Over the next two weeks, I spent time in the Los Angeles area visiting friends over lunches and dinners, going to several doctor appointments, and running errands.
Jen had been taking care of my cat, Cali, since I left and I missed her very much. Jen was such an angel and would send me videos of Cali while I was on the road so I knew how she was doing. Jen had somewhere to be, so I was only able to see Cali for about ten minutes. She was not doing the best because she’s very attached to me. I got her from the shelter when she was just three months old and she is now 14.
Jen has a few other cats and also fosters cats from a kitty bungalow nearby. Cali is a pretty particular cat and kept hissing at other cats if they started to approach her. She had been living in Jen’s bathroom, so she would have her own space. It was a very large bathroom, and she had her cat stand and a window to look out of, but I worried about a long-term solution. I also couldn’t keep imposing on Jen. I told Jen I would come up with a plan and take her to my parent’s house in Missouri soon.
I went to my ophthalmologist’s office for a follow-up appointment. Right before I left California, I got a hole in one of my retinas. The doctor was able to laser around the hole to prevent my retina from detaching, but he wanted to follow up to make sure things were ok.
I had only met the doctor once. He’s a retina specialist, and most of his patients are several decades older than me. The doctor is about my age, and while he was examining my eyes, he asked, “How is work going?” I paused, “Well, I actually quit my job, sold my house, and I drove to Alaska. I just got back a couple of days ago.”
The doctor pulled back, astonished, and started asking questions. I told him I was trying to finish a book about hiking the John Muir Trail. He was very interested in that and kept asking questions. I found myself getting excited, telling him about my coldest night on the trail and sending myself resupplies. It was so fun to talk to him about my adventures, and his excitement got me pumped up.
When I was leaving my appointment with a restorative medicine doctor, the office manager and I chatted while she ordered some supplements for me. Brittany is 32-years-old and we have a lot in common. We both grew up without a lot of money and in order to fit in with our friends and buy clothes, we started working at a young age. She continued working and was now in school as well. She talked about how hard it is to work full-time and go to school.
I sympathized with her because I did that right after high school, and I couldn’t wait until I was only doing school or work. Doing both full time is draining. Brittany was so fun to talk with. She had known me for a few years, and I’ll never forget the big smile on her face when she said, “You seem so happy.”
I was on a six-month follow-up program to monitor dense tissue in my left breast. This would be the two-year mark, and if the dense tissue hadn’t grown, I could go back to annual evaluations. I arrived at the Breast Center, and a nurse, Carrie, took me back and did the mammogram. She was in her 50s, had shoulder-length dark blonde hair, red glasses, and spunky tennis shoes.
Carrie asked me all sorts of questions about my travels and then she told me about her desire to retire in Hawaii. She said she found mother-in-law suites that she could rent for $2,000-$2,500 a month. She wanted to volunteer at the Botanical Gardens pulling weeds. She said, “My kids and family are here, but they’ll probably come visit me since it’s Hawaii.”
The doctor came in after evaluating the results and said the dense tissue did not change, so I could go back to annual exams (YAY!). As Carrie walked me back to the dressing room, she gave me a hat for breast cancer awareness and said, “I’m glad I met you. You’re so brave and gutsy.” I was feeling fantastic!
I see my dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning. One of the hygienists, Cherry, has worked there the entire time I’ve been seeing the doctor (about 13 years). When I first started going, she worked at the front desk and always had the biggest smile on her face, which instantly put me in a good mood. She always recognized my voice on the phone and always remembered the things in my personal life. When I got engaged, she congratulated me. Then Aaron started going there too. Then the questions about babies started but eventually stopped as the years passed. The last time I was in there, I had to tell her about the divorce. It was still difficult to say that word at that time, so we didn’t talk much about it.
This time, I felt great! I checked in with the new receptionist, and Cherry, now a hygienist, came out to say hello. I told them about my travels and recent changes in my life. With tears welling up in her eyes, Cherry told the new receptionist, “I’ve never seen her this happy. Usually, she’s pretty quiet and doesn’t talk too much.” It warmed my heart to hear her say that.
When I got into the dentist chair, I had a different hygienist, and my dentist came in. I updated her on my new life. She longingly said she would love to do what I’m doing, but she’s still five to seven years away from retirement. She thinks she’s too old now, and I assured her you’re never too old.
I also had an appointment with my primary care doctor for an annual follow-up. She asked me how work was going and I told her about quitting. She paused and chatted with me for the next 30 minutes. She asked “How are you doing? I ask because jobs create a lot of stress. The thing in life is that you are always learning about yourself. I’ve learned that I overdo things. There is no such thing as doing things half-way for me, or mediocre. So I need to learn to say no sometimes.”
My doctor went on to describe that she was always jumping at her pager when it went off. One day, she stepped away from dinner with her family, and the page ended up being for Tylenol. She realized she couldn’t live like that, and maybe it’s ok if her job waits for 10-15 minutes.
She’s a good doctor and told me how her perfectionism goes overboard, creating stress for her and her family. It was her turn to bring the snack to soccer practice and what she started as a healthy fruit snack turned into strawberry shortcake sundaes with all of the toppings. It was so overboard that her son told her, “Mom, don’t take this the wrong way, but some parents can’t go all out like that, and they might feel bad now.” My doctor told me, “You’ve always got to look into the mirror, see yourself, and be willing to make changes.” As I left the office, my doctor said, “If you get published, I want a signed copy. I’ll buy the book, but I want you to sign it.”
I was having such a good time at each appointment. Normally, I was there before or after work, or even on my lunch break – always rushing and stressed out about the time. This time, I was relaxed and not stressed out at all. At each appointment, I was able to have meaningful conversations with people. It was eye-opening. My whole aura felt different, and people noticed. It made me feel like I’m on the right path.
I missed my friends, so I was grateful to everyone who made time to see me, even if it was a quick lunch. Each time I’d meet up with a friend, I’d talk about my adventures and what it was like being back. They always wanted to know my plan, so I told them I was going to spend a month in Whistler so I could focus on my writing. There is no way I would make progress in the Los Angeles area – there are too many distractions and too many people to see. I also wanted to hear all about their lives and it was just the fuel I needed. Almost every day I met up with one or two friends.
One night, Ryan, (who’s house I was staying at) was playing an added show in Pomona with his band, Julien-K. His girlfriend Caitlyn, roommate Max, and I all went to see his show. We were able to see him backstage and meet the other band members. On the way, I got to know more about Caitlyn and Max.
Caitlyn grew up in Utah but has spent most of her adult life in the Los Angeles area. She had such a kind heart but was also a badass. She was in one of the band’s music videos (she could easily be a model) and used to rock out on stage with them. Max was from Santa Barbara but spent the last six years on the east coast. His partner was in New York, so once his internship was complete, he would be moving there to be with him.
We grabbed beers, talked with the band backstage, and then got to see Ryan in action. He has an amazing voice and owns the stage. I enjoyed every song, and they even finished their set by playing Blue Monday. Since Ryan was a founding member of Orgy, he is still able to play the song. I highly recommend you check out Julien-K’s album, California Noir – Chapter two: Nightlife in Neon.
During my two weeks in Long Beach, I was able to have some relaxing days with friends too. One rainy Saturday, my friend Trisha and I spent the day doing retail therapy, having dinner, and seeing a movie. It was just the sort of day I needed. Another day, the weather was great – warm and sunny. My friend Debbie and her husband Robin, were going to the beach with their 10-month-old son. I tagged along and enjoyed a relaxing day at the beach under their canopy and eating delicious, fresh-made sandwiches.
The weather had been so warm most of the trip that I went standup-paddle boarding with my friend Lori. It was my first time, and I gripped the board tightly with my feet. After about 20 minutes, I had to pull over in the bay to stretch my feet because they were cramping. We continued, but boats were coming in and creating waves. One wave was too much for me to control, and I flipped into the water. Lori helped me get back on, and we were both impressed that I had managed to grab my sunglasses as they fell. However, about five minutes later, I fell again, and this time didn’t grab my sunglasses. It was a great day on the water, but it was much harder than I anticipated.
I spent a night out in Manhattan Beach with my friends Toni and Jessica. We had been wanting to have a night at the Strand House, which is a luxury hotel, restaurant, and bar. We ate a high-quality dinner and then had drinks and danced at the bar. It was an awesome girls’ night out. That is until I realized the bar accidentally charged my credit card an extra $1,000 for bottle service that a different group ordered.
On the Uber ride back to Long Beach that night, I talked with my driver, who was in her 20s. I told her all about my time in Canada and Alaska during the 30-minute drive. When I got out of the car, she told me that I inspired her. It felt so good to hear that. Those kinds of comments help me to understand what I want to do with my life. I want to inspire.
One morning, I woke up to a text from a friend telling me that a former coworker had passed away. Phil was my age and died in his sleep. They didn’t know why and were going to do an autopsy. It really affected me. Phil had been my final interview when I was hired in 2007. I didn’t work for him directly much, but he was someone who made a huge impact. He was a fun and wild guy, but he was also incredibly intelligent. He graduated from Yale University and made a lot of wonderful contributions to the company. A few years ago, he left to become a Vice President at another company. He had a wife and two young children.
It was less than a week from when I had found out one of my doctors had passed away suddenly. You always hear about these things, but it strikes you differently when it’s people you know. These were both highly intelligent, successful, and kind people who made incredible contributions to the world. It just made me realize how quickly it can all end. It was yet another reminder to me that I need to do what I’m passionate about before my time is over.
I stopped into my old work one afternoon. I thought I’d be there saying hello to people for a couple of hours, but it turned into six hours. I had lunch with a friend like old times and then went inside the office. During my time there, I worked in several departments and hired hundreds of people, so I know many folks.
My heart was filled with joy as I was able to catch up with each of them. I told someone that now that I was in the building again, it felt like I had only been gone a week. The person said, “Then how about you sit back at your desk and do some work.” The thought of doing actual work was unappealing. I preferred to just hang out and talk. I was surprised by how many people told me that I looked the happiest they’ve seen me. I kept hearing, “You’re glowing.” To me, that is a sign that you know you’re doing what you were created to do. Many people told me they were following along through my blog and I am extremely appreciative of each and every person who reads it. So thank you, dear reader.
My Mind Adjusting
I had a wild dream one night that was so vivid; I couldn’t stop thinking about it for hours. I dreamt that I was outside in front of a Target store, leaning against a half-wall. I used to be a manager there many years ago in real life, and I can’t remember if I was an employee in my dream.
All of a sudden, a giant wave was crashing into the parking lot. But then it just started to slowly rise above everyone, going over the top of the building. It was slow motion and then it froze over instantly, leaving all of us trapped underneath. Everyone was running around screaming and panicking. I was calm, fascinated by the whales and other sea creatures that swam above us – dinosaur-like creatures that nobody knew existed.
Then a male friend of mine walked over to me and asked, “So, do you think you’ll make it out alive?” I confidentially answered, “Well, in my stories, I’m always the hero. And the hero always finds a way to survive.” The male friend kissed my cheek softly and I continued talking because I was nervous and trying to avoid acknowledging the kiss. It was such a crazy dream and I think my mind was trying to wrestle with all of the changes in my life.
While I was in California, I had a chance to get some writing done, go to the gym, get my hair cut, my car washed, attend church, and go to the store to buy some needed items. I also went to my chiropractor to help with my back and neck pain. It’s a husband and wife team who also attend my church. They were so encouraging and prayed for me while I was there to give me words of encouragement.
It was the first time being back in my old stomping grounds after making a huge life change. It was incredible to receive so much support from friends, doctors, and acquaintances. At the end of my time there, I would fly my cat to Missouri to be with my parents and then fly back to Los Angeles to get my car and head back to Whistler, Canada. The first leg of my travels was complete, and this was my new life. Did I regret my decision? Absolutely not! I felt like, for the first time in my life, I was on the track I was destined to be on.
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