Year twenty-seven, age twenty-six: September 2008-2009.
Just before my birthday this year I signed a lease for a second year in my flat in Dogtown and I took in two roommates: brother and sister kittens from a farm in Indiana. I wasn't worried about being perceived as a cat lady because the true definition of a cat lady, in my opinion, is someone who will decline to hang out with people just to hang out with her cats and that was not and never will be me, so help me God. Maximus-- Max for short-- and Stella were the cutest things I think I have ever seen and I am pretty sure I will love them until the day I die.
During this year I was still waiting tables and by this time I had gotten over feeling ashamed of it. When I first started years before, my dad told me that I was "flushing [my] degree down the toilet." And it would bother me when I would be serving a table and we would start chatting and someone would say something like, "what else do you do?" or "what's next for you," as if it weren't a suitable job for a capable, intelligent young lady.
By this time I had come to realize that being a server was one of the most suitable jobs there could possibly be for me. I had realized by this point that I was gifted in the area of service and that serving food was actually a really fulfilling way for me to serve people. I had come to love and appreciate dining experiences as a way for people in our culture to gather in order to celebrate or mark an occasion or turn a friend or stranger into a companion. I even loved serving individuals who seemed to have some quiet sense of personal satisfaction from dining alone and savoring every last bite in silence. I also loved that my job provided quite a bit of autonomy and that every day and every table was different. I loved that the flexibility in my schedule allowed me to travel an extraordinary amount and to shop for groceries in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, when fewer people were crowding the isles and parking lots. I loved learning about culture and hospitality and even culinary skills from being in restaurants. I really loved my job and I loved the sense of personal fulfillment that I got from such a simple life.
For my birthday I planned a little camping trip about 40 minutes from where I lived. St. Louis has a surprising amount of natural beauty just outside the city. I called it the "Celebration of Life Camping Trip," which kind of sounds cheesy, I know, but I thought it was appropriate because being out of doors was my favorite way to celebrate being alive. Then about a week or so later I showed up for this engagement party that my friend, Liz, was throwing for our friends Casey and Angela and when I walked through the door a bunch of people were already there and they yelled, "Surprise!" I am not kidding when I say that it took me a good minute and a half of standing there, just looking around, to realize that it was a surprise birthday party for me.
A couple weeks later I started seeing a counselor. I had been thinking about it for a long time but had only then pulled the trigger. I felt like I had some stuff to unpack and, really, I think everybody's got stuff to unpack and could benefit from talking things through with a counselor. There is a seminary in St. Louis that has a counseling program and you can see one of the graduate students for free, which helps you and helps them complete their required hours to become certified, so I took advantage of that.
The first visit I told my counselor that I felt weird about being there because my friends had just had this great party for me and I was feeling pretty good. I didn't know at the time to tell her that I generally felt insecure and that sometimes I got kind of depressed. But I kept going once a week for a couple months and she had me do a couple things to help guide my thoughts, but mostly I just talked about what was going on and eventually she was able to give me feedback from her observations. I cannot say exactly what lessons I took from that experience but I know that it helped me to sort through the mess of thoughts that were tangled inside my head.
In the springtime of my twenty-seventh year I met this guy at a film festival. We had mutual friends and we knew of each other but we didn't shake hands until intermission that night. Then the next week he showed up at one of these parties that my friend, Liz, and I had for single people every-other week called, Gin Bucket Thursdays. He stayed until the very end and I could tell that he was waiting around to ask me out but Liz had asked me to stay around after so she could talk to me about this guy she was kind of starting to date. Finally it got awkward so Nate left. Liz talked to me about what was going on with her and then she said, "I think Nate was waiting around to ask you out." I said, "yeah, I know." She asked me what I thought about that and I said I was up for it because it would probably be fun, because I liked talking to him. She apologized for keeping me around and preventing him from asking me out but I said, "If he wants to ask me out, he'll ask me out."
Two weeks later he asked me out in the middle of a conversation about something completely unrelated, with our friend, John, sitting right there. I was happy to say yes, and I glanced over at John as he took a bite of a cracker and just looked straight ahead. Our first date was on Cinco De Mayo, which I thought was so fun, and we were pretty much smitten from that point on. And still are.