everything. I parse and fine tooth comb all decisions, sometimes to my detriment. Occasionally, it works out in my favor. Mostly, it makes life difficult.
Fortunately, I didn’t self sabotage as I tend to enjoy doing. I had an opportunity fall in my lap, but that’s a story for another time.
Anytime I hear “True Affection”, I think of all the space I shared with strangers on the train that week. How I doubt, and they all probably have some doubts too. It makes me wish I didn’t hesitate so much. How different would my life be if I ran head-long more often than not?
I wonder how we all get anything done when we’re all out trying to stab our desires to death. At least we have Father John Misty to soothe us as we contemplate how to prevent our own happiness.