Words and image by Janice J Valdez Gaitan
Anything can happen in Austin, Texas. I established myself in Austin, made lifelong friends, built my first home, and I had a rewarding career as a home designer/lifestyle photographer in Austin. I met my husband, Raul, in Austin. We built our lives together. For him, something was missing. Raul had always longed to serve in the United States military. I was lucky enough to have loved what I did for a living. I wanted my husband to be able to love what he does as much as I did. He deserves it. After weighing out the pros and cons, together, we made the decision to let him chase his dream.
The news of relocating came so fast that I didn't even have time to let it soak in. I hit the ground running so fast that I was numb to the thought of leaving home. It wasn't until the unpacking was done and the empty boxes were hauled away that I had time to actually let it sink in. It hit me, I am starting completely over. I was going to take advantage of the free time I was given to do something new, I was so excited. I spent two weeks, almost 4 hours a day, just researching web development and design. I was ready to take it all on. Soon enough, the cold weather crept up and I found myself physically and mentally barricading myself under blankets. I started to question if I was being selfish for taking the time to myself, I became closed off, and my self-esteem had dwindled down to non-existent.
By the end of October, I had completely lost my drive to do anything. I made excuses for myself for being this way. "I worked so hard for so long, I deserve a break. I deserve to take a mental health break." All the while I was hating myself for thinking those things. No matter how much Raul assured me that I deserved to take a break, I continued to feel hopeless. Most of all, I felt like nothing. It takes an incredibly strong person to love someone with depression, and my husband is one hell of a strong man. I started out each new day telling myself that this would be the day that I would get on the ball. Every little bump in the road ended up becoming a roadblock, and every roadblock gave me more reason to crawl back into my bed under a blanket. I was given the opportunity to just run with it, but I didn't feel like I deserved it. Slowly, I started to pull pieces away from that barricade and I started to put in work. I signed up for web developing/design courses and I was knocking them out left and right. I forgot how much I enjoyed coding and seeing how beautiful the end result could be. I even started to make it a habit of searching online for part-time home designer and photography gigs in the area to bring in some extra income. I was hitting dead end after dead end. If I wanted to find work that would satiate my interests I would have to drive at least 40 minutes to an hour away. I was so determined to keep my focus on learning my new craft that promoting myself to get work was something that I knew would deter me away from my goal. After a while, my streak of good days started to fizzle out and I found myself back behind that barricade.
Since studying and job searching weren't going as smoothly, I turned my attention to looking for new friends in the area. Now, I know everyone says this, but, my husband truly is my best friend. We have the best time together. The man just gets me. Raul gets me in a way that encourages me to always believe in unconditional love. However, sometimes you just need to have a girls night that involves booze, the loudest cackling gaggle of hens, and heartfelt conversations. After trying to put myself out there failed, I realized that I truly was not feeling up to meeting new people. I don't even feel comfortable in my own skin. Here I am in a new place, feeling useless, trying to focus on a new career path, childless, and I'm the (older) new military wife in the room.
My insecurities made it so hard for me to put myself out there and meet new people. The feeling of excitement that I had for meeting new people started to fade and I started to close myself off, again. The barricade was back up. I played with the thought of going home to Texas for a visit. Just to feel the closeness of home and be with all things that are familiar. I knew that wasn't the answer, I would be running from something that would greet me with open arms as soon as I came back.
The day finally came when I was tired of feeling sad and defeated. Something in me just sparked. I made it a point to get my ass up, make my bed, take a shower, and throw some makeup on. I looked damn good. It was the most I had done in weeks. It felt good to just not look the way that I felt. It may seem so minuscule to anyone else, but to me, it was a small victory. That little victory gave me so much hope. I started to break away that barricade. I yearned to find someone who knew exactly how I felt and what I was going through. I needed to put myself out there, no filter. I wanted to be able to speak from the bottom of my most-of-the-time aching heart.
So, I took the plunge. I stepped completely out of my comfort zone, took a deep breath, and submitted a pitch to Holl & Lane Magazine. It felt good to write about it, even if it was just a pitch. I want to share with you that you are far from alone. We are kindred souls. This is me- welcoming you with open arms. After submitting my pitch, I went to bed feeling accomplished. It was another small victory for me.
Days went on and I worked hard to get through them. I daydreamed about getting an email saying that my pitch was accepted. I started to wrack my brain about how to sort out my thoughts on paper. I tried not to get too excited, after all, so many amazing women have wonderful stories to tell. I was a needle in a haystack. Then, exactly one week after New Year’s day, I found myself in my bed blindly sifting through my inbox when I came across an email from the Editorial Manager of Holl & Lane Magazine informing me that my pitch was accepted. I was officially invited to submit a piece for the blog. Feelings of happiness overcame me. Most of all, in the midst of all of my misery, for the first time in (what has felt like) years, I felt victorious! This isn't a small victory- this is a VICTORY!
About the Author:
Janice is a married family woman, crazy dog mama, advocate for kindness, creative, and proud Texan. Janice loves to try new recipes, bake cookies, and binge horror movies in her free time. She is currently learning web development/design, dabbling into product photography, and continues to work as a lifestyle photographer. She and her family are new to the east coast and military life. You can find her at a music festival, a dive bar, or at home snuggling with her husband and puppy child.