Earlier this week I had an opportunity to take part in Wildfang’s Free Speech which is a very cool monthly event they describe as “an evening of intimate and inspiring storytelling from Portland’s most badass women.” (Guilty as charged.) The theme this month was “A Lover and a Fighter.”
This was my story:
So in November of 2013 I lived in Southeast Portland in a basement apartment with a pretty terrible boyfriend. And I was doing odd jobs for a living, which meant freelance writing and blogging, cleaning apartments for 9 dollars an hour, and triple and quadruple-checking lottery tickets.
I emerged from my underground gambling lair one morning, ready to seize the day and clean some apartments, and as I approached my car, I saw there was something on the windshield.
Now, in my experience you never get GOOD news on a windshield. And sure enough, it was a 90 dollar parking ticket.
You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you it was a bogus ticket for blocking a driveway that wasn’t even a driveway.
So I got into my car. And I cried. I cried and I cried. It was pretty grim. I was a “Jimmy Stewart wishing he’d never been born” level of upset. Except I was wishing I’d never been born or that I’d stayed in LA or gone to law school or something.
My point is I was very upset.
Now I’m not normally the type of person who gets this upset over a parking ticket.
But things weren’t going very well for me. Personally. Or professionally. Or creatively. I was trying desperately to make a relationship work. And failing. I was trying to start a new career in a new city. And failing. And I was trying to sell a book with a friend of mine. And we were failing.
So I was getting very tired of all the failing! And it seemed like a very good time to give up. On everything.
But for some reason at the beginning of every day I would always say something like “I’ve got a good feeling about today.” Of course at the end of every day, I would curse stupid optimistic morning me for being so wrong and so very stupid. And that was my life.
Now let’s cut to July of 2015. This is a full 18 months later.
Things are different in 2015!
I’m making more than 9 dollars an hour working at an agency as a copywriter. I’m also living with a friend in Northeast Portland in an above the ground house. And best of all, that failing relationship finally failed. For good. (Some things are not worth fighting for.)
My life is not perfect. But it’s pretty okay.
And it gets better…
I get home from my work one day and I get the mail. And on this day, there’s an official-looking envelope addressed to me, from the City of Portland, Bureau of Transportation.
I prepare for the worst. Because, in my experience, official-looking envelopes are also usually bad news. But I open it and it’s a check. Made out to me. For 90 dollars.
It’s the most confusing mail I have ever received. I stared at it. I actually started to wonder if maybe I was mixing up checks and bills because it made so little sense. And then I remembered that when I paid that bogus ticket some 18 months ago, I included a letter of appeal, explaining the situation and the driveways. And I remembered thinking it was a long shot, but it turns out that I’m a big believer in long shots.
And just a year and a half later, a full refund.
Now, I’ve never won the super bowl. Or given birth to a child. Or touched Beyonce.
But I have never known such joy.
Okay so why am I telling you this?
Well I think there are several lessons to be learned from this story:
First, no matter tired or defeated or depressed or Jimmy Stewart you are, don’t give up. You can probably do one more thing. Make a call on the telephone. And if you’re afraid of making telephone calls as I am, just write a letter.
Second, listen to the idiot optimist voice in your head. Yes, she’s wrong most of the time, but she’s trying to help.
Third, and I know you this, but it’s important to remember that change doesn’t happen quickly. And progress is not always linear. Don’t let that get you down. Full disclosure: I’m rethinking my career once again and I’m back to living in a basement. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t gotten anywhere. (I also still quadruple-check lottery tickets, but that’s just smart business.)
And finally, if you only learn one thing from me, let it be this: If you happen to be in a terrible relationship right now, please just END IT and I promise that everything will get better and the universe will reward you with money.