Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Flashback - Denver

It's not quite time to share some of the big things happening in my life right now. Such is the internet - you never know who might be reading. In light of not spilling the beans, I'd like to make a post about a time in my life that helped set in stone a definition of me that I always envisioned for myself. When I say that: I mean that I imagined being a 'me' that I wasn't yet.
When I was young, maybe 14 or 15, I thought a lot about being an adult. I was pretty angry about a lot of things; pretty sure it showed. But I loved Pretty Woman and Heartbreakers - not only because they are super girly either. I loved this idea that just because you come from a certain place or are surrounded by certain people, you can just choose to be different, leave and change. Now that is fascinating. You might think 'everyone knows that', but I'm here to tell you that was not always obvious to me. And further on that - people don't always support you when you do.
I learned things as I grew up and started to understand myself. Even from then, I knew I wasn't a family person. I love my family, but not enough to stay someplace I don't want to be. That is a huge distinction in this life. Most people "end up" where family is. They might venture off in college or move for a while to "find" themselves...or, of course, start their own family and put that first. Family pulls people in. Not sure if it's because mine is small, or because we don't operate as a unit, or because I've never wanted children, or just because of my priorities. In any case, I was gonna be out in the world - I knew that 15 years ago and it's true today. The photo above I took from my car window. That's my Uhaul trailer when I drove from Tulsa to Denver. I had all the important things: clothes, art, bits of furniture, an apartment rented, and a part-time job lined up. Don't get me wrong, my family visits. That next photo is my mom and me in Denver waiting for the Harry Potter movie release. I just knew that I was meant to be somewhere else. And that I wanted to be this strong, independent, artsy woman who is healthy and happy. I based certain aspects of this person on my mom, and both of my grandma's, and, of course, I idolized people in popular culture. At the time I was this envious, selfish, attached, and scared young girl. But thankfully, all it really took was some time completely on my own to become a better person.

The first year in Denver went by so fast. I was working 3 jobs at one point, dating an idiot for part of it, and trying to get used to a new place. Eventually, I got a great job and decided I should buy my first house. Now that may not be most people's conclusion after one year, but it was right for me.

I couldn't believe it was mine. Everyone should own something that big. It's incredible. I remember the day I signed the final paperwork, I got home about 5:30 with my keys and I just laid flat in the middle of my newly carpeted living room floor. I was really glad to be me and proud of all the decisions I'd made leading up to that moment.

I tore that house apart. I updated everything I could get my hands on. Painted, scrubbed, changed, fixed...you name it, I Googled it - and did it. It's so empowering! I could do absolutely whatever I wanted to that entire house and had not one single person to answer to. It was awesome.

After settling in and getting the house in order, I decided to rent the rooms in my basement. The rest is history, as they say. My second tenant quickly became my favorite person in the world. That photo is the first one I have of us together. I love that bossy guy. Someone would have had to work miracles to break my independent self-absorbed streak in life. This one makes me melt. Boyfriend continues to help me become a better person every single day.

I made so many great friends in Denver. The wonderful Mandy, who is never afraid of being goofy. She was my closest friend through a pretty rough time - but we'll save that for another post. Cat, my second favorite tenant, that crazy girl has fun doing just about anything. And Lenny, the coolest guy in Denver. Chris, who makes the best food and has the kindest smile. Corey, who is always down and the best drunk I've ever hung out with. Beth, the absolute sweetest person I know - still. Leanne, my advice girl, miss her. Dennis, Margo, John, and Barb, wonderful discussions and always with an amazing amount of goodness. And tons of others.

Boyfriend threw me a surprise birthday party...just cause. We were only friends at the time; it meant so much to me. I'll forever consider myself very lucky to be his friend.

I picked out my own furniture and discovered a side business. I made a lot of money just picking up free or really cheap things, making none or a couple of changes, then re-selling them. You just never know what opportunities life will throw your way.

I learned to like sports in Denver. I discovered hockey - its awesome. Went to see baseball games and my first NBA game.

I missed my family for the first time. It feels so good to know they're there. They came to visit for my first Christmas in my house. I'll remember that always. It might not really make sense, but it was just nice to miss them.

I officially changed my name in Denver And not just 'most people call me'...I always liked when people called me El or Ellie before - so, fuck it - I just changed it.

I got a dog. He didn't end up with me because of some situation like previous pets, I actually went and I picked him out myself :) I named him Gryffindor and he's been loving the heater and sneezing on me ever since.

I learned to snowboard, sort of. I tried Eggs Benedict and couldn't believe no one told me about it until then. And Bloody Mary's. They always seemed so gross - I mean, tomato juice? But they are fantastic!

I went organic; that was weird. I tried Zumba, hot yoga, picked up running again (hadn't since HS track). I made friends with pretty much every person I came in contact with - that taught me a lot. I baked cupcakes for my Vietnamese neighbors. I made dinners for people (that was a first believe it or not).

I was hit on while applying concrete mix to the brick on the front of my house. I borrowed my Mexican neighbor's ladder and cleaned my own gutters. I drilled out a door knob (might not sound big- try it, let me know what you think).

Through my job, I learned how to recognize value in real estate. I overcame my fear and photographed multiple empty, vacant houses in sketchy areas. I learned the city enough to drive around without GPS (I haven't done this since, by the way). My house had 18 different places to sit at one point. I found that extremely exciting.

I had my own painting studio. I was so busy that I only used it every couple weeks or so. But, everyday I had the option and that, I loved more than I can say.

I tore out a solid brick bar from my basement with 6 hours straight, a sledge hammer, and some serious Metallica. Yeah.

I experienced amazing generosity when I casually mentioned an expensive car repair I would have to pay for at the end of the day only to find out my boss went and called ahead to pay for it. If I am ever appreciated again as much as I felt I was at that job - I'll be a very lucky employee.

I got to feel important in Denver.

I fell easily into my role as a landlord. I learned to gently manage people, make rules but not be overbearing. I feel like those are good lessons for work and for life.

I partied for the first time. I hardly partied in college...most 4.0 students don't get out much. So this was huge. I knew the best dance places and the best drink prices. I'm irrationally proud of this and not at all embarrassed. I rode in those little bike buggies. I figured out my favorite drink and how many I should/can have. I loved living in a city where there's basically something happening every weekend.
I did learn to appreciate having people around, but I loved my time alone. I developed all these habits, that I'll always have I'm sure, with no influence - just mine. I like to eat tortillas with macaroni and cheese. I like hamburgers re-heated. I drink tea. I like sitting on the floor sometimes. I enjoy working out in the evenings. I prefer to hang out sans pants. If left to my own devices, I will happily sleep until noon - then have breakfast. Eggs are good all day. I like folding clothes while watching movies. I love alternative lighting. If it's on the ceiling - keep it turned off. Lamps are charming. I hate when the TV is the focus of the room. I like walking through the house when I talk on the phone. I'll always think you've really made it when water comes out of the front of your refrigerator. And I like playing solitaire with actual cards.

I'm so thankful I had my time in Denver. It feels like a rite of passage now. Like, that time when I learned who I was. But in my case though, I stand by what I said. I really just learned to be who I wanted to be.

I took this photo the day I sold my house.