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Is it Possible to Miss Yourself?

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes. I just finished reading through some of my old, LA archives and they left me with my heart in my throat.

Today I was thinking about that time in my life, just over three years ago. I was 28 and living in Los Angeles and it was the best…it was the best…the best what? I'm not sure what it was the best of, but it was a time in my life that I've never stopped trying to get back to.

Pier2
It was a time when I never felt stronger or healthier or more present to my life. I was busier than I'd ever been, but every single step I took was full of honest intention. I knew exactly who I was and what my life was about. I can still remember what it felt like to wake up in the bedroom of my little Venice Canals apartment, the ocean breeze pushing through the screens, a feeling of excitement about each new day.

I was coming off several of the hardest years of my life, but somehow this time, those first six months of 2007, were unlike any other. I was so awake, so charged and open and ready. My life very much felt like mine to live, not at all this defensive thing I've felt it become as of late.

I have to wipe the tears away right now, hoping Greg, who is working at the dining room table, doesn't notice. He asks me sometimes if I think I made a mistake by moving to Chicago. I always shake my head. Of course not, I reply. And I mean it. But it's no secret that I've never been able to find my way back to the place I was in when he met me in early 2007.

And just now, reading the entries from back then, I missed myself. Is that possible? Of course it is.

I've thought about that time every day since I moved here. About the person I was during the last six year I lived in LA. That time has taken on a mythical quality. I wonder sometimes if any of it ever really happened at all. Or if it did, if it was really that great. Sometimes I tell myself that it wasn't.

But just now, reading through those old days I rushed straight back. And I was reminded that it was indeed that magical. Those evenings of late night runs down the Venice boardwalk after a long day of school and clients. The little French doors to my apartment. The way the mist would fill the canals at dusk. What it felt like to go to sleep alone, to wake up alone, to sit down at my computer to write in the mornings.

That time in my life is deftly over. I live a different life now, in a different place. But that doesn't mean I can't harness the same power I had then, does it? It doesn't mean that I can't find the same kind of balance, the same joy and levity and awe I had for life, does it?

I hope not. Because that's what I'm on a mission to do. I'm sick of feeling like things are just good enough. I want the best me back. I found her once and that means she must exist still somewhere. I'm going to find her.

16 Comments

  1. There are definitely “me”s that I miss from different periods of my life, but I think it’s possible to find your old self and still be who you are now too.

    Comment by Racine on October 5, 2010 at 12:58 pm

  2. Oh, I also love your old LA archives, Claire. But I like the new Chicago you too!

    Comment by Stephanie on October 5, 2010 at 1:16 pm

  3. I love your determination Claire!

    Comment by Annie on October 5, 2010 at 1:58 pm

  4. Claire, from an outside perspective, your life looks and seems so perfect – wonderful family, career on the up and so much more to look forward to. Sometimes when we’re in the middle of things we look to other phases of our lives to search for what is an ideal situation, with more purpose, but there never really is. It’s always what we make it. If you at 28 could see you now, I’m sure she’d want to be here.
    I know you probably think you don’t have the time to give back to the world or do ‘purposeful’ things, but you really do. And I strongly believe that when you do manage to do this (and not as part of work or for family), you’ll stop searching for that missing piece of yourself.

    Comment by Aeshna on October 6, 2010 at 12:08 am

  5. Yes, I agree. Thanks for the encouraging words!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on October 6, 2010 at 7:03 am

  6. Aw, thanks Stephanie!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on October 6, 2010 at 7:07 am

  7. Ha…thanks Annie!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on October 6, 2010 at 7:07 am

  8. Gosh, you really struck me with thinking about what the 28 year old me would want for the 32 year old me. And the answer is that she would resolutely want exactly what I have right now. Thanks for making me see that! And for your other kind words.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on October 6, 2010 at 7:08 am

  9. You just described exactly how I felt living out west. I’ve recently moved back home to Chicago and aren’t sure I like it. I definitely do not feel like the same person I once was. I will be 32 this year. I want my old self back so badly but too much has changed. I’ve seen a shrink too. Pretty useless.

    Comment by Confused on October 6, 2010 at 12:45 pm

  10. Sounds like we both need to head back West!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on October 6, 2010 at 9:13 pm

  11. Wow, this post really spoke to me, Claire! I found your blog when I was considering moving from Los Angeles to Chicago with my husband to be near family. We decided to move to Florida instead and now I am aching to return to L.A.! I first moved to L.A. when I was 28 (I just turned 34) and it was a magical time for me. I made my dream of working at a movie studio a reality although it was a lot of hard work. I struggled so much for three years, but looking back, that is when I felt the most ALIVE. We’ve moved back and forth to L.A. a few times since 2008 (we have been like a band of traveling gypsies!)but I’ve never been able to recapture that magic again. I know exactly what you mean about missing yourself. I miss who I was when I was 28, but I wouldn’t want to relive that time again. I’m happy to be older (and maybe wiser??), but I miss that exhilarating feeling I had upon arriving in L.A. and chasing my dreams. We are moving BACK to the city I adore so much next month, and I’m determined to make it work this time. It’s time to say goodbye to the 28-year-old version of me and find out what the 34-year-old can become. Sorry this is so long-winded – I’m a writer, too. :) Thanks for being so inspiring! L.A. or bust, right??

    Comment by Liz on October 7, 2010 at 3:02 am

  12. LA or bust! We are moving back to LA next spring too. Lets get together then and figure out how to tackle this problem! We can do it!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on October 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm

  13. Sounds good, Claire! :)

    Comment by Liz on October 7, 2010 at 7:39 pm

  14. Thanks! Trying!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on October 8, 2010 at 10:45 am

  15. I’ve just found your blog and am glad I did. In August my husband and I moved to Bakersfield, CA for his job after 3 years in Chicago. We really felt at home in Chicago and this transition has been pretty rough. We’ve been making trips to LA when we can because we really miss city life and haven’t really found our place or friends here yet. I completely understand not feeling entirely like yourself. On the one hand, maybe I’m romanticizing Chicago and my time there, but on the other, without those rosy memories, how can I ever hope for having that same happiness and balance where I am today?
    ps. If you have any suggestions for things to do north of LA, I’d welcome them!

    Comment by Hannah Q. on October 15, 2010 at 3:59 pm

  16. Wow, you guys are like the opposite of us! What is Bakersfield like?? Youll adjust more and more all the time. I think actively trying to make friends and explore your city helps a lot. There are so many resources online for that kind of stuff these days. I definitely know what it means to miss a place though.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on October 16, 2010 at 10:22 am

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