Sigh (v.): emit a long, deep, audible breath expressing sadness, relief, tiredness, or a similar feeling

I can’t stand chronic sighers.

More specifically, I am annoyed by the type of people who routinely let out deep sighs while doing mundane tasks, such as washing their hands in a public restroom, sitting down in a chair or sticking their TV dinner in the office microwave. As if the act of living is too much to bear.

In 2015 I became a chronic sigher.

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2015 Resolution Revisited

On January 4, 2015, I wrote a blog post called “Surprise Yourself” that described my hopes for the year which included the following quote that I planned to live by:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful. And don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

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When I moved to California half-way through the year I was proud of myself for sticking to my resolution: “Surprise Annie! You now have a new zip code – just like you always wanted.”

Working from Home

Many people assume that blogging is my full-time job, and I understand why. Excluding my career from my writing allows me to secretly live out my Carrie Bradshaw fantasy. However, the reality is that I have always been too scared to talk about what I do and my feelings about it for fear that it will jeopardize my livelihood. And it’s time to confront that fear.

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I work for a software company in Scottsdale, Arizona as a Product Manager – a popular position in the tech industry. My day includes working with each department to ensure that the website is performing well while providing functional specifications and mockups to a team of developers who code the new features.

When I chose to move to California, the company allowed me to work remotely which sounded like a dream come true. I imagined a day that started in trendy coffee shops and allowed ample time to explore Los Angeles – taking photos, meeting people and writing all about it. And every two weeks I would travel back to Scottsdale where I stayed at a friend’s condo in the same room I lived in 4 years ago complete with my beach cruiser. Sounds perfect, right?

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It’s Not Working

As I landed in the Phoenix Airport from San Francisco on the Monday morning before Thanksgiving, I couldn’t stop crying. People who witnessed the panic attack probably thought there was a death in the family. Barely able to catch my breath, I called my friend, Lauren, as the airport escalator descended to Baggage Claim.

“Anxiety has taken over my life. I can’t work from home anymore, and I have no mental energy for anything else. I don’t feel like myself anymore! And I’m so scared to go into the office right now after feeling like I’m behind on emails and IM’s. I just want this to end!” I spilled to Lauren between sobs as I sat on a luggage carousel.

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Feelings of failure and fear had fueled my days over the past 5 months as I waded through emails and IM’s alone in my living room in a new city. Back-to-back calls made it impossible to work from noisy coffee shops, and if a call didn’t go well, I had no one to turn to but my pet frogs and a bottle of wine. My answer to “How is your day?” had switched from an unwavering “Wonderful!” to “Okay” while I gained 10 pounds, lost touch with friends and simply let out heavy sighs.

“Annie, it sounds like it’s not working,” Lauren replied. “And that’s okay.”

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What I Realized

In a recent letter to a friend I described to him what I realized over the following three weeks:

I realized that when it comes to places – especially where I live – I truly am a sentimentalist. I want to love the crap out of a place. I think we’re the same in that way. I want to explore every nook and cranny and discover which of them I like. In new nooks I draw inspiration and in comfortable crannies I create something from it.

While I thought it was the result of loneliness, as I described in an earlier post, I realized the real culprit. On my last week in Scottsdale before returning to Los Angeles for New Year’s Eve, I decided to be honest with myself and my team at work: “It’s not working for me anymore.”

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Goal for 2016

2015 was certainly filled with madness – even if not all of it felt good at the time. I did read some fine books, from Madame Bovary to Modern Romance. I kissed a few people, including a former crush and a close friend. While I didn’t make as much art as I wished, I still painted and wrote and danced.

And while I thought that my surprise move to California had backfired, it surprisingly provided an important reminder for one of 2015’s greatest goals: Live as only you can.

  • Working from home might work for your boyfriend – but not for you.
  • Marrying young might work for your sibling – but not for you.
  • Living in the suburbs might work for your parents – but not for you.
  • Traveling regularly might work for your friends – but not for you.
  • Your career might work for your co-workers – but not for you.

And that’s okay.

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In 2016 I am on a quest to discover exactly what works for me and what doesn’t. I want to find a way to make a living while doing what’s best for my well-being.

As I sat down in front of my laptop on Monday, January 4th in Santa Monica I let out one last deep sigh – of relief.