"I don't want to wake up at 45 and feel as if I've never done anything or been anywhere."
I first uttered that sentence when I was 25 years old. Said out of frustration and heartache borne from a soul-sucking job at a book publishing company where I was already feeling the effects of years of manipulation and discrimination in the corporate world. I didn't know what I was going to do. All I knew was that I couldn't stay in Indiana, and I couldn't let myself just resign to whatever limitations the world foisted on me.
So within a year, I put a plan in motion to relocate to the Coast (I chose West over East first) and move into the area of publishing I actually wanted to work in (magazines). I loved my family, but there wasn't anything tying me to my hometown other than them, so I bid them farewell for now and took a page from Andy & Red in Shawshank Redemption.
By 2004, I was living in L.A., crashing in an awful house-share in Northridge, and working for another book publisher at a rate $2 less than what I was told I would be paid when I accepted the job. Fast forward 2.5 years and 4 apartments moves later, and I was residing in my own studio apartment in North Hollywood, taking dance classes at Debbie Reynolds' Dance Studio, enjoying musicians realize their dreams at The Hotel Cafe on Friday nights, and working for the Robb Report in Malibu -- a mere 1 hour 15 minute commute to work each morning.
Now I know what you're thinking: "Where exactly are you going with this, Candace?"
Although my escape from the Hoosier State was tumultuous and exhausting, I made it happen because I was determined to not reach the grand "old" age of 45 and look back on my life only to feel as if I've wasted half of it. (Assuming I would ambitiously live long enough to see 90.) I made that promise to myself at 25, moved to L.A. at 27, and resided there for a little over 4 years.
It wasn't perfect or glamorous by any means, but those years helped shape me into the person I was meant to be by taking me out from under the dour canopy of limitations that my home state loved to impose. Sure, I still faced limitations, discrimination, and a whole slew of obstacles that I didn't see coming, but I set a goal and achieved it. First, the move; then, the transition to magazines; then, the life crafted to suit a lover of art, culture and bohemia.
More than anything else, I grew as a person. More so, I grew into the person I wanted to be pursuing a life I wanted to live.
Now as you can see, I'm no longer living in L.A. and no longer working in publishing, and the life I envisioned for myself has evolved considerably. I currently live on the other side of my country, in a state I never thought I'd reside in, working in an industry that I never considered as an option. Yet I'm still surrounded by more art, music, literature, and cultural creatives than I dare shake a stick at.
It is not at all lost on me that I've reached the grand "old" age and I can now look back and realize that the goal I set in my youth has come to fruition. No, not the goal of my more impetuous youth -- the one where I dance on Broadway, date playwrights, befriend ingenues, smoke, drink and be merry all while living in a loft in the Village with my pet Great Dane. No. I'm talking about the goal of not waking up at 45 and feeling as if I've never done anything or been anywhere.
Without realizing it, when I uttered that phrase in the middle of my quarter-life crisis, I set a journey in motion that has seen many a peak and valley. But it's a journey where I can now look back and say, "I did that."
I traveled those roads. I fought those demons. I cried those tears. I made those stories.
And regardless of whether I'll ever write it down (I have 25 years of journals, so yeah, I've written it down), I know I can feel powerful in ways that I never would've known if I hadn't taken a moment to pause and reflect.
I may not be where I thought I'd be, checked off the bucket list items I thought I would, or know exactly where I'll go from here, but the past 20 years have been quite a journey and I am eternally grateful for having had the chance to travel it.
I don't know if I'd do it all over again, but at least I can say, "I did that."