Saturday, November 29, 2014

the long haul.

In 2011, after several disastrous wind gusts destroyed my poor California-made umbrellas, I decided to buy a clear bubble umbrella in hopes it would shield me from future storms. As I walked around my DC neighborhoods, I got several stares and a few snide remarks, but I was dry and protected from the winds trying to invert my umbrella, even if I looked a bit ridiculous to others.

Then in 2012, Blake Lively was spotted with a bubble umbrella, and suddenly they were popping up everywhere (OK, perhaps the two aren't directly related). I swore--and still swear--by the plastic dome created to resist wind and give its user a clear view of the sidewalk ahead without intruding in other people's space.

Last week on my 5 a.m. walk to the subway for work, a particularly strong wind was blowing rain sideways and I could feel my bubble umbrella beginning to give. Something snapped and the frame on one side of the umbrella bent inward, smacking the clear plastic into my eye. By the time I made it underground, I was soaked and unhappy, and snapped the frame back into place. It's not completely broken, but it's bent enough to make me realize that after three years of happy ownership, I may have to buy a replacement.

Which was a more surprising realization than I think it should have been.

What's surprising is that I've owned this umbrella for three years--longer than the snow boots I finally caved in and bought last year after slipping on snowy surfaces for years; longer than the puffy jacket I bought in Albany last year; longer than the wool-lined leggings I bought just a month ago. All of those things are weather-related investments that I could've used when moving east, yet for some reason, I always hesitated when it came to buying those things. Investing in winter-wear meant investing in a life on the east coast. It took me 10 months to buy a shoe rack when I first moved to New York, for god's sake. Clearly, I've had commitment anxiety.

I guess I didn't want to buy these things before because I never knew how long I'd stay in New York. It felt like a lot of pressure--pressure I wasn't sure I was ready for. To invest in something, or someone, is take a risk. It's saying to yourself, "I'm in this for the long haul."

Perhaps I've always been hesitant to invest in material objects. Does that at all reflect my inability to invest in the more important things in life too, like friendships or love? I can see what would cause a person to hold back from some investments: friends you were close with for years and years, but then drift apart from when you move to different cities; new friends you create distance from in case you don't end up being as close as you'd want to be; relationships you let go because one person was more invested in a joint future than the other; future relationships you don't take a chance on because of circumstances beyond your control.


It's difficult to leap into something when you aren't sure of what the outcome may be. It could be a disaster, or the greatest step you'll take. I had an ex-boyfriend once who asked me on a first date by not really asking me on a date ("Do you want to hang out?") because he said it was a safe move for most guys to keep it casual until they figure out if the girl assumed it was a date. If she did, then they would feel more confident to make a move.

(Which, by the way, I think is total crap because some girls--aka me--usually have no clue if something is a date or not unless it's explicitly stated: exhibit A.)

But investments aren't about safe bets. They're about trusting yourself to experience the most out of life. "You have to pick the places you don't walk away from," Joan Didion once wrote. If we only invested in the safe things in life, the things we would be sure that we'd take with us on every step of our journey, then I don't think we'd ever really experience anything because we'd be too busy overthinking what may or may not be with us in a year.

And if that were the case, I would never have invested in any winter gear because I never found myself sure enough of New York to justify it. And yet I regret none of it, just like how I'm learning not to regret memories of exes or the slow, risk-taking steps that I'm beginning to take--steps that may make me feel ridiculous sometimes, but steps that could be lasting and worth it in the future if I just gave it a try.

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