When we are apart“Home” – Ben Bohmer
Still feels like
Feels like home
“Grief comes in waves” – Them & Those-who-have-experienced-it
The last time I wrote in my little internet diary was about a year ago. Leave it to my mom to get me to document my life so I can look back and see how I progress through life–the 18th would’ve been her 55th birthday and just last month was her 4th death anniversary. John and I also celebrated (well…in quarantine because we both got covid) our 5th wedding anniversary on the 21st! For those who have followed my journey, how wild is that?! Time has just gone quickly and just as slow at the same time.
What has made it go s l o w l y:
- Being in a time-warped pandemic where we had to learn to sit still for two years. I don’t really have any photos to showcase this point because frankly, I was doing nothing productive or worth documenting and just passing time. Activities include: watching/crying/laughing from Schitt’s Creek, painting my garage white with 4 coats of paint, having video calls with friends and family complaining about being stuck at home, walking around during a gloomy Seattle winter, eating more junk food than I was supposed to, driving around the Seattle area aimlessly because there was nothing better to do, enjoying the PNW outdoors when the sun eventually came out, in which case I documented, but didn’t do in 2021 for more reasons I’ll share below, and staring at my computer screen while working long hours just to make the time pass by. Was that too depressing? Because it was. And I eventually went back to seeing a therapist, but more on that later!
2. Having times of doubt of what I’m supposed to be doing with my precious time. I’d always ask “WWLD” or “what would Levy do?” in those particular situations, which is a term my mom’s best friends shared with me and has also helped me when I miss her and would’ve historically called or texted her to get some motherly advice. Levy would usually say things like “Anak, you already know what you need to do, you just need to actually plan and execute it” or “Raelene, I raised you to do the right thing and always follow your heart. Do both.” or “You and John are are team so both of you need to decide together, I am just here to guide you”, all of which I would just roll my eyes and say “Okay mom, that doesn’t help me at all but I know you’re just pushing me to be independent and decide on my own.” So alas, here I am honestly living my best life, all things considered. However, getting to these points where I am deciding between multiple outcomes have also been incredibly hard. Sometimes I’ll cry because I wish she were here to help me or just listen to my list of pros and cons. Sometimes I’ll have a little angry outburst and take it out on John. Sometimes I’ll just clam up and not talk at all. But those ups and down have led to many successful big decisions in the past year: 1) Renovating our WA home and making $$$$$$ after selling it, 2) getting out of a job I wasn’t happy in and pursuing a similar career path in digital marketing/advertising, 3) moving cross-country to NYC which was a lifelong dream I’ve wanted to fulfill, 4) interviewing for jobs in the Bay Area after moving for John’s job and landing a sweet gig at one of the best employers in the world, and 5) investing in our first investment property while also allowing us to buy in the Bay Area (a true privilege we are so blessed to have). You can kind of see my general thought process here…even though life gives you lemons, you keep making that lemonade and just try to make the best with what you have. Sometimes the lemonade will be more tart or more sweet than intended or hoped for, but the goal is to get “just right” more often as we experience our lives.
3. Breaking up with my romanticized version of what living in NYC would be. For those who ever had a lifelong dream of living somewhere, only to get your dreams rained on, this one is for you. I was about 7 or 8 years old when I realized how iconic of a city New York was from watching snippets of Friends when I wasn’t supposed to. Then I loved it even more when I visited during my 8th grade East Coast field trip and looked up at all of the lights in Times Square. Then I made it a goal to live there when watching Betty Suarez from Ugly Betty go from “Betty in Queens” to “Betty in NYC”. I applied to colleges in NYC and wanted to make it work but financially, it didn’t make sense. So in college, I tried to see if getting into finance would be a good fit because that seemed like what people did to afford to life there (silly Raelene!). Of course, while my big plans to move to NYC were in the works my junior year, I met my now husband, John, and my life was forever changed. Thankfully, I married a supportive life partner who also was open to potentially moving to NYC and we did! We tried…and lasted 3 months.
After seeing how unhappy I was in Seattle, he initiated the move since we were working remotely and we could try it for about 6 months before we’d be forced to go back into the office. And then flipping positions when we moved to NYC, seeing how unhappy John was from the dirtiness, crime, and weather, I couldn’t force him to live in NYC for 3 years like we had originally agreed on. So we moved to the Bay Area for our careers. We at least gave it a shot and I’ll make NYC work for me somehow in the future. But dang, shot to the heart. My heart was broken. I was sad my dream didn’t work out. Saaaaaad! I went a little emo and listen to heartbreak songs for a little while…”Heartbreak Warfare” by John Mayer, “Roots Before Branches” by Glee, and “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra were played on repeat during this period. I’ve recovered now, though. Took me about 3 months of getting settled in the Bay Area to know with 100% certainty we made the right decision. Team work makes the dream work! And also a little bit of time to let the the depression clouds pass over.
4. Constantly comparing myself to “pre-pandemic Raelene” who was about 15 pounds lighter than I am now. It took me awhile to accept that I am the heaviest I have ever been and I was not happy about it for a long time, which would make it worse and I’d just not care and not take care of myself. I didn’t have an eating disorder, but I did have an unhealthy relationship with food, often eating when depressed, anxious, and angry. The weight gain start around Fall 2020 when I was in the thick of working crazy hours in a job I was unhappy in, then spent another gloomy winter in Seattle, then moved cross-country and ate out everyday for 3 months (this was more happy weight!), and then moved again to an area that brought up a lot of anxiety as I hadn’t been back in CA for an extended period of time since I was caregiving for my mom when she was sick.
Social media was also not putting me in a place to be successful in controlling my emotions because I would have feelings of missing out when I saw people hanging out and about, of being less than because there were people who didn’t seem like their body changed negatively during the pandemic and that made me jealous, and of fake people on the interwebs just posting for likes. Sure, I could’ve switched around the accounts I was following but it was near impossible to ignore the voice in my head that would compare myself and experiences to others, so I decided to just delete Instagram in August and take a break.
These anxious and depressive episodes continued steadily until about 3 months ago when I couldn’t even fit my loose clothes and had to size up to sizes I didn’t think I’d have to wear until I was pregnant. It was this and also realizing that my company was going to possibly go back in the office around October so I had to start caring about how I looked and how I wanted others to perceive me (yes, I know, I should be doing this for myself) as the fit and healthy Raelene I’ve been during the best moments of my life. So I am giving myself grace as I get back to the weight range I am much happier in and where I’d like to maintain.
I also started seeing an amazing therapist when we moved to the Bay Area because ya girl needed some help with dealing with her emotions. No more excuses, just patience, persistence, and dedication to being the best version of me I can be. I learned some really neat techniques through CBT and am more confident in my ability to deal with stubborn emotions like anger and sadness. The past few months have been so good to me where I’m in training to be a Pilates instructor (I’ve been wanting to do this for years), have been routinely doing yoga, and found an awesome strength and conditioning gym in Palo Alto that I love. If anyone feels like they need help related to body acceptance and anxiety reducing techniques, there are many resources out there for you, free or paid, so please take advantage! Health is wealth, and this includes your mental health. Create that sacred space of healing for yourself, sis and bro!
What has made it go quickly:
- Making the best out of being “stuck” in the US and working remotely by visiting friends across the country, moving cross-country twice in our SUV from Seattle to NYC and then from NYC to SF, going to a few music events, and going on random road trips because “why not”.
2. Starting my amazing job at Google and focusing on learning, growing, and having fun. When we were planning on leaving New York City, it was mainly driven by the weather and dirtiness that made it not worth what we were paying to live there. John calls NYC “an open-air, landfill sauna”. I was originally planning on staying at Amazon and considering switching out of Retail/Ads to AWS for continuity. During our road trip from NYC to SF, I was juggling 4 final interviews with other companies including AWS and at one point, did one of them in our hotel bathroom in Nashville, TN! I continued to have interviews when we were in Arizona and in Santa Barbara, and ultimately got my offer letters when we were moving into our apartment in Mountain View. When I got my Google offer, I was so excited at the potential of learning about what the tech space was like outside of Amazon and had heard great things about working at Google. Flash forward to now, 4 months later, I have never felt more confident in my career path and am so excited to continue growing on my team. I never imagined working in advertising sales but here I am, and I am loving it. Google has also been so refreshing from Amazon where I have work/life balance, am able to unplug completely when I am not working, and also am surrounded by people who love what they’re doing and feel valued by their team and employer. My 2.5 years at Amazon taught me a lot about grit and how to manage a business and for that, I am thankful. Cheers to the future ahead! LET’S GET IT DONE FOLKS!
3. Being where ever “home” is and spending quality time with my husband and our two pups. Perhaps this has been my favorite parts of the last year especially as we’ve moved to 4 different places. Pre-pandemic, I was always on the move and on a flight somewhere at least every other month. Now, I have learned to enjoy stillness, find comfort in peaceful environments, and seek moments that require one to be fully present in the moment. In the past year, I’ve travelled many miles and spent lots of time with my little fam enjoying life. As I wrap up this entry, we are snuggled on the couch and getting ready to submit an offer on a home in SF! I am so incredibly grateful for this life I live and look forward to the next few years exploring the Bay Area, having little Johns and Raelenes running around, and making some amazing memories in our future home. I wish my mom was here to see how beautiful my life has come to be as an adult, but I know she’s guiding me and us every step of the way. I miss her everyday and know she’s here in spirit. My family is solid. My dad and brother are thriving. What more can I wish for in this life?!
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some styleMaya Angelou
My wish is that all who know and love me, live a life fulfilled and to also thrive in their little worlds. My hope is that you find peace in stillness, live joyfully and with humor, and are comfortably living your best lives. May we make Levy proud and live the way she would’ve wanted: happy, surrounded by love, family, and friends.