War of the Selves

War of the Selves

I’m back in San Diego. For five weeks, the sun has been shining, the birds have been chirping, and the streets have been bustling with that calm, buzzing energy I love so well. I’ve been gorging myself on the joys of southern California, delighting in ocean views and desert hikes and incomparable—impossible—produce.

I’m applying for an apartment today. It’s a six-month lease, a mere block from where I lived one year ago, B.N. (before nomad). It has everything I could possibly want in an apartment, with the small exception of a gas stove. (Turns out you don’t need a stove for rice cakes and hummus anyway, so hey.) (Rice cakes are my latest crutch-cum-bad habit because apparently you really do turn into your mother.)

I feel simultaneously elated and concerned. It would be so luxurious to have my own place, surrounded by my own things, following my own rhythms. I could retrieve the boxes of books and mementos I left in a friend’s attic. I could hang art that represents my tastes. I could invite guests to stay—for a night, a weekend, a week! I could spend entire days observed by no one, watching Jane the Virgin with nasty, unshowered hair, covered in rice cake crumbs (seriously, it’s a problem), popping into the bathroom whenever I wanted without having to decide how much sheepish eye contact to make with the person sitting right outside who definitely knows why I’m turning on the fan and hopefully won’t listen to what’s about to happen in there.

Glorious.

But.

Am I giving up a dream? I was supposed to be traveling indefinitely, gradually acquiring fewer and fewer belongings, not settling back down within a year, throwing in the proverbial towel on this identity I hardly had a chance to try on.

I toured another possible living arrangement: three roommates seeking a fourth for their big, beautiful house with large, exuberant dogs and lemon, orange, and avocado trees on a hill overlooking the ocean. I saw the place as the sun set last night, and it was a kind of paradise. Still, as soon I as I stepped into the house with its stained carpet, stray tufts of fur, and disheveled sofa cushions—as I too-firmly shook hands with the young beach people who smelled of marijuana (not a judgment) and work in surf shops—I knew I didn’t belong. My gut told me, “You can’t live here.”

I drove away, fantasizing about the kind of couch I’d buy for my new apartment above the sandwich shop, and realized a dream version of me had already died.

If I were truly the nomad, the detached wanderer stopping in for a medical reprieve, this house would be perfect. Its eclectic inhabitants, warm, welcoming vibe, and social atmosphere would fit beautifully on the person I was trying to be in Maine, the person I thought I could become long-term.

Here is where I feel a deep conflict because I want to dismiss my time in Maine with, “I wasn’t happy there,” but that doesn’t capture the whole story. I was happy when I embraced the beauty of the setting, when I relaxed into the mess and allowed myself to be witnessed, when I took time to get to know and understand my housemates (except for that 70 year-old Pizzagate mansplainer, but he doesn’t count). I had wonderful experiences in that house, even when it was filled with the stench of rotting rats. I loved that I could text a friend about an eerie light in my room, and three minutes later, he was there scoping it out with me. That kind of casual intimacy can fill up spaces in your life you didn’t know were empty.

Now I’m sitting here thinking about not just where I want to live but who I want to be. I feel like I’m on the precipice of casting a significant vote about my character, and I’m not sure I like the direction I’m headed—a magnetic pull toward the bougie comforts I scorn and crave in equal measure, joining the flow of those around me, allowing the current to take me where it may.

Back in B.N. times, when I worked in a cubicle, I would console myself that the energy I saved with structure and predictability would be spent on doing good in the world. Is that something I can make true now, or am I retreating into the familiar, hiding from the painful effort of letting go, needing less, growing smaller?

I’m not sure.

But it’s only a six-month lease. Right?

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Shattered

Shattered

Remember how I thought I’d leave Vancouver with a “hump full of happiness” that would carry me to Minneapolis? Well, that turned out to be a Best Laid Plans moment. After a wonderful conference filled with delightful friends—both new and old—I was ricocheted back into chaos when my car was broken into overnight in the fancy neighborhood I was staying in.

Half my wardrobe is gone. All my jewelry is gone. My sense of safety and security in this world is gone.

Twice in as many weeks, I’ve had the foundations of my faith fall from underneath me. People are inherently good, I tell myself. The once-beloved blocks me on another platform. Trust and believe, I say. Strangers smash my window.

I’m feeling robbed not just of memories and irreplaceable gifts—tangible items that tied me to a past I visit with both affection and regret—but of a sense of the belief that people rise to the faith you place in them.

An old therapist liked to ask whether I expect too much of people, and maybe she’s right. Maybe it was too much to expect a close friend to explain before cutting me from their life or for passersby to NOT SMASH MY FUCKING WINDOWS. Maybe I’m a fool, sitting around waiting for the world to be kind and generous and safe. Maybe the naysayers are right, and you should protect yourself; stay closed, locked, out of reach; become a fortress, impenetrable. Maybe I should furl into a tiny corner of myself until I all but disappear.

Maybe I could disappear.

I woke at 3am in a tent on a lakeshore in the middle of Washington, and my chest was in a vice grip. I lay there for hours, wishing I could cease to exist, wishing the sun would stop rising, the birds would stop chorusing, and the world would stop demanding my presence in it. The burden of finding a positive path forward, of renewing any energy, any zeal, any appetite for another step through this wasteland of human garbage, felt too heavy to bear.

A friend told me it’s time for self-care, and he’s right. It’s good advice. The thing is, I usually soothe myself with hiking. I’ll be driving through Idaho and Montana and Wyoming these next few days, surrounded by gorgeous, immense wilderness, and I’m terrified to leave sight of my car. (You best believe it’s in view as I write this.) How do you recover a sense of security when you’re out here alone, when a violation of the tiniest part of the world—a car window—is an invasion of your whole world? How do you leap back into faith and pray, this time, people will prove you right?

I’m carrying a new passenger—fear—and it laughs in my face. You thought you could outrun me. You thought you were free.

I intend to face that asshole today and go for a hike anyway, because if I don’t, the bastards win. Even if I’m terrified, even if my heart races and I can barely enjoy the sights through a thunderous roar of anxiety, the one thing I know about myself is I’m competitive as hell and stubborn, and I don’t let bastards win.

I wanted to write only positive news here, to share my life sunny side up, but the thieves took that from me, too. I’m raw, and there’s no hiding it.