No matter what your week looks like, there’s nothing like pulling up to your house at 11 p.m. and seeing the Milky Way.
When I first started this house-in-the-desert boondoggle, I was in the throes of February loneliness. I had just turned 36, and that’s a challenging, if scientifically anachronistic, number for a single woman. Where had the time gone while I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, and why did the doing not lead to the family I was promised if I did what I was told? Why was I so very, very alone? I solicited the thoughts and pity of friends near and far, since my West Coast pool was certainly limited. But, even as people declined invitations due to family commitments or errand fatigue, we made plans. I would double down, make an effort to meet someone, and not be alone forever. My friends would support me via text messages during specific windows of time when their attention was not otherwise allotted. Add to that emotional mess an unusual amount of rain in the Southern California climate where my Vitamin D-addicted body landed a year prior, and I was bound to do one of two things: make a rash decision or wallow with rose and frosting for dinner.
Yet, whenever I took myself on a long art-making weekend in Joshua Tree, there was no loneliness in being alone. The granite slabs of the Mojave welcomed me as I was, kept me up all night with crazy dreams, checked in with sunrises and sunsets, and opened their arms to my authentic, creative nature.
On paper I was supposed to be a career-oriented successful woman, enter into an elite pool of fascinating people, cherry-pick one of them to marry, and then affordably raise kids in international schools abroad while saving the world as part of a power couple. So, I should probably have focused on getting that next promotion and networking for a management position. As a qualified polyglot without the burden of family, that meant Central Asia again as a hot-shot bosswoman, a war zone to prove how much I loved to sacrifice, or - most intriguing - a slice of Africa with terrorists.
The only kicker was, my 30-something male peers were not single, and after a decade plus of that environment I wasn’t positive they were my type. Was I my type? What the hell was I doing, anyway?
After facing slammed door after slammed door at work, the only thing that gave me a feeling of agency was to just do the damn opposite. I’m lonely? Great, I’ll go be alone and live as an eccentric hermit. That made far more sense to me than continuing on the same path, if continuing meant treading stagnant water. In an effort to incorporate my personal goals into my life, I decided to pursue the opposite of what I thought I wanted.
Logically, this did not make sense to me, and I struggled to put my finger on it. I eschewed the term “authenticity” as a branding buzzword, fearing that if I valued it I would tumble down a path of excessive self-care straight into narcissism. There was something else gnawing at me that I couldn’t put my finger on. My best friend told me it was indeed authenticity I was searching for. I told myself it was freedom through burning it all down.
After months, maybe years, of stagnation, I found momentum in the Mojave. Not only would getting a place there chop my debt by a third (paradoxical, I know), but in February a little blue house with a shed-studio popped onto the market for a hot second. I made an offer with the determination that this process would bring me joy and freedom rather than stress, because really - why was I buying a house in the desert? It fit nothing in my life as it existed on paper. Intuitively, though, this was the only thing that had felt right in a long time, and as I moved through escrow, unexpected doors in the desert began to open.
Around this time, as I wired many thousands of dollars, I started to hear it articulated. On a podcast, someone mentioned that it is the thing to which you have the most resistance that is the most interesting. In the words of Wesley AKA The Dread Pirate Roberts at the Fire Swamp, “the only way out is through.”
The only way out is through. I’m lonely? Fine, I’ll go be alone. Or, as my friend saw it, I’ll go do the thing that feels like me and turn my back on what is expected of me. I’ll live my authentic life.