In September of 1998, I had just ended a three year relationship with someone and was teaching ballroom dancing for a studio in Houston. I had a cute little apartment downtown and a best friend who was tall, blond, English, a bartender and could get us into any club for free. I was enjoying, and taking advantage of, my new freedom. Life in Houston was okay.
The new year came and went, and our dance studio closed, forcing those of us who wanted to continue teaching to do so independently. I could make more money, and make my own schedule. That meant my best friend and I could decide at the drop of a hat to run off to the beach for the day. Not the most professional behavior, but damn fun when you're 24. It also meant I didn't have to abide by the teacher/student rule of no dating. And so I developed a crush on one of my students. A 36 year old surgeon.
He came for lessons about twice a week. He was handsome, funny, smart and, most important for a dance student, had good breath. He was a very quick learner and I always received compliments during the Friday Night Parties from those who danced with him. He was a Star Student. And he was always very flirty with me. He would bring me gifts back when he would travel, but I never really knew how he felt about me. There was no relationship outside of the studio.
In April of 1999, my sister flew me to Seattle for a visit, and I fell in love with this city. I had never felt so at home in Houston. I even changed my ticket and stayed for a few extra days because it just made me sad to leave. So, during the four hour flight home, I started thinking, why can't I just move there? Yes, change is scary. And I'll miss my folks terribly because I've never lived more than 30 minutes from them, but I'm 24 years old! Why not?! I didn't have a steady job or a boyfriend, and my lease was up in June. All signs pointed to move.
When I got back to Houston, my ex picked me up at the airport and jokingly said "So, are ya moving?" I said, "Yes. I think I am." The decision was made.
That week, the surgeon came in for his lesson. He brought me earrings from his recent trip to Chile. He said they made him think of me. And then after his lesson, my last one of the day, he asked me out to dinner for the first time.
Here's where I get all deep.
Just what was the universe trying to do to me? For 10 months, this man never made move. Then I decide to move 3000 miles away and he asks me out to dinner.
Was the universe testing me? It's almost like She dangled this man in front of me and said "Now, how badly do you really want to move? Don't you want to see what could happen here? Hmmmm?" Hell yes, I did! This man was, in my eyes, The Ideal Man. Why was this happening!?
I remember venting to mom. And crying. And asking, "Why do I have to choose? Why can't both good things work out for me? What had I done that was so wrong?" I was being punished. I was sure of it. (Sound familiar?)
At some point, I made up my mind. I was moving, dammit. I made pros and cons lists. I talked with friends and family. I turned to the Magic 8 ball. It had to be done. I needed to leap!
So, when my lease was up, I moved back in with my folks, sold all of my furniture and saved money. I continued to teach the surgeon. We continued to have dinner together. And during our last lesson, he gave me a beautiful stone necklace that I still wear today.
At the end of July, I flew to San Francisco with three army duffle bags full of stuff and met up with my sister and her boyfriend. We drove and camped up the coast to Seattle, then I lived with her and played for two months. I thought, I'll just test this out. Can I really move away from home? If it gets too hard, if I just can't stand it, I'll go back home. No shame there. Let's just see what happens.
After two months, I had no intention of ever going back to Houston. So I flew home to retrieve my truck and the bulk of my belongings. During that quick visit home, I got in touch with the surgeon. He was very happy to hear from me and we made a plan to meet up for dinner. It was great seeing him and a little voice inside me whispered all through dinner, "Is Seattle really better than this guy? Come on....." I had to fight that voice with a stick. A big stick.
After dinner, he invited me over to his place. For the first time ever. I had no idea what he was thinking. I didn't know what to expect. My stomach was in knots, I was sweating profusely and I giggled a lot.
When we got to his front door, he said something funny and then turned and smiled at me. I remember literally melting inside. I put my big stick down and thought, "Most of my stuff is still here in Houston. Moving back wouldn't be so hard. I like living with mom and dad......"
He walked into his house. And I followed him.
And I gasped. Loudly.
This Ideal Man, this surgeon, this incredibly fantastic guy was an absolute packrat. And I mean Packrat with a capital P.
There were piles and piles and piles of shit everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Along each side of the hallway, in every nook and corner, on tables, on furniture, in the door of the closets that wouldn't shut because there was so much shit in the way. He had to clean off the couch so we could sit down. He asked if I wanted something to drink and I said "NO THANK YOU!" a little too enthusiastically.
He ended up showing my photos from a recent trip, I don't even remember from where. I was too focused on how my head was going to explode if I didn't get the hell outta there. You know me, dear reader. I don't do clutter.
On the drive home, I kept thinking - this was a test. And I passed the test. Failing the test would have meant giving up Seattle, then learning that this man that I had stayed in Houston for was in so very many ways, not the one for me. I made the right decision. And the universe, I think, took great pleasure in showing me that I made the right decision. I think she got a big ol' laugh out of it. Granted, if I had stayed in Houston, hooked up with the surgeon, discovered this deal-breaking lifestyle of his and walked away, I would have made do. I would have chosen another path, maybe even moving to Seattle at that point, but things would not have fallen into place exactly as they have up to this point. And I'm happy with the way things have gone so far.
So yes, I think we are tested in life. We are presented with situations that, based on our "answers", determine our next path. Some of you will say "test" is not the right word, but it's my blog and my story, so I'm sticking with "test".
Everything feels like a test right now. It's the math portion of the ACT (which I failed three times in a row) all over again. And if I fail this test, my life is not going to be at all what I want it to be. It may be okay, in the end, but it will not be how I want it to be right now.
So, therein lies my struggle. I must make the right decisions in order to get on the path I want. And I know exactly what those decisions are, but they suck. Really no fun at all. But I will survive. And afterwards, I will open the door and, as much as I hate to admit it, see a house full of clutter again.
And I will know that I passed this test. And I will have the life I want.