The Return, Part I: Where Did Caroline Go?

I was called a mushball today. Well, there goes my reputation.

It’s not like I was ever an emotionless robot or anything, but “sentimental” and “delicate” are probably not the first adjectives people would choose to describe me. “Gregarious,” always. “Sassy,” frequently. “Sweet,” sometimes. “Mushy,” never. In fact, an ex-boyfriend once said I was too independent for my own good. Another one nicknamed me “Tuff” instead of calling me a more traditional term of endearment. I’ve always had a bit of “strong” image –not the movie stereotype of the tough girl you’re too scared to approach; I’m too friendly for that– I’m more of the self-sufficient, comfortable-in-her-own-skin girl who waits for no one. Being affectionate and emotional were just not my style. Being called a mushball is a surprising departure from the “Ice Queen” moniker I received in high school…a moniker that my friends still taunt me with as a sometimes-truth.


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Fearless! Hear me roar.


Recently, however, there’s been an undeniable shift in my inner workings, my mentality, my attitude. Does that sound overly dramatic? I’m not sure what happened in the time I’ve been away. I’ve come back to realize a transformation has snuck up on me. I’ve gone from sunny to luminescent. Bubbly to effervescent. Energetic to tireless. I’ve gone from breezy to doubly carefree, if that makes sense; my propensity to overthink things has seemingly given way to another part of me that fails to recognize anything resembling irritation or frustration. It could just be my post-career break, rose-colored glasses; such life events significantly increase positivity and conversely diminish most nuisances into trivialities, don’t they?

Still, it was more than just recharging my batteries. In fact, I’m not even sure you can call my break “rest and relaxation” because I was constantly on the move. Believe it or not, I slept even less than I do normally! Returning to some semblance of routine after four months and a handful of timezones, I suffered no jet lag because I’d had no sleeping schedule while…uh…not having a schedule. (Ha!) Despite the lack of sleep, I feel revitalized. Endlessly benevolent. Inspired.

When I first embarked on my international escapade, I avoided calling it “soul-searching.” I thought, that’s not what this is; this is me pulling myself out of a rut. In the end, it turned out that I did some self-discovery anyway. Or, perhaps, self-rediscovery is the more appropriate label. A part of me that enjoyed the slower pace of life outside Silicon Valley (a New Yorker will probably scoff at me saying that) refuses to go back into dormancy. That same part of me is making more time for music, writing, relationships, even cooking. I started a little garden (but we’ve yet to see if my thumbs are green). I’m considering adopting a little puppy. I’ve lost my aversion to little things that cry and poop in their diapers. Oh dear. Maybe I have gone soft.

The most surprising realization is that emotionally aloof Caroline has turned into a hug-loving Caroline – one who freely doles out affection and doesn’t fortify her fortress when someone gets too close. It’s the (re?)birth of a Caroline who no longer needs to keep up with the boys (can you blame one of a few girls in a male-dominated company/industry?), and who admits that she has emotions. A Caroline who doesn’t view emotions as a display of weakness, and whose emotions don’t need to be bottled up. Whoever this is…I think like her.