Julie Stalmer 5:30 p.m., Sept. 22
- Community Blog
Farewell to Clairemont
I left Clairemont.
I left because, in just one week after settling in the new neighborhood, I was out of a job. The same one that made me move there in the first place.
And there was nothing wrong with the job itself. Ultimately, it was my fault for not being sufficiently perceptive, for not having the sixth sense, that elusive gut feeling, or whatever else they call it. I liked the prospective job, the employer, the location, and thought that was all that mattered...Right?
The bells should have started ringing at the post-interview lunch, about the time my future boss threw a fit and demanded to see the restaurant manager over the number and quality of the ice cubes in her drink which didn't match her elaborate request. I should have known then. Unfortunately, my survival instinct haven't kicked in until three weeks later, when the same boss was berating our receptionist whose name I still just barely remembered. The poor girl was crying and visibly terrified. I always thought that reprimands are only appropriate in private, but my opinion hardly mattered. In fact, I was specifically called upon to learn from her example and hear a lecture on the importance on never repeating the wrongdoing. I obliged, but felt like crying myself. What if, in my line of work, I make a mistake as well? God forbid. By the time I was finally released from witnessing the abuse, I felt ready to flee the closing trap. The bells' ring was now deafening. I walked past the beautiful, sobbing redhead with tear-stained eyes, past the ringing phone, which she was too shaken to answer, past the bipolar boss from hell, picked up my stuff and left.
It all unraveled so quickly I was completely unprepared. Without a car, I couldn't move my belongings and furniture back, and had to wait for help. Clearly, time was not on my side. I spent the next month in my North Clairemont apartment alone, unemployed, crushed, unsure of myself and the future. The unforgivable failure to take root made me feel like I didn't deserve to eat other than the cheapest, the most basic foods, which I purchased, grudgingly, at the local Smart and Final. A dozen eggs and ramen go a long way. Is there anything wrong with drinking only tap water? Oh dear, you're too spoiled. Mornings were so steeped in misery I tried to delay awakening as much as possible, sometimes wishing I wouldn't have to open my eyes at all.
Strangely, at my lowest point I could only stand listening to one song. The one that eventually helped me pull myself up and out of this mess, and survive. The one that for me will forever remain tied with the memories of Clairemont. It was Jeff Buckley's New Year's Prayer. "Feel no shame for what you are...fall in light..." The gloom gradually subsided, and I started developing a couple of sanity-preserving routines. One was going to the beach, the other exploring the neighborhood and the surroundings. Obviously, having to rely on public transportation limited my options, but even on these terms you can get around, as Clairemont is served well by the MTS. If you catch just about anything that runs along Genesee, and go north, you'll end up in the University City. Though I rarely felt like going there. Somehow the glossy upscaleness of La Jolla rubbed in my current de-facto bitter bum status. Less arrogant Clairemont was the true comfort zone. Route 44 became one of my favorites. It originates in Clairemont Square, follows Clairemont Mesa boulevard up to Convoy street, turns sharply south and runs down Convoy, brushing up against the Mesas, then streaks diagonally via Linda Vista road all the way to the Old Town. It may take almost an hour, but patience is a virtue. Some of the most tempting Asian restaurants are right on Convoy street. More often than not I got off the bus on the corner of Convoy and Balboa, to catch MTS #27, which connects Kearny Mesa transit center, through the core of Clairemont, with Pacific Beach near the Crystal Pier. Nothing lulls anxiety like staring at the ocean and listening to the waves. "Feel no shame for what you are..."
I left a month later, but continued to pay the rent until the lease was up. The price of mistake, payable in monthly increments by personal check or money order. I went back to my old job, my old boss, who rehired me in a heartbeat, as she promised when I was leaving. I bid a bittersweet farewell, having survived the tumble, and grateful to Clairemont for having been my home.