#Paula

Paula Fletcher was my mother’s best friend since they were in sixth grade. They grew up around the corner from each other in New Jersey and celebrated various life milestones together- she was the maid of honor at both of my mother’s weddings (to my father and then, her second husband). A couple of years back, I traveled to Dallas to spend Thanksgiving with Paula where we jammed out to the Purple Rain soundtrack and burned a turkey. The last conversation I had with her was back in April, asking her if she needed anything, any help through the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that she was fine and hoped that I was doing well in Austin. Paula recently died of heart failure. She was 58 years old.

I’ve been helping my mom sort through her funeral details. It’s been a challenge with COVID-19 but somehow, we’re making it work. Paula didn’t have much of a family life- my mom was considered her family, and Paula was never married. I asked Mom about this. Growing up, I remember Paula being around often but without a boyfriend or a partner. She said that Paula dated quite a lot but never found “the one.” She focused on her work and her friends. I’ve been thinking a lot about that these past few days, how Paula didn’t have a significant other in her life. She never seemed lonely. Paula had her friends, my mom especially. I can’t help but compare her story to my own- dating around but never settling on one person.

I’ve been floating in and out of relationships this year. My relationships lean more towards a sexual gratification which is great- it’s what I need, and I’m finding myself more alone during the hours that I’m not working. I’m really enjoying this alone time, catching up on books and painting. Perhaps I’m bitter from my last break-up but I struggle with seeing the purpose of a partner. I’m doing great without one. This time, being quarantined, has taught me that I am all-encompassing and I very much enjoy being alone. I don’t want to be with anyone.

What are the benefits of being partnered? Do the benefits of being single outweigh them? I think about Paula and her free spirit without the need to answer to anyone (although my inner feminist says that you don’t need to answer to a partner to begin with). She didn’t need permission or to check in with anyone. She didn’t have children. I asked my mom if Paula ever expressed desire to have kids and she said that she was fine being to the “cool aunt” to me and my siblings. I however, unlike Paula, aspire to have children. Lately, the only benefit that I can come up with to having a partner is to have someone to raise children with (I like to note that I do have several sperm donor options for when/if I choose to have a kid on my own). I have read the benefits of raising a child in a traditional mother/father household. But then again. I know of so many women who are raising bright and well adjusted kids alone, by themselves, as well as great people who were raised by a single parent.

As always, my thoughts eventually venture to death. I like to think that it would be nice to have someone hold my hand on my death bed but then I ask myself if it is the worst thing to die alone? Don’t we all die alone anyway? There are many benefits to being single (I know… I just Googled a bunch). I used to think worst thing in the world was being alone. So much so that I’d chase these awful relationships with awful men who destroyed me emotionally. I once heard that your 20s is when you make the mistakes and your 30s is when you learn the lessons from them. Now at the ripe age of 34, I’ve been reviewing such past mistakes of mine and I came to this conclusion: I’m really good at being single and I really enjoy it. Same as Paula.

Rest in peace, Paula. We miss you and will love you forever. And you, dear reader; even if you’re alone, I hope you don’t feel alone. Being single isn’t a curse- its a gift.

#WhenIGrowUp

I loved lobbyist life but will I love being a lawyer?

I blame Michael Cabrera.

My junior year of college, Michael asked me to be his campaign manager for the Vice President race of our university’s student body. I never was a campaign manager- hell, I only met Michael the semester before- but he believed in me and liked my vision and campaign strategies. I worked hard (especially when election week consigned with midterms- I didn’t sleep that week as I spent the day studying and the night screenprinting “Vote for MC” t-shirts).  I became addicted to campaign politics, which grew into an obsession of national politics. (Oh- and Michael won.)

It was 2008 and I was seriously considering a career in the political arena. I was graduating with a journalism degree and liked public relations but there was something about government work that was calling to me. And what were most lawmakers before they became so? Lawyers. Attorneys. BINGO! I wanted to be a lawyer. I started telling everyone I knew that I was interested in going to law school. It was going to happen. But then, life happened as it always does. I applied to the Peace Corps to elevate my resume and job experience (I didn’t get in the first time but did the second time and ended up declining the offer). I dropped out of school and didn’t finish until four years later.

Still, eight years later, law school has been on my mind. A lot of career thoughts have been these last several months. Although I like my job and am great at my job, I want to do something more mentally fulfilling. I just don’t know exactly what. Here’s what I do know, though: I like helping people, whether it’s registering them to vote or serving them a cocktail. I’m a good, solid writer. I like telling stories. I’m creative and openminded, with the willingness to try anything and everything once. With all that said, I don’t know what career path is best for me based on those qualities. With the current political system, I feel like there are several groups of people and issues that I can fight positively for. But then, I start thinking about all the other paths that I could possibly do…

  • A marine biologist. Elementary school Andrea wanted to be a marine biologist so she could swim with dolphins and train seals. Then, she realized how much math being a biologist took and decided to go a different route (even though, now and again, I still think about swimming with some ocean friends and educating the public about our oceans and climate change).
  • A news reporter, telling the stories firsthand from war-torn countries. I recently finished a biography about Marie Colvin, an award-winning journalist who died covering the Syrian War. In high school, I envisioned myself roaming sub-Saharan Africa, interviewing locals about politics. Now, in my 30s, I still dream of traveling the world with a reporter’s notebook in one hand and a camera in the other, telling the stories that no one reports on and featuring the most dangerous places in the world.
  • A movie director. Another high school dream. I’m obsessed with movies and I spent the latter half of my 20s kicking myself for not going to film school. I now know that every successful film director doesn’t have to attend NYU or AFI and I’ve written a dozen screenplays and treatments. I’m currently taking a break from the sci-fi short film that I’m working on. But I still want to be doing more. I could be doing more…
  • A happily married wife and mother to a handful of happy and healthy kids (foster kids included!). I want to experience pregnancy and childbirth. I want to make breakfast and dinner for my family every day, volunteer in their classrooms, cheer their sports team every game and read bedtime stories every night.

Maybe it’s millennial angst and indecisiveness. They could be the reasons why I and so many others can’t figure out just what we want to do for the rest of our lives. But maybe it’s more. A few Christmas ago, my stepmother and I were talking about work when she said something that hit me profoundly- she told me that she didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up. I was stunned. She seemed to love her job, a special education teacher. She even got a masters degree in education. I asked myself, how could she want anything else?

Now, I get it. I just hope that I can figure out my path soon.

What do you want to be when you “grow up,” dear reader?