The move has literally uprooted me a little bit. This town often changes in my mind, it morphs from something restricting me to a safe haven that I can return to. At first, after having moved back, it was nice, being in a place that is so deeply familiar that I feel like I could navigate it blindfolded. But after a while the restlessness sets in. My best friend once wrote me a letter saying “I know you feel best when you’re on the road” and she is right. I start craving the unknown again, I want to feel more independent and not feel confined by the thoughts of the people that have ended up staying. This feeling started in high school and it hasn’t left me yet.
I dream of moving away, I start looking for jobs abroad, I think of Canada, going back to the USA. Brexit stands between me and going back to the UK. My brother says, don’t uproot your life for a job. Why not, I say.
The other day I watched a tv show about California with my parents and it shows the little seaside town where I used to live and it painfully reminds me that I belong nowhere, really. I mention this to my friend and for a split second, she looks so sad. Is it pity?
A lot of people feel like home to me, a lot of places do, but if I think about where to settle down, my mind is blank. If someone gave me money and told me to move to where I wanted to live, I would get lost. If someone asks me, where are you from, I want to say, legally or emotionally? I get invited to New York by my tattoo artists, but hotels are expensive. I think about Canada again.
So I try to be pragmatic. Where are the jobs? Where is the family? But where is the heart? So I look up airbnbs and airfare prices and my mom reminds me that I need to stay realistic. And I close the browser. I remember the vegan sausages that Patrick and I used to eat. I message him about it and how I forgot until something triggered my memory of them.
And then you leave. This has been a long time coming. Or has it? When you lose someone so close to you, it sometimes doesn’t look like it on the outside. We talk on the phone a lot, still, but the physical barrier now is a reminder of the emotional one, not, like it once was, a hopeful thought of an eventual reunion. My dad wonders about the phone calls, I can see it on his face. Some days I am incredibly angry. Some days the changed outlook on my future is so painful that it feels like the past three years are all piled up in one giant knot in the hollow of my chest. I bury my face in my pillows and throw the shirt in the corner of the bed so I don’t have to see it anymore. You got a job now and you’re so busy and it makes me feel good. I say to Jack, maybe this is the start of us all getting jobs we love. He shows me some props he drew for his portfolio and I pick out my favorites.
My mom says, you need to go out more. My dad’s friend emails me phone numbers, email addresses and I feel like, please, let me do this my way. Am I being ungrateful? Am I too picky?
I had been looking forward to traveling to LA, but when you ask me, I decline. Not in this state. You don’t admit your mistakes, but I don’t see mine either. Maybe we’re both wrong. I remember asking you whether or not I should move after I finish this next step, and you say you don’t know. That felt like a slap in the face more than anything.
At night, I help my friend who is not doing well. She texts me, panicked, and I try to stay calm, for her. I want to keep my loved ones safe.
I go to work, which, most of the time, feels like a safe little liminal space outside of the fears, anxieties and worries of daily life. My coworkers, who finish when I start, ask me, isn’t this job super boring? No, I say, I love preserving things for eternity. Only when it comes to the facts of people already passed it weighs heavy on me.
Sometimes, the word-sadness reaches me here, when I read certain words that I still cannot categorize completely. It turns into world-sadness that is hard to talk about. The thought of it opens up such a can of worms that I’d rather not talk about it at all.
I celebrate my birthday, surrounded by loved ones from close and far. We make a reservation in my favorite restaurant and I dress up in my new heels that I bought for myself. Stress shopping? Maybe. The food is good and for one night I almost forget what hurts. You don’t call, but you’re probably just busy at your new job. I stop spending much time on social media and the pressure of not doing exactly that sits in the back of my mind. You need to stay relevant, you need to be consistent or else you will fade away and no one will remember you. Is this really how it works? I have not updated my instagram in over a month and my fresh faced Facebook page is still empty. I work behind the scenes and my new website makes me proud.
I find a new café, hidden away under archways in a side street of this town. I sit down with my friends and they talk about their struggles, I talk about mine. I mention how whatever I do, it never feels like I’m doing enough. I remember that this always bothered you. Maybe I need a reality check, you said. I think it’s something that no one else but me can fix. My friends talk about broken families and I am grateful for mine and the support system that we are for each other.
I plan to journal more, but I end up never starting. I plan to call the doctor, but I miss the opportunity two times in a row. Keana says to set a reminder on my phone. On the day of the reminder, I look at it and put my phone away. I still don’t call. At least my new dentist has a space for me.
My cat goes missing. I am sick with anxiety, for two days. It’s storming outside and I cannot help but wonder if she is hurt, lost, confined or worse, dead. On a Saturday, I need to go for a test and I manifest out into the universe: Once I come back, she will be back.
The test is shorter than I expected, only three and a half hours. This is something I am good at, yet I can’t help but be nervous at the beginning. The stakes are high and my expectations even higher. Luckily, I am able to calm myself a little, which helps focus on the task at hand. I am the first to enter the break and the first to finish the test. It reminds me of high school and of how I never knew whether this was a bad or a good sign. As I leave, I start to worry whether or not I actually submitted my results. It would be an expensive mistake, had I not. I will find out in a few weeks.
As I leave, I pass a little flea market. It’s windy and the sellers are starting to pack up. I buy myself a Belgian waffle with some cash that my mom had given me and eat it in the car. I didn’t realize how much this test had weighed on me until it’s over.
I turn on my phone again, and the good news flood in: Lilo is home. She had gotten stuck on a tree and firefighters came to rescue her. When I walk into the living room she walks towards me, purring. She is calmer now, less aggressive towards us. Maybe this little adventure has made her more appreciative of us.
On a lot of days the world feels very heavy on my shoulders. Topped with fears of climate change and nuclear war and it gets even heavier. I wonder if other people here wonder about the same things. Yet, I make plans. Maybe not fast enough, for my parents, who knows. I meet new people, we discuss blogs and talk about spiders and snakes. I decide to visit my aunt, go thrifting with Lindsay and to see Helen in Amsterdam. The thought of getting away, even to other familiar places and people, feels good. The storm outside matches the storm inside, and it’s pretty cold here. I hope that by the time the weather clears, my mind does too.