Here are some sentences, in no particular order, that have come out of my mouth during the past, oh, two weeks:
- “I’m pretty definitely moving back to DC.”
- “St. Louis is really great and has a lot of stoops. I think I should move there.”
- “Probably, I should just go back to Minneapolis. Will you guys have an extra room when you buy that house?”
And some things people have said to me:
- “Actually, I’ve always pictured you in Philly.”
- “Come on. You’re totally gonna end up in New York.”
- “You know, everyone’s moving to Portland.”
- “Didn’t you hate DC?”
Welcome to the late 20s: when absolutely nothing is certain, beginning with the time zone in which you’re supposed to live.
As of less than nine months from now (short of extending my MFA, which I reserve the right to do thankyouverymuch) I have no idea how I’m going to make a living. And, at almost-twenty-eight, about as many candidates for My Husband as I did when I was eighteen (you know, roughly half of none).
But for some reason, the fact that I still don’t know where I want to be seems like the most daunting decision that looms. Perhaps if I knew anything about those other two Big Things–what I want to do and who I want to be with–it would be less so. But, oh yeah, I don’t.
And of all the things in the world to be outraged about–nuclear weapons, the cost of a tooth cleaning, wheelie sneakers–this is what outrages me most: that so many people I love are spread out in so many godforsaken places.
I really, really, really appreciate having lived in three states plus a federal district in my life thus far. Each of those places–New York, St. Paul, DC and Albuquerque–feels so essential to my worldview. And I imagine, I hope, that each of them will always be a part of my life.
And were I so lucky that the friends I’ve made in those places had the courtesy to stay there. But of course, like me, they didn’t. Like me, they’ve felt the need to explore and make homes for themselves elsewhere. Leaving me with dear ones spread out in the above cities as well as everywhere from Seattle to Los Angeles to St. Louis to Chicago.
And, accordingly, completely confused.
I’ve been saying for a while that I’m done with going someplace completely new: it is exhausting, not to mention extremely time consuming, to put down roots and find community in a place. I’m just over it: I feel ready to be settled, and unwilling to start that process from scratch.
But as my friend E–who only has nine years on me but, rather absurdly, literally tens more states under her belt–put it when we talked about this last week, it’s hard to go back.
I know exactly what she means: my resistance to going back to New York is so bound up in the deep associations I have from growing up there. (Also, in the fact that the B train is perpetually out of service and it’s impossible to get concert tickets before they sell out.)
And my resistance to Minnesota and DC is, partially, that they seem so essentially connected to the periods of my life when I was there.
Not because those periods were toxic, or even bad. But because we tend to think of ourselves, especially at this stage of life, as on some sort of ascending path: to maturity, to being more settled, to finding our true occupation, our true passion, our true happiness.
And it’s hard not to fathom returning to a place you’ve already been without imagining that you will somehow slide backwards on that proverbial path: that you will revert to an older, lesser version of yourself–rather than continue growing into some future, more realized, thinner and prettier version.
I realize that whole, better future self thing is mostly false, and at the very least an idealization: I know that whenever I picture myself in the future, I am always about two inches taller and have much smoother hair–modifications I have still yet to achieve.
But there’s a lot to be said for the mindset with which you approach a place, and whether or not that mindset is logical, it’s bound to have an impact.Which means I might have as much reason to go back someplace as I’ve got to start someplace new.
And, thankfully, a lot can happen in nine months. Perhaps in March all my friends will band together and start a peach farm in New Jersey. Perhaps I’ll meet my future husband in January and he’ll tell me all about his inherited estate in Virginia. Stranger things have happened.
And, honestly, let’s hope something happens. Because right now, I haven’t got a clue.