Today I feel like I can create time with my bare hands. I feel as calm and as useful as a bag of oats. I feel like a painful weight has been distributed evenly & fairly across my shoulders, and that I am finally strong enough to bear it.
One day, it just calls to you.
Maybe it’s a gentle whisper, or maybe it’s like a nasty pan smacking you square in the face. It’s time to leave this place.
You start to flounder, creating excuses as to why it’s too soon. You make more plans with more people in more places so that you can try to drown out the resonating sound of the call, and you cling to the humans near you like they are some precious diamond, and you tell yourself the lie that there are no diamonds anywhere else.
You get your affairs in order - you marry, you get a vacuum, you get a Costco membership. And you don’t tell anyone that the vacuum is temporary, the Costco membership is temporary. The marriage is not temporary, but when you look back it is a beautiful tool that helped you ease your mind before the leap.
You start to tell your friends - go for it! - they say. You start to toss in mentions of your dreams to your family - it’ll never happen - they hope. In fact, you don’t ever remember actually sitting your parents down to say hi I’m moving 2,000 miles away from you.
You start to pare down your belongings.
You say it’s for the move, but it’s also secretly because you’re a little depressed and terrified, and it’s the only way you feel in control. 15, 12, 9, 8, 6, finally 5 pairs of shoes. You have idle hangers in your closet for the first time in a decade.
You now notice only practical and sensible blacks, whites and greys in your closet, but your pink jeans are gone. Your floral boots are gone. Your sequin sweater is gone.
You get sad, but you don’t realize that you’re just a snake shedding her skin, and that a new & beautiful skin will grow back, 2,000 miles from now.
You quit your job a little earlier than you thought you would, but it doesn’t hurt as bad as it would have if you stayed - your friends get laid off a week after your final day. Without knowing about the layoffs, you all go out and get very drunk after your last day. You get a little sad leaving a group of people, especially women, who you’ve grown to admire.
You begin to say goodbye to your friends, who have also gotten married and purchased vacuums (they’ll move soon too, but they keep the vacuum). You start to say goodbye to your alehouse, to the scary bar across from Costco that you always thought you’d walk to but you never did because it was called EZ’s Fusion Zone and it was next door to a laser tag place that you also never went to.
You say goodbye to your Target, to your apartment complex pool you used four times, the little back trails through the woods to get to Starbucks or the park where your aunt’s friend found a dead body and where you also got your engagement pictures taken.
You plan on leaving in October, but decide that January is better “because we’d miss the holidays” - but you’re really just still terrified.
You pack things in boxes, tightly, because space in your Honda Civic is running out, and so is the time you have to back out of this move. You call on the Tetris skills you inherited from your father to fit two people’s lives into a tiny sedan. And you succeed - it’s the first time you feel like you could really, truly do this.
You drive a U-Haul for the first time to drop off unneeded furniture at your parents house - you drive 2 hours alone in the rain in a vehicle filled with peripheral belongings and no rear view mirror.
This is the second time you realize that you can do this.
You live at your parents and in-laws houses for two weeks over Christmas. You wake up, one final time, to your mom wishing you Merry Christmas and seeing a boatload of presents, still, under the tree. You don’t know yet how much you’ll love Christmas in California.
You spend one final New Year’s in your best friend’s apartment, drunk and gossiping, where your other friend falls asleep in a dog bed.
Five days into the new year, you’ll wake up at your in-laws house and say goodbye at a blurry 6AM. There’s snow on the ground as you back out of the driveway, and you’re racing through your mind to try and remember if you’ve forgotten anything. If you did forget something, you’ll never remember.
As you drive southwest on a blue barren highway, the clock says 6:49AM. We haven’t been up before seven in years, you’ll say. And you realize that you’re actually doing it.
You’ll have every plan in the world to eat carrots and sugar snap peas on the road, but instead you’ll eat Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Subway and Cracker Barrel for the next three days.
The ton of miles ahead of you doesn’t weigh as much now that you’re in Missouri - now that you’re safely south of the snowstorm that is hitting your family back in Indiana.
You see the Mississippi River for the first time. And then you see another river that maybe looks like it and you’re not sure if you wasted your bursting traveler’s heart on the first river or not. It’s okay, you’ll see a lot of great rivers.
The eerie flatlands of Oklahoma bring you peace, the pastels in Texas make you think that spring is right where you left it - just under your winter coat. But you’ll really love the mesas and the mountains, looking like National Geographic magazine clippings littered across the landscape. And the first time you see a tumbleweed or realize that it’s Route 66 bobbing up and down alongside you as you drive, you’ll wish you could cry.
You’ll arrive in Los Angeles and stay in a hotel with an ultra-nice bathroom, but not much else. You’ll eat In-N-Out on a hotel bed while watching a strange Matt Damon film while the neighbor’s baby weeps. You’ll worry a little.
But when you peek out of your peephole in the morning and see a palm tree and a pool, your heart will flip and a smile will emerge from the back of your throat and burst forward out of your face like a yell.
You’ll find an apartment, buy a bunch of bad furniture, and start work as soon as you can. Your saddest days are ahead of you, and your happiest.
You’ll hide the sad days because you don’t want anyone back in the Midwest to know you’re struggling. You’ll sit in the same dress in your apartment for three days, and you’ll flirt with agoraphobia because you’ve spent so much time alone in a new city with no soft place to land.
And then you’ll go to the beach, and you’ll ride bikes, and you’ll climb mountains. You’ll finally drag yourself to that yoga studio, and you’ll bring your depression along and get downward dog and dirty with it all. People will start to know your name, and hearing the sound of your name spoken by a new friend shatters the grey-colored glasses you had begun to see the world in.
You’ll get a job, you’ll get a different job, and you’ll meet your people. You’ll start to wear pinks, and greens, and flowers, and sparkles again.
You’ll wonder why you were so scared to leave, but you’ll love your past self so tenderly, and for all that she was, because she arrived here and here is a pretty beautiful place. It’s not perfect, it’s never perfect, but it’s a choice you had and you made it.
You love yourself for the agency you had, and the agency you’ll need to have as you emerge from the 27 years of your former life into the next 27 years.
You’re that snake, you were dull and scratchy, and now you’re glistening evergreen & cosmic blue, wearing a regal iridescent armor that you never believed you were strong enough to wear.