Cigarette Cases, Psychics and Armoires

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When I got the call that I was accepted into Remote Year, my first thought (while jumping up and down like a mad woman) was:

“!!!!!!!Ofjsdlkfjsklafjkldlkj!!!!!!!jgldsjglkfdsjgksdfjlskdjfsk!!!!!”

And then, “Oh wow. I can’t do this. I really can’t do this. It’d throw my whole life up in the air. That’d be crazy. No, no, no this is too radical.”

And my third: “But how can you… not?”

As someone who has stayed the straight-and-narrow course for most of her adult life, the very thought of renting a storage unit, putting in my notice at a job that I adored and accepting the fact that I won’t see my friends for a while (and miss Christmas with my family) was intimidating. On one hand, I knew I could do it – but on the other, was it the right choice for me? Is it what I wanted? Was I ready? Could I afford it? Was it smart? Reckless? Ingenious? Dangerous? Incredible?

Haaaaaaaallllllpppp.

My mom is not only the most positive, optimistic person I’ve ever met, but she’s also an astrologer. The guiding hand of the universe has always felt like it’s been on my back, even though there have been moments (and ahem, months, years even) where I shrugged off the signals. The thing about believing in signs is that you have a choice:

You can see everything as a push from the great beyond, or you can see nothing as divine energy.

I tend to pick the first, as I prescribe to the notion that anything that gives you hope is worth your attention. So, as I wrestled with the idea of accepting this once-in-a-lifetime invitation, I opened myself up to whatever the planets wanted to chat about.

What happened? My friend Kathryn said it best: “The universe doesn’t just talk to you – it shouts at you!”

And so it did – loud and clear. In fact, it spoke to me long before I got into the program, I just didn’t know how to listen. And in those two weeks that Remote Year gives you to sign on the dotted line or settle back into your routine, every which way I turned – most literally – there was a path pointing me toward an international journey.

To name just a few:

The Psychic Prediction

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the last year has been a time of pivotal transformation and inner reflection. I’ve tried to work through any setbacks, any resentments, any fears and truly let go of the mental gibberish that was holding me back. It’s been quite the process, and one that I’ve shared with those I love and those I admire.

After discussing this with a mentor at ClassPass, she cheekily suggested talking to her beloved, trusted psychic who has predicted many things in her life. Always open to hear what the enlightened have to say, I booked the appointment for the day after Valentine’s Day. After going through her on-boarding process, which required me to say my name out loud three times and take in a few deep breaths, she called to her spirit guides for a glimpse into my future. She talked about a few hot topics – my family, my love life (apparently meeting that husband soon, you guys!), the children I’d have one day (boys!) and then, she got to my career. She asked:

“Do you like your job?”

I quickly confirmed how much I adored my job and the people I worked with.

“But you’re overwhelmed?”

I said that yes, between working full-time and freelancing, I was often stretched too thin and couldn’t see my friends as often as I would like, because I was trying to stay on top of my deadlines. Even so, writing had always been my calling and my source of joy, so most of the time, I didn’t mind holing myself up in a coffee shop, sipping black coffee and counting the yellow cabs speeding by.

“You’re going to quit your job. You’re going to quit in four months because an opportunity you’re not going to be able to turn down is going to come up. You’ll say ‘yes’ to that and you’ll walk away from this job.”

I shook my head (though she couldn’t see, since she was on the phone, calling from Los Angeles) and rebutted, “No, I don’t think that’s true. That’s far too fast.”

My last day at ClassPass? June 23, a little over four months later.

The Facebook Note

For me, it often feels like life happens all at once or not at all – and that was the case when I was trying to decide about Remote Year. Not only did I need to talk to my financial advisor and my tax guy, but I had to figure out how I felt about my job (Would I ask to work abroad? Would I leave?) and a whole slew of pro/con lists that I’m embarrassed to share now.

My friends couldn’t believe I was even questioning whether or not to go, especially since it’ll be the last year of my 20s and what better way to send off the Odyssey decade, as so many call it? As my friend Kate said over dinner during this time, ‘If you don’t do this and let me live vicariously through you, I’ll never forgive you. Book the ticket!’

But, the type-A, Virgo side of me that needed to figure it all out before opting in? She was freaking out.

So one night, after staying up far too late because my mind was too flustered, I made the decision to not do Remote Year and to move out on my own, sans roommates, in New York and ‘look into it’ again in a year. I tossed and turned, tumbled and fought with my bed that night, and woke up early, looking out my window, thinking about the life I’d built in this city I’ve loved since I was seven. 

This was my home. These friends were my family. My career was soaring. How could I leave? Why was I anxious?

It was hard to think about who I was at 21, when I bullishly booked a one-way ticket, packed a few suitcases and took my life savings – $3,000 – to sleep on the couch of a friend I’d never actually met in person in Brooklyn, a borough I had never visited at that time. I knew I’d get a job. I knew I’d become a writer. I never doubted the choice to uproot post-college. 

As the sun rose, I thought, “I didn’t worry about it when I moved to NYC, so if I’m stressed about this decision, is it the right one?” I sighed, rolled over and looked at Facebook, which notified me I had ‘On This Day’ memories and as I scrolled through the years with my thumb, I saw a Facebook ‘note’ (remember those?!) I had written in the first few months of moving to this city.

The words – my words – stopped me in my tracks:

So has it been hard? Has it tested my love for the city? Has it shaken my confidence and confirmed my hopes all at the same time? Have I wondered if I made the right decision? Have I cursed the subway, the rain, the streets, the smell and the rude cabbies? Have I hated the city and loved it in the same day? Have I been afraid of failing, afraid of running out of money or food, afraid of being alone?

Of course.

But not once have I considered giving up.”

So giving up on the dream to travel the world? To actually take the jump and become a writer full-time? Nope. Not now. Not ever. In that moment, the choice was clear. If I had done it before, I could do it again. And this time, I’d do it even better.

(You can read that throwback note in all of it’s innocent, naive and rose-colored glory here.)

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My first birthday in NYC in 2010.

The Armoire and the Dream Book

While I was waiting to hear back from Remote Year during the application process, I treated myself to a new over-the-door jewelry organizer to make space in my East Village-sized apartment. With a glass of vino in hand, I went through all of my old rings, necklaces and bracelets, letting go of frivolous things I no longer wore or needed.

This also happened to be where I kept important documents and treasures – like my passport, hand-written notes from relatives, you name it. After going through each drawer and transporting to my new organizer, I set it aside, vowing I’d take it down to the curb ASAP.

Two weeks later, it was still hanging out in the corner collecting dust, and my friend Kathryn came over after a workout class to order in sushi and catch-up. She asked about the armoire and I offered it up to her. She declined but said she’d help me take it downstairs on her way home.

As we always do, we got to talking about everything life and love, and I mentioned the ‘Dream Book’ I’d been keeping since I was 15. It houses all of my firsts: dollar I made on my own, byline in a newspaper, my prom date, my initial overpriced MetroCard. And it has notes I’ve written about important, influential days: when I voted for the first time, on the plane when I moved to New York, when I landed jobs I worked tirelessly for. It’s basically a record of the big moments in my life – and I told her how I was quickly running out of room.

She asked to see it, and I went to grab it – only to realize I didn’t know where it was.

Frantically, I searched through my bookshelf, my nightside table, my box of cards from those I cherish, under my bed – everywhere. It couldn’t be found… until I remembered that I had put it in my armoire at one point. And though I thought I checked every last drawer… there it was. A mere 30 minutes from being put on the street in NYC, where anyone could find this intimate journal of the past 13 years of my life. I physically hugged it when I found it and said to Kathryn, “There’s only one page left. Then I’ll need a new one.

The day I put in my deposit for Remote Year? I filled up that last page with the news… and bought a new journal for the adventure.

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And last – but not least – the cigarette case.

Ever since ‘going public’ about Remote Year, telling my job and making all of the final arrangements, dinner dates, and virtually meeting some of the (awesome!) people that I’ll travel the world with for the next 12 months, I’ve felt a little overwhelmed.

And though I’m still super excited and even more confident in my decision to take this leap of faith, I’m also struck by strokes of sadness. I know I’m going to miss moments in my friend’s lives. I know I’m going to not talk to them as much as I do now. I know this will be the longest I’ve ever gone without giving my mom a hug, or enjoying a steak grilled by my dad. I know all of my friends’ lives are going to change and I won’t always be by their side as they navigate these periods. And though I’m glad I’m pursuing freelance full-time, writing my job description so ClassPass can hire a ‘new me’? That was a little gut-wrenching, especially since I was employee 39, and the only one to hold this role.

As a way to distract myself from bittersweet feelings, I decided to do the adult thing and ignore the pit in my stomach and instead… clean. I’ve been doing this a little bit every night and I’ve been amazed at what I’ve found – clothes I haven’t worn in many moons, money in pockets I totally forgot about (score!), receipts that are dated for 2010. And… a cigarette case that I once used as a business card holder. But it was always more than that: I carried it when I first moved because it reminded me of home.

Growing up, my great grandmother Elizabeth lived with my family for a few years before she was put in a nursing home. Though she passed away when I was 13, I cherished her deeply. A bold woman with a powerful presence, she led a long, full, mostly healthy life. Unlike the subtle way that Southerners prefer to be quiet in the hometown I grew up in, as a native from New Jersey, Great Grandma Liz was loud. And she had many opinions. I could hear her laugh from her ‘tube shows’ filter through our hallway, and I couldn’t ignore her calling “Lindsayyyyy” when I’d get off the school bus and walk into the house. She’d tell me all sorts of stories about her youth, even showing off her tattoo that for a woman of her age, was not common and frankly, a little taboo. She talked to me about love, about New York City, about life. She made a killer breakfast. I admired her and was also a little intimidated of her, but in the impressionable, impactful way that a 7-year-old should be.

One of her prized possessions was this cigarette holder, which her late husband (my great grandfather, whom I never met), carried in World War I. As I’ve always had a thing for maps and always wanted to travel, I fell in love with the map on the front. She gave it to me and I held onto it, proudly displaying in my childhood bedrooms, my college dorm room and apartments, and eventually, carrying it around in my Target purse when I moved to the city. But the last few years? It’s remained tucked away in a drawer, as business cards have started to become obsolete. But standing there, close to midnight, packing up my things once again, I rubbed my hands across the silver surface that needs to be polished and thought about my grandma, who I know would be so proud of my Remote Year adventure and smiled to myself. I took a closer look at the map to see if I had been to any of the places pictured…

…and there in the middle of the map… was Croatia. My first stop in Remote Year.

My first thought?

“!!!!!jhgflkdsjafkldsajfkdsajkflaskjflkda!!!!!!!”

My second one?

“Oh my god. Wow. Great grandma. You knew.”

My third?

“Thank you. I’ll carry you – and everyone I love – with me everywhere I go in this universe.”

There have been countless other signs – like my lease ending on July 25 when RY starts on July 30, like saving money on my taxes because I’m out of the country more than 330 of 365 days, and like messages on sidewalks that just seem to keep appearing, right when I need them. And while you can label them coincidences or a romantic way of viewing the world, I’d like to think of these signs as my North Stars, boldly (and perhaps a bit blindly) leading me into the unknown. I may not know what the next 12 months will bring be but I do know that being open, being ready and believing in the magic of the universe and it’s mysterious ways have gotten me this far.

And I think it’s just getting warmed up.

Less than seven weeks to go!

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