This week’s traditional Sunday walk took me through my literal old stomping grounds, from my parents’ house down to the Morton Grove Forest Preserve, where I snapped the attached picture to mark the dawn of Day 365. Along the way, I passed my former elementary school and the park across the street, which together made up the “small pond” for the “big fish” I was as a small child.
My name is on a plaque in the main school hallway, as the 1992 female American Legion Award winner, which basically cemented my status as an eighth-grade achiever. I didn’t make the record board in the big gym, which was reserved for the fastest shuttle-runners and longest flexed-arm-hangers, but I did make a graduation speech themed “Be Your Own Person” in that high-ceilinged, yellow-tinted room. I stood in front of the whole student body and botched the word “wreckage” in the spelling bee finals. I sang a solo at an all-school concert (the intro to “Show Me The Way” by Styx 😂). I discovered the power of my right arm by smashing overhand volleyball serves into many an unsuspecting opposing player (and occasionally the opposite wall.) I finished third overall in our co-ed gym class mile run, wearing basic canvas Keds… 😂 😂
I think you get the point. I “achieved” a lot of stuff when I was younger that doesn’t matter anymore — if it ever did.
My life now is nothing like I thought it would be back then.
At 42, I return to my hometown a recovering alcoholic in the middle of a career transition — this is like my fifth since leaving Illinois in the spring of 2000 for a newspaper job in Georgia, and the entry-level marketing job I just left paid less than that one did.
I don’t say any of that to poor-mouth my journey; in fact, I’m proud of my ability — or at least my willingness — to start from scratch and reinvent myself when the path I’m on isn’t working, or appears to be careening off a cliff. I’ll have one full year of sobriety after today, then one day to bask in that tremendous achievement before another set of professional challenges smacks me in the face on Tuesday morning.
Reflecting on my first sober “birthday,” hanging here in a hammock under a tree in my sister’s yard, after an emotional week and an up-and-down year, I feel utterly exhausted. I feel relaxed. I feel very warm (hello, Chicago heat wave.) I also feel a little…let down?Continue reading “Achievement”