What the fuck am I going to do? How do I find my something? These are the questions I asked myself after the Great Rejectioning, in addition to other questions like: How long will it take? and Will I be crying the whole time? Should I take hallucinogenic drugs and soul search? Should I Forrest Gump my way across the country, running until I don’t need to run anymore?
What did Inigo Montoya say? When a job went wrong, you go back to the beginning. The beginning of what? Where? When? I went back to the beginning without even realizing that I was doing it.
I immediately decided to leave Chicago after the day I burned the letter. The world was telling me to leave and move on with my life, or at least, that was what my gut was telling me. And I trust my gut. If it said jump, I said, “Yeah okay, if you think that’s the right thing to do.”
Some people—or most people, I guess—hate moving. The packing and driving and unloading and resorting and putting away and settling. I like to move. I don’t love to move. I’m not that my-kids-are-going-to-go-to-thirteen-elementary-schools person; I’m not going to be that lady. I don’t want to be that lady. That lady needs to plant some roots and calm the fuck down. But I do like to move, for a few weird idiosyncratic reasons.
Number One: I have this obsession with packing.
When I moved from California to Chicago for graduate school, I spent three weeks packing my life into twenty-four clearly labeled, tightly taped boxes. I liked seeing all of my stuff so compact and well organized. I should point out that part of the reason I was so detailed was because I was afraid that I would lose a box. But, that fear was in vain. I was shipping everything on Amtrak, which is the most efficient and inexpensive method of moving across the country. Seriously, protip: if you are moving mainly boxes, use Amtrak. It’s the best. Those guys in the basements of the train stations shrink wrap all of your boxes together on pallets, so ain’t nothing getting lost. But I didn’t know that at the time I was packing, so I was thorough about taping them all, and labeling them all, and numbering them all.
The boxes arrived a few days after I did. When I got the boxes home from Amtrak, I took a head count, and then carried each box to its intended room. One by one I unpacked and reordered my life with reruns of The West Wing in the background. Twenty-four boxes may sound like a lot (or not a lot depending on how much crap you have in your fucking house), but that was what was left after weeks of pre-move purging, and this is coming from a life-long purger, which get us to…
Number Two: I love having an excuse to get rid of shit.
I celebrate the equinoxes and solstices by purging. I start with my bedroom closet, and fill at least one bag with clothes to send to Goodwill, and then I go through everything else in my apartment. I’m all about letting go. Have I worn this recently? No… FUCKING GET RID OF IT! If I don’t need it, I don’t keep it.
My prep for moving is every one of my seasonal purges put together and times ten and then on crack cocaine. I get rid of bags and boxes of crap. It’s not really crap, and I know it’s not crap; it’s stuff. But, too much stuff clutters the space and that clutters the mind. It probably doesn’t help that I have this deep-seated fear of becoming a hoarder. Scenario: Has anyone seen the cat? No. Have you checked the basement? No. We can’t really get down there anymore—it’s full of old copies of Entertainment Weekly and all those Mexican coke bottles that I might one day use for that craft project in a July 2005 copy of Real Simple that I have around here somewhere.
But it’s more than just the packing and the purging, it’s the joy of unpacking and putting away, both physically and psychologically, which brings us to…
Number Three: I love having a fresh clean place to put everything away and appease my anal-retentive passion for order.
I thrive in the serenity of a clean space. When I was in college, I would procrastinate studying for finals and writing papers by cleaning, partially because I was avoiding the work, but also because I couldn’t concentrate on the studying or the paper writing when there was a dirty kitchen pulsing at me in the other room. Down to my bones I am a cleaner. I clean when I am happy, or sad, or stressed, or anxious, or excited. But I digress.
When I move, I get to put everything perfectly in place for the first time, and organize everything. I both love and hate that first week I live in a new place in part because it will never look that nice again. I haven’t had time to fuck everything up with the buying and storing of crap I won’t use for six months until I finally get rid of it. It’s me at my most delightfully minimalist. It’s the most basic, simple me. Every time I move, I get to get back to that, and it’s like starting over, which brings me to…
Number Four: Whether it’s across town, across the country or across the world, moving allows for tabula rasa.
The farther the move, the bigger the leap, the more rasa’d the tabula. For the big leaps, those transcontinental, transoceanic leaps, that’s a big slate getting cleaned, and a whole lot of starting over. To wipe all that stuff off of the slate and leap, you have to trust that you can start over and put back together everything that is just sitting in the boxes, or the bags, in your hands. (I don’t know your life. Maybe you’re running away from the mafia and you only have a backpack. Maybe you’re a nineteenth-century immigrant and you only have a bag full of silver spoons. Yeah, Nicole Kidman in Far and Away, I’m talking to you. MY SPOONS!) I love moving if only because it allows me the chance to furiously wipe down the slate just to see it clean again.
Now that I’ve written all of this, maybe the world wasn’t telling me to leave Chicago. Maybe my gut just knew it was time to clean the slate.
“I think I’m going to leave Chicago,” I told my sister Gen on the phone, as I walked home from work later that week.
“And go where?” she replied.
“I don’t know yet.” I answered quickly, excited to talk about it.
She asked if I was thinking about going home. I told her I couldn’t go back to California. Even if it wasn’t moving in with my parents, moving back felt like a regression.
“I want to go somewhere new,” I finally said, saying new as a child might say the word candy.
“Well, maybe not completely new —or not—maybe totally new. I don’t know.” I felt the most free-spirited I had felt in my life saying those words. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted. I just knew I wanted change. We talked for a little longer but when the conversation ended, nothing had really come to a conclusion.
I liked the idea of moving to a completely new and different place, just like I had done with Chicago. Maybe a big bluesy town in the south. Maybe a small quaint little town in New England. But, at the same time, I thought, I’ve done absolutely new. I know I can do that. What’s something that I haven’t done?
A few days later, I called my sister again.
“Portland.” I said.
“You’re moving here!?” she replied incredulously.
“I think so.”
Gen moved to Portland for college when I was in elementary school, and had moved back there after a fifteen-year hiatus. Portland was new and not new. New state, new city, but would bring me back to my beloved west coast, and bring me closer to family. I would definitely be starting over, but this time, with a safety net. And, I have never lived in the same city, let alone the same house as my eldest sister. This was most definitely going to be a new beginning.
Taking a leap like moving to a new country, new state, or new city isn’t for everyone. It was something I needed to do. I am of the firm belief that if you don’t like where you are, go somewhere else. Did it help me? Yes. Will it help you? Maybe. And unless you’re an absolutely free spirit, a move should be planned. Planning, thankfully, gives you time to ease yourself into the change if part of you is apprehensive, or (also thankfully) can make you uncomfortable enough to back out. Backing out is fine, too. The heart of this crisis is the need for introspection and reflection. If you think: maybe I should start over somewhere else, and you’re immediate reaction is oh god that sounds horrible, then don’t do it unless you feel like this is a life experience you need. Personally, I think everyone should throw themselves out into the world once in their life. You could hate it, but even if you do, you could also realize that you are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for. You just needed the chance to see it.