Last Friday I went to the American Council on Exercise, a place where I worked from January 2006 to November of that same year. I had to pick up a book for school, show off my son and have lunch with an old co-worker. Although I only worked there just under a year, it was by far my favorite place of employment. The people there were great, I still maintain friendships there and the organization itself is just amazing.
Now, I'm pretty sure anyone can relate to being anywhere from their past and old feelings come up, good or bad, or even music can bring up past memories. For me, when I hear “Sister Golden Hair” by America I instantly get goosebumps and think of being a little kid, being in the old Dodge Van with my parents and can even smell the carpet from that van. Or the smell of Ponds Face cream always makes me think of my mom. It's like these things are linked up and can never be broken from our brains.
I haven't stepped foot in that office since my last day there, over 2 years ago. Before I went, I hadn't even thought about that, or what might happen when I got there. But let me back up for a moment. When I first started there, I had just moved out and separated from my first husband. I was in school full time and had to get a job to support myself and pay for my apartment. I immediately loved the job and the people there, but couldn't get away from my personal problems. It was pretty obvious I was going through a tough time and a little embarrassing as well. As the months progressed my friendships got tighter, but my life fell apart more and more. I discovered my husbands infidelities, and the drama that surrounded that ensued. I was served divorce papers at work that summer. I had also started a relationship with someone that was intense and drama filled from the get-go. I remember going into the bathroom at least twice a week, sometimes every day to go into a stall and cry. I was a mess. My personal life was a disaster, but I loved the people and the job, which kept me sane. I left the job because the person I was in a relationship with talked me into moving up to the bay area, so I quit. A month later after we broke up they had already filled my position, so I couldn't come back.
I guess I had forgotten that the entire time I worked there I was in a monumental life changing place in life. When I look back at my time at ACE, I remember the people, not how I felt in my heart. But when I pulled into the parking lot on Friday….it all came back like a tornado. My eyes fell on the front doors of the building and the parking lot and I immediately said out loud, “oh…my….God”. I could vividly remember having screaming arguments on the phone with my ex-husband, being so angry my whole body shook, thinking even though I was outside, my co-workers might still be able to hear me, and knowing I had to wrap it up in a couple minutes and go back inside to be a professional. I quickly pushed it from my memory and went inside. Walking through the halls of the building I passed by the bathroom where I used to go to cry. I literally felt like I walked past my old ghost at that moment. There she was, dressed in her perfect outfit from the Banana Republic, looking gaunt and lost. She was sad and confused. She was a completely different person than I am today. It made me very uncomfortable to be there for a few minutes. I could feel all the tension I felt once before, as if I had left unfinished business there and it re-entered my body.
I went to lunch with my friend and was planning on going back in to visit a few more people. But as I sat in the parking lot, I really just wanted to leave. As the day went on I couldn't stop thinking about how I felt and what a strange, physical and emotional experience that was. But, I'm grateful it happened. It reminded me of how far I have come and how much I have grown. At one point I was in a place where I only had a tiny sliver of hope at best that things would get better. I couldn't fathom “take it day by day”, so I chose to take it “hour by hour”. I made a choice to love myself when I felt that no one else did and that is what carried me. That, and a yellow post-it that was on my bathroom mirror that read, “When you are down to nothing, God is up to something”. I've said it before in previous posts, that I had to go through all the grief and turmoil to get to the much better and healthy place I am in. And for that, I say “thank you” to my old ghost.