I came in second place in a basketball skills challenge in fourth grade. While I don’t remember a lot of the specifics, I still have the plaque that was presented to me by the administrator of the Nike basketball camp in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s my first recollection of ever coming in second place at anything sports related that was based on individual skills. I prided myself on being an accurate and precise Center, practicing hundreds of shots a day, including left-handed layups. My dad always told me that if I wanted to be the best basketball player in the leagues, I hard to learn to shoot left-handed. And for hours at a time, I’d plant my feet firmly on our concrete driveway, and practice with my right hand tucked into my pocket so I couldn’t cheat.
And yet, I came in second.
I had every intention of taking the day off of work on July 23rd, 2009. I requested the day off in the usual way–put it on the shared calendar, emailed my boss to let them know I would be gone that day. And I spent the morning catching up on projects, sipping coffee on my back porch while I stole wifi from my neighbor who always kept the network unprotected. The guy I was dating showed up with lunch, roses, and tickets to that afternoon’s White Sox game (which for future reference, is the fastest way to most girls’ hearts). And just as we approached the train to go to the game, my boss called to say there was a major issue with a client that I needed to return to the office and address. I regrettably sent the boy to the baseball game by himself.
On July 23rd, 2009, Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game…and I missed it.
I am sure everyone has these stories of being a day late and a dollar short, and that mine aren’t unique. I am also sure everyone has stories where things worked out exactly as they should have, or were aided by the mysterious karma of the universe–somehow making things better. But for me, it seems that I have continued to live my life as a series of miscues where I never seem to get the timing right.
I have only told one person I was in love with them in the last three years. It turns out that he loved me as well, but he just loved his fiancee (I didn’t know about her) a little bit more. And had it not been for the fact that she was pregnant with his child, he would have considered leaving her for me (his words, not mine) as though it was some sort of consolation for being wonderful, but just late and infertile to the party.
When I told my boss in Louisville that I was leaving my ex-boyfriend, and subsequently leaving the area, she laughed. Not because the situation was funny, but because that day she has finally been given the approval to give me a long-anticipated (and much-deserved) promotion. And while I suppose I could have stayed, the truck was already booked, the boxes were packed, and the memories of a city that were the first place that felt like home (partly for a love of the city, and partly for the person I’d lived there with) made it just too unbearable to stay.
Three years later, deciding to leave Chicago never seemed like a mistake. In fact, it was well-calculated, detailed, and things did fall into place with relative ease. The first person that responded to my craigslist ad about my apartment is the person who ultimately rented it. When I asked my parents if I could move in with them while I searched for a new job, I did not even finish my sentence before they both said ‘yes.’
And my going away party happened much like my Chicago experience began–intoxicated, surrounded by friends, and hopeful that the one person I wanted to notice me since I had arrived three years earlier would finally seize the opportunity to feel the same way I did.
But as smooth as the transition out of Chicago was, my duration in Michigan was the complete opposite.
When we unloaded the moving truck, everything was put into the garage. Pillows, furniture, baseball cards: all stacked in boxes, all in the garage. Lola sat in her favorite chair in the garage in near-silent protest as everything was unloaded and haphazardly placed on those wire plastic shelves, growling when anyone would walk closer to her. And while I just took the essentials inside, not knowing how long I would be there, I got that answer very quickly.
The night after I arrived, I went out for drinks with a man who is easily the most interesting and engaging had dated (or met) in a long time, possibly ever. As singles girls are wont to do, I have a long list of things I’d ideally like in a man because when it is all in the fantasy stages, we have every right, an obligation even, to shoot for the moon. This man had all of them, down to the fact that he handed me the remote and told me that he wanted *me* to have it, so I could flip back and forth to both playoffs games. And when he woke me up hours after I had fallen asleep with my head on his shoulder, instead of telling me he was tired and I should leave, he kissed my forehead and said, “Leave? You just got here. Stay awhile. Stay forever, if you’d like.”
And the moment he uttered those words, I knew I would get the job.
The job was exactly what I was looking for in a post-graduate position. It was presented as a job that could use my abilities in analysis and programmatic design on a program that really makes a difference in people’s lives. From the first time I read the job posting, it seemed like an amazing opportunity, one that someone with my experience and education would be lucky to land–and yet, they were contacting me, of all their applicants, for interviews. And while I had been nervous on all of the phone interviews, after the night of bourbon, baseball, and bearded company, I knew there was no reason to be nervous–because the timing has a way of offering us glimpses at things we could have, if only the situation were different.
When I told my best friend I had met a boy AND had a job interview, he remarked, “Oh, not only will the company offer you a job, they will make you Vice President.”
In less than a week, I had three phone interviews, a trip to DC to meet with the decision-makers, and an offer letter in hands less than 24 hours later. Sometimes, life is funny.
Even though I accepted the position, I still had a desire to see the guy again. When I texted him to tell him I accepted the offer, he was genuinely happy for me, though expressed his disappointment that I would be leaving so soon (24 days, to be exact) after we had met. Instead of sulking, we made the best of the situation. And though our busy schedules only allowed us to have four (amazing) dates, we cursed the time we could not spend together because of other obligations but embraced each moment we could spend together. We had dinner. We stayed up until sunrise talking. I saw his band play at this incredibly tacky college bar, where he embarrassed me in front of everyone by telling them all he thought I was beautiful over the PA system between songs.
And while all of my belongings remain in my parents’ garage, with Lola nearby to guard them until I find a place to live here, I am now living 547 miles away on a leather-sectional in my sister’s living room. There is a real urgency to get settled in Washington, DC, not just because I am living out of Rubbermaid containers and sleeping on a sofa in a mid-rise that has fire-alarm issues and too much train noise, but because no matter how difficult timing, missed opportunities, and what-could-have-been weigh on my mind, embracing the present seems like the only option.
I left earlier in the morning on Saturday to start my drive to DC much earlier than I had originally anticipated, so when he texted to tell me goodbye and travel safely, I was already in the mountains of Pennsylvania, trapped in a heavy snow and ice storm. Talk about timing.