There is a song I love called Shine by Laura Izibor. The lyrics go “Wake up one morning you realize / Your life is one big compromise (compromise) / Stuck in the job you swore was only temporary (was only temporary) / Feel like the world is passing you by (do do do do)/ Never done all the things you wanted to try / Stuck in one place, got a pain in your face from all your stressing out.” I love this song. It is my lyrical reminder about feeling stuck. I do not believe anyone ever wants to feel stuck in a particular place or role in life. Deep down we all know change is good, as our lives are not meant to be held in stasis. Feeling stuck is the antithesis of change.
I have never wanted to be the type of person to let other people’s expectations define the life I want for myself or societal norms about “acceptability” define my roadmap for living. After spending most of my life in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia metropolitan area), it was time for a change. Over the last 15 years, I literally had four different non-profit jobs on the same block of Massachusetts Ave in DC. Although those positons were in different areas of the non-profit world, they were all still on the same block of Massachusetts Ave. Striving to be the master of my own domain and truly happy on a path I set for myself, more Shine lyrics came to mind. “You ask yourself—there’s got to be more than what I’m living for (What I’m living for? What I’m living for?) / You ask yourself—there’s got to be something else / Something more, more, more.” It was definitely time for a change.
Working and living in the same place my entire life did not appeal to me. The world is big and I have always wanted to explore it. Although I came to the U.S. as a toddler, completed my degrees in different states, lived and worked in Japan for a year, and traveled to various countries, I spent most of my life working in DC and living in Maryland. I have always wanted to live on the West Coast and specifically in San Diego, California. I decided there was no time like the present. My lease was ending at my apartment, I had developed high blood pressure sitting at my desk at my last Massachusetts Ave job, and had lost the ability to prevent other folk’s stress from affecting me, something I had once mastered quite well. It was time for a change.
Now the chorus of Shine took center stage, “Well, let the sun shine on your face / And don’t let your life go to waste / Now is the time, got to make up your mind / Let it shine on you, let it shine on you.” I moved to California—packed up everything that would fit in my car and found a friend to make the cross-county road trip with me. One item on both of our bucket lists was accomplished with the cross-country road trip. Since I had never lived on the West Coast before, instead of committing to a specific location, I decided to do Airbnb to get a feel for southern Cali. I have really learned a lot about San Diego neighborhoods, people, culture, and California in general through Airbnb—that’s another blog post!
Although I am technically unemployed, I am so grateful that I feel the sun shine on my face every day. There are so many places to enjoy nature, walking or hiking, and generally appreciate being on the beautiful green and brown earth. There was plenty to do in DC, lots of diversity, and I stayed socially connected but living on the West Coast really feels different from the East Coast. The people are a lot more laid back (and a bit oblivious as evidenced by the driving) but I love the relaxation that lives in the air here. I will always love the DMV, I grew up there, but I do not love the pressure, spoken and unspoken, to be/do/act in a certain manner, even if that manner is unconducive to happiness.
DC is the only place I have ever been where folks ask what you do for a living before asking your name. It’s just the culture. You go to happy hour, talk to someone for 5-10 minutes, and the first question asked is about what you do for a living instead of our name. The answer to what you do for a living is sometimes the deciding factor in if asking your name is necessary! Like much of America, the DMV is a very status driven--your job, and car, the neighborhood you live in, the amount of money you make are all very important--and as a society we are extremely wrapped up in the material.
I will never underestimate the access that money represents—better health care, safer neighborhoods, little to no student loan debt, and the all-important food and shelter. However, it is easy to get sucked into the hamster wheel of material success. You make a few extra dollars, and the expectation is that the bigger house, or bigger car, or fancier clothes, or all of the above are on the horizon. Even if you are not making a few extra dollars, those spoken and unspoken pressures to have those things still exist! Regardless of if these things represent your value system or not, they have come to symbolize markers of “real” success in our society. Reverends and holy rollers talk about material possessions as signs of God’s blessing, and most of us want to be thought of as successful, even if it is a façade.
At the end of the day, figuring out what really makes us happy, and why, is the best thing we can ever do for ourselves. Miserable people suck and miserable people with resources suck even more! We all have to find our true happiness at some point in our lives, understand what our individual motivations are, and make sure what we have identified has come from an internal, not external, space. As we go through this journey and are living our own purpose driven lives, letting the sun shine on our faces is a must. I know I fully intend to keep it shining on mine and not to be so rigid in my life’s path that there is no room for exploration and more sunshine.
Shine on with Laura Izibor:
Feel like there's nothing—nowhere to go / You try and fight but you can't let go / Roll the pain, got so much to gain / Now is the time / You ask yourself—there’s got to be something else / Something more, more, more. / Well, let the sun shine on your face / And don’t let your life go to waste / Now is the time, got to make up your mind / Let it shine on you, let it shine on you. / You ask yourself—there’s got to be more than what I’m living for (What I’m living for? What I’m living for?) / You ask yourself—there’s got to be something else / Something more, more, more. / Well, let the sun shine on your face / And don’t let your life go to waste / Now is the time, got to make up your mind / Let it shine on you, let it shine on you. / Well, let the sun shine on your face (on your face)/ And don’t let your life go to waste (go to waste) / Now is the time, got to make up your mind / Let it shine on you, let it shine on you. / Let the sun shine on your face / Don’t let your life go to waste / Now is the time, got to make up your mind / Let it shine on you, let it shine on you.”