It took me a while to understand what a sea change actually was. Somewhere before reading The Tempest but after hearing it dozens of times, I started to suspect I didn’t really have my head wrapped around it, and at that time Wikipedia didn’t exist yet (seriously think back on your pre-Wikipedia life and tell me you remember how you learned any trivial facts).
So I got it, I thought, and I can recite Ariel’s song and explain it at length, but I’m not sure until recently that I truly got it, in the sense of everything about my whole life changing, all at once.
At the end of the spring semester, I was optimistic about moving forward with my Chemistry degree and confident that I actually had the skills and fortitude to do so. I was planning to spend this summer taking intensive Physics classes, then I had about a year left to finish. I was stoked, and I couldn’t wait to find a job as a chemist.
In late May, I learned that the problem with my financial aid was actually an insurmountable obstacle (to do with aggregate student loan limits and honestly, it’s not very interesting unless you want me to unleash a tirade against lenders and banking bail-outs). So with a new pile of debt amassed from the two years I was a full-time student, but no shiny new money-making degree to show for it and no hope that I could ever afford to finish it at this school, I had to withdraw from Pace. I was flatly devastated and heartbroken, but I didn’t have time to linger because I desperately needed to find a job like, immediately.
I chose to interpret it as the Universe telling me I’m not meant to be a chemist and rather heavy-handedly pushing me back into the arts and a different path. It may sound silly to think that challenging circumstances are the Universe’s hand at work, but one of my most fundamental beliefs is that we live in an inherently benevolent and beautiful Universe… if for no other reason than because I wouldn’t want to live in any other type.
After a series of correspondence and interviews, I ended up taking a job at the first company that responded to my résumé, and the job sounded like it was written just for my experiences, interests, and qualifications. I mean, it’s literally perfect in the way it integrates art and science, logistics and creativity, spontaneity and OCD tendencies. It is with a wonderful company on Fifth Ave, with fantastic people, and it’s a position that I can see myself growing into and continuing to enjoy for years to come. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would find a job right when I was looking and that it would be one that I love so much.
My new job, and the way I’m already set up for an enjoyable commute and life in NYC, is an example of the Universe pushing me on a good path and rewarding me with happiness and days I truly enjoy now. That’s not always the case.
This spring I learned that my Aunt Elise had multiple myeloma. This news was accompanied with some shady family drama that made it additionally upsetting and confusing, but it seemed like she was fighting valiantly and could beat it. On a Sunday morning, she spoke to our cousin and said she was full of hope and optimistic about the future. The next morning, she had an intracranial hemorrhage and was unconscious. While hooked up to a ventilator, the neurosurgeon determined her health was too badly deteriorated from the cancer and felt certain she couldn’t survive surgery or treatment. Then we got the call that her brain activity had ceased and it was a matter of time before her body gave out.
Last week we lost her, and I can’t even kind of process how shocking and upsetting it is. It feels like a complete surreality, and if I thought that having to withdraw from school was the worst thing that would happen this summer, good God was I mistaken. I am still trying to process things, while making myself accept that only God knew if Elise was going to survive the cancer, and if she definitely wasn’t, this was about the most peaceful and graceful way she could have gone.
I got to have a nice visit with Elise in October, right after she took a trip to India. I was helping her burn her photos to a CD to get them printed, and she told me all about her trip. Going back through those photos last week to share with my extended family on Facebook, I noticed again just how many images she had taken of little carved and painted flower and plant details that reminded her of my art history thesis. She had pointed them out to me and told me how delighted she was to see them all over the place, but it struck the same chord in me as the last card she sent, on my birthday, saying that every time an orange hibiscus bloomed in her yard it made her think of me.
As my family shared memories and experiences, I saw how deeply and truly she cared for us all. She had made a lot of sacrifices in life, living with and acting as caretaker to my grandparents, and I really understand that family mattered more to her than anything else. I don’t think any of us could ever doubt how much she loved us, and I hope that she understood how dearly we always held her in our hearts and will continue to cherish her memory.
In the midst of grieving my aunt, I did a lot of soul-searching, and I started to see that my relationship with Mustafa was not making me happy anymore. Earlier this week, after spending the weekend in New Jersey, I decided to break it off with him. I have been feeling incredibly guilty, but I do believe it’s for the best, and I think he understands and accepts it too.
So I think about what’s happened in the last month, when I had to change from a full-time student to a full-time employee, I went from praying daily for my aunt’s recovery to praying for her peace, and I went from feeling cheerfully in love to breaking up… and it’s been challenging. I mean, I also completely changed the way I eat (minimally processed, loads of vegetables) and started drinking more water than Diet Coke and waking up at 5:30 in the morning too – everything’s topsy turvy!
My life now is in many ways unrecognizable to the life I had six weeks ago. I could not have imagined it would be this way, so soon even, but there are some constants, for which I am eternally grateful. My family is still incredible, and I’ve been spending more time with them now that I am not so overwhelmed with stress and demands from school. Smokey is responding well to medication for hyperthyroidism and continues to be a tremendously soft, gentle comfort every day. I love my apartment and my neighborhood and riding the ferry every day. I actually enjoy having a routine and coming home exhausted, and I am optimistic that however hard changes may be, I can get through them.
More than anything, I still believe the Universe is inherently benevolent and good, and I am enthralled by its beauty every day. As long as I hold tightly to that, I think everything really will be okay.