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Friday, November 2, 2012

My Life

My neighbors in Oakland, giant trucks at Dreisbach Shipping
Photo by Madeline Horn
My life is unrecognizable now from the life I led 6 months ago, and it seems time to share with my readers how I arrived at this place and time. Sometimes it is enormously helpful to sit still and think about how you ended up where you are. Upon self-reflection you might find you need to make changes, or you might be proud of yourself for getting to the place you’re at. For me, I realized that various circumstances had led me to a place I no longer wanted to be.

For the past two years I lived and worked in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, where community ties are strong and the sun shines brightly 90 percent of days, yet you can be robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight. Taco truck workers are killed in botched robberies and middle school children are coerced into gangs at school. Prior to Oakland, I lived in San Francisco and New York City for 14 years. I worked professional museum jobs by day and art house movie theatre jobs by night. I went out often to see bands, art shows and films. Last spring, when I analyzed my situation in Oakland, I realized that I was not leading a life I felt comfortable with. My initial optimism about Oakland had morphed into an underlying fear after years of daily struggle to keep my workplace safe and welcoming amidst an often hostile community. To make matters worse, my relationship with my boyfriend of five years was floundering.

As summer rolled around, when everything in my life felt broken beyond repair, I threw in the towel, discarding the good with the bad, following my heart in a leap of faith. I quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend, and moved to my hometown of Santa Cruz, a ninety-minute drive from the city. I now alternate between two family homes, my 96-year-old grandmother’s my mother’s house, where I was raised. 

Why Santa Cruz? It was an obvious choice, since my family needed my help and I needed theirs. I now split the responsibilities of caring for my dear grandmother with my mom. Also, the natural beauty of Santa Cruz called to me in contrast to the grittiness of Oakland and the congested dirty streets of San Francisco. Furthermore, I felt fundamentally unhappy with the museum work I had been doing. I want to build the life that will make me most fulfilled, because, as I hear the kids are saying these days, YOLO (you only live once). I am single and I have no children. This means FREEDOM. Freedom to explore what it is that will give me the most satisfaction in life. An important point here is that my search is not all about career. I need a lifestyle in which I have the time and energy to make healthful meals, go camping, spend time with friends and family, and pursue creative projects. If I can mesh the professional and the personally fulfilling, all the better. 

My biggest passion in life is travel. I am not able to hunker down and focus on one project for long without hatching a plan to explore more of the world. As Edward Readicker Henderson wrote, “Whoever created the world went to a lot of trouble. It would be downright rude not to go out and see as much of it as possible.” This quote sums up exactly how I feel. I cannot leave this earth without exploring as far and wide as I can. How this will manifest itself is yet to be determined, but I am moving in the right direction now. Yes, I am dead broke, and sometimes I get lonely and bored living at home. I often question my ability to thrive in a non-urban environment, when I desperately miss the intimacy and chaos of city life. Yet, overall, I feel myself getting closer to a life more true to myself. 

I am blessed to have family in one of the most stunning areas on earth. My life could go a million different directions, a thought that is both exhilarating and terrifying. I am writing daily, reading books, rediscovering my hometown, doing yoga, riding my bike, and looking at the ocean a lot. This lifestyle can’t last forever, but its what I need right now. I am open to what comes my way, with the knowledge that I am working towards a life that honors my passions. 

Life Before:

Madeline in West Oakland
Photo by Madeline Horn

Yes, Oakland can be beautiful. Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Oakland.
Photo by Madeline Horn

View from bedroom window in Oakland
Photo by Madeline Horn

Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Oakland
Photo by Madeline Horn

Life Now:

New shakes, Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz, CA
Photo by Madeline Horn

Summer night on the railroad tressle to the Boardwalk
Photo by Madeline Horn
Santa Cruz sky
Photo by Madeline Horn