I Don’t Think We’re In Kentucky Anymore

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After two weeks spent helping me get settled in my new place in Prescott, Arizona, my mom just left and I’m pretty sure she ripped my heart out and took it with her. I know that at 27, most mothers and daughters aren’t quite so attached at the hip, but not everyone can be as wildly cool and dysfunctional as we are. It takes a certain level of dedication–to all-day Gilmore Girls marathons, junk food dinners, and early morning lakefront walks—it takes a willingness to shirk responsibility in favor of bonding time, it takes a measure of incurable neuroses and a generous helping of sarcasm, witty banter, and general disdain for the rest of humanity. And, above all, it takes boundless, unconditional love and admiration–something we’ve got in spades.

I could sit here bawling my eyes out, ruminating over the fact that these next three months will be the longest we’ve ever spent apart (not that I haven’t lived alone for the past eight years, but we spent an inordinate amount of time together because, well, see above re: the rest of humanity–no one else measures up), but instead I’ll choose to be grateful that I have a mother so wonderful as to inspire such intense levels of separation anxiety. Few, if any, are so lucky.

Also, it’s less than three hours until noon and I have a fridge stocked with WASP levels of alcohol, so that helps. In fact, in a feat of impeccable timing, my daily planner–ruler of my life–ends today and my new one doesn’t start until Monday making today a glorious, lost day. No niggling compulsion for productivity so as not to leave blank spaces in my daily breakdown, no accountability for a shameful amount of time spent binge-watching Netflix, no written record of cooked meals eschewed in favor of downing an entire box of maple pecan crunch cereal with a pineapple cider chaser—basically, I’ll be reveling in my natural state of being when left unchecked.

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But first, I will attempt to cover at least a portion of what’s transpired these past few weeks, though, I can’t promise much in the way of skillful writing or accurate recall–having the memory-span of a goldfish makes things tricky. Between packing a Dodge Grand Caravan to the gills in a truly incredulous feat of Tetris-style mastery, a three day cross-country road trip with stops in Lawrence, Kansas (surprisingly charming) and heaven on earth (my Uncle’s house in Chama, New Mexico), finally moving in to my new place, a preposterous amount of trips to a number of chain stores that forced me to temporarily table my ethics in favor of affordability (the guilt runs deep, but I will admit that it’s nice to own such extravagant luxuries as unbroken furniture not rescued from alleyways and bobby pins not pilfered from the circus-studio floor), and settling in–these past two weeks have been a real whirlwind and I don’t think I could possibly begin to fill in all the details. Instead, I’ll provide you with a stream-of-conscious collection of musings and reflections on the big move and life in this new town. It will likely be somewhat indecipherable and utterly disorganized, so if you choose not to continue, here’s the short version: I’m here, it’s beautiful, it’s strange, I’m happy, I’m heartbroken, I’m everything in between, and the journey goes on.

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(Chama, New Mexico)

The town of Prescott is a weird and wonderful hodgepodge of all manner of existence–let’s start there. It’s filled with a spectacular olio of natural beauty–the cream soda scent of Ponderosa Pines wafts through the air like something out of a Willy Wonka fever-dream and stunning vistas of mountains and buttes encircle the town like the jewels of a behemoth crown. To the north, drip-castle formations of granite boulders surround Watson lake, undulating outward across an alien landscape while, to the west, Thumb Butte rises from amidst a forest of alligator juniper, ponderosa pines, and prickly pear cacti, presiding over the town like a benevolent ruler. To the south, nestled in an idyllic pine forest, the perfect mirror of Goldwater Lake reflects a vivid cerulean sky and cotton wisps of clouds like something out of a fairytale.

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(Prescott, Arizona.)

Much like the nature here, the neighborhoods, buildings, and people are also a motley crew. Walking through town square provides a kaleidoscopic view of humanity–greased-up, leather-clad bikers, aging hippies with bare feet and tie-dye shirts, bleach-blondes with overly-coiffed hair, pancake makeup, and skin baked to a crisp by the harsh Arizona sun, soccer moms with gaggles of tow-headed children, herbal tea-drinking, crystal toting, new-agers, retirees enjoying their golden years in lawn chairs beneath the shade of the statuesque courthouse, and, much to my horror, no small number of gun-loving, Trump-voting, conservatives. Not that that comes as a surprise–this is Arizona, after all–but I won’t deny that discovering one of my new, neighborhood businesses is a gun shop with a sign that reads “Make America great again, one gun at a time,” caused tremendous culture-shock and a fierce desire to rant, rave, pull my hair out, and throw up in my mouth a little, before calling for an air-lift out of here.

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(Prescott, Arizona)

Mercifully, my new home is truly an oasis. Situated on a private street at the foot of the pines, my quirky, 80’s, two-story town-home is quiet and charming with panoramic views of forests, streams, and a glimpse of Thumb Butte through the branches of an imposing pine. Its cozy interior was designed with my signature blend of mid-century modern, southwestern, and vintage style with a smattering of Mexican and Chinese folk art. Already, it feels like home. This is such a childish thing to say, but, I finally feel like an adult. Wait, that’s a blatant lie, I’ll rephrase–I finally feel like I have an adult apartment. No more easy-bake oven and Barbie dream fridge that cooled so unevenly I could only use the front half lest my food be turned to ice. No more eating on the couch (a borrowed one, at that) for lack of a dining table, or even room for a dining table. Here I have a life-sized stove and fridge, a real dining table, a desk so that work needn’t be completed while sprawled across the floor–I even have his and hers closets which seems wholly superfluous for a perpetually single hermit like me, but turns out to be quite useful as someone whose neuroses dictate the need for a halfway home for clothes that have been worn and can no longer live with the clean clothes, but aren’t so dirty as to necessitate relegation to the laundry bin. In fact, this house is so above-and-beyond the kind of place I intended to find (the rental market out here is a nightmare and my options were few and far between), I’m having trouble feeling I deserve it. This is a running theme in my life given how much I’ve relied on my parents when mental illness made supporting myself infeasible, but, excessive or not, I am exceptionally grateful to my parents without whom nothing in my life would have been possible.  So, I will attempt to quash the guilt and focus, instead, on that gratitude. They went above and beyond what any parent could reasonably be expected to do for their not-so-adult woman-child and I can’t believe my good fortune in having two such supportive, generous, and loving parents with a saintly amount of patience and an impeccable eye for design (a major bonus when they’re helping you furnish and decorate your house).

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There’s so much more to say and I have too little patience to write it, so I’ll leave you with some dribs and drabs and other assorted miscellany.

The title of this post refers to the fact that I kept calling Kansas “Kentucky” on our drive out here–much to the annoyance of my parents, and to the point where I then found it impossible to refer to Kansas as anything but Kentucky, before finally deciding that any state we drove through would henceforth be known as Kentucky.

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(The beautiful views in Kentucky)

I’ve had surprisingly few meltdowns during this whole, exhausting process, but I will cop to sobbing into a shower-beer the first night because, despite holding it together through the extreme chaos of the actual move, stepping into my shower to discover that the water smelled “weird” (the hot water tank just needed to be flushed after disuse) was the last straw for me. I’m very smell-sensitive.

After moving in, I went into such an industrious frenzy that I woke up at 5am one morning and spent an hour rearranging my entire bookshelf by spinal color.  Best decision I’ve made thus far.

My mom and I discovered an abiding love for blood orange cider drunk mid-day at our favorite local bar and proceeded to work our way through their entire stock. We also discovered that dehydration and blazing sunlight will get you good and toasted in more ways that one–that is to say drinking in such a hot and arid climate makes us real cheap dates.

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My three hour excursions (round trip and including treatment time) to the Ketamine clinic in Chicago have turned into a cross-state, ten hour Odyssean slog out here. Granted, it would have been nine hours had we not missed our return shuttle, but it’s still a marked change from the ease of receiving treatments before. Making the trip worthwhile (aside from the obvious necessity of the medication) was the extraordinarily kind staff and Turbo, the therapy dog, who gave me the best hug of my life before slobbering off all the coconut oil I’ve been using to plaster my face back together (my skin does not agree with the aridity out here).

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I worried disproportionately about a number of bees seen crawling into the woodwork above my balcony before remembering I just survived the world’s most heinous wasp infestation without batting an eye. Funny how being in a new environment can magnify worries that might not manifest in a place that’s familiar.

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Things I’ve broken since I’ve moved here:
-A bottle of coconut oil in the aisle of the Sprouts, after deciding that late-night, high-speed grocery shopping in a fit of delirium, following a nine hour car ride and two hours of unpacking, with only an hour to go before the store closed, was a serviceable idea.
-A brand new plate, after dropping it in the kitchen sink post-ketamine odyssey, whose shattering prompted a bout of drug and exhaustion fueled weeping and muttering about, “uneven dish sets.” Obviously, unevenness is a totally valid thing to cry over.

Things I’ve fumbled, almost broken, and had removed from my grasp by my watchful mother:
-Nearly everything I’ve touched. I blame the altitude. And maybe the cider.

Things my mom has fixed since I’ve moved here:
-A leaking pipe under the bathroom sink–turns out you can Amazon prime yourself a J-trap. What a world.
-A running toilet which she deduced had a defective fill valve through a series of Youtube tutorial guided explorations and attempted remedies. You can also Amazon prime yourself a Fluidmaster 400ARHR High Performance Toilet Fill Valve, which she installed in mere minutes with the aid of an antique pipe wrench (scoured from a row of local antique shops, after discovering that this town has no hardware stores in walking distance) and her general, innate, ingenuity. What a woman.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m sure more will come to me later as I process things during this upcoming week of limbo before school starts. For now, I’m off to eat sugary cereal and get day drunk. Let the emotionally maladjusted fun begin!

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Lethal Weapon

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Well, I made it through the move mostly intact.  I did sustain some damage to my digestive system–whether viral in nature or induced by a potent combination of pre and post-move celebratory beer, three screw drivers, two pints of coconut ice cream, and a vat of espresso, I can’t really be sure.  Now, six cars’ worth of boxes and furniture and seven laundry loads later, I’m settled in at my parents’ house until the big move in August.  The plan was for a three week marathon of cooking and eating, but the current condition of my stomach has put a bit of a damper on things.  Instead, I’ve spent my time here so far passed out on the couch, watching TV, or–if I’m feeling really productive–knocking off more pages of my crossword puzzle book.  This foray back into the couch potato-dom of my former depressive days has been interspersed with a whole host of doctor’s visits (prescheduled ones, unrelated to my stress, alcohol, and caffeine binge), so all in all it’s been a banner week for me.

I’m trying hard not to be salty about this turn of events, but I can feel the clock running down and these last days of living at home seem fleeting and precious.  Also, it’s a little hard to maintain your grace and composure when it feels like the universe is deliberately fucking with you.  I’ve already had to reschedule my ketamine infusion because I didn’t think an hour long trip on a drug that produces mild hallucinations and double-vision would jibe well with the amount of nausea I was experiencing.  I did an extremely scientific experiment to test this theory where I watched the last ten minutes of a Nicholas Sparks movie (judge all you want–I’m already judging myself harder) while crossing my eyes and slowly shaking my head back and forth.  Results were inconclusive, but I decided to push my appointment back to err on the side of caution.

That alone wouldn’t have been so bad, but then came the real gem in this treasure trove of misery.  (If you’re squeamish about female genitalia, I suggest you stop reading this post–or better yet this entire blog, as I have no patience for what I’m assuming is either a lack of maturity or, worse yet, some inane gender bias.)  I went in for a physical and was nearly through with my Pap smear when my vagina decided it had had enough and transformed the speculum into a projectile weapon, launching it across the room at a surprising velocity.  While I couldn’t see where it landed as I was flat on my back on the exam table, from the sound of things it achieved some real hang time.  At first, I thought the device had simply been removed, but then I heard the clatter of plastic against tile floor and the doctor, in a tone of bemusement, saying, “Wow–I’ve never seen that before.”  I’ll take Things You Don’t Want To Hear From Your Doctor for 2,000, Alex.  I should have been mortified, but thankfully I have no shame and was too busy trying vainly to stifle my laughter.  As soon as the doctor left the room I whipped out my phone and gleefully relayed the story to my best friend in graphic detail.  She was very impressed with my vaginal strength, and then asked a follow-up question that hadn’t even occurred to me–“Did it hit anyone?”  Considering this possibility sent me into a fresh wave of hysterics.  Fortunately for everyone involved, the answer is no–the doctor was clear of the line of fire.  Otherwise, I might have proposed rounding out the appointment with a mercy killing.  Perhaps next time I’m at at a gynecology appointment I’ll request they wear a helmet–just to be safe.

The only item left on my medical checklist is a visit to the dentist’s office tomorrow to grind off the residual glue from my DIY dental work removal where, at the rate this week is going, I’ll most likely clamp down on the dentist’s hand, severing a finger or two, then inhale the digits and choke to death in a bizarre and gruesome fashion worthy of a Final Destination sequel.  But hey, at least I won’t have murdered anyone with my vagina–and right now that seems like the most I can ask for.

I Looked, And Behold, A Pale…Wasp?

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And so it has begun. The day of reckoning is upon us. The end is nigh. Okay, okay, I’m being dramatic–I’m only moving out of my apartment. But it does feel rather apocalyptic. For one thing, the temperature has soared to a sweltering 95 degrees (with 100% humidity, naturally) as I’ve begun packing up my attic abode. Gotta love a mid-July move. You might be wondering, “You live in an attic in Chicago–don’t you have air conditioning?” Great question! My apartment is technically equipped with central air, but I am woefully at the mercy of my landlords (the system is for the entire house), whom I’ve long suspected are members of an alien race hailing from a planet much nearer the sun, granting them the power to withstand heinous temperatures. That or they hate me and want me to die before they have to return my damage deposit. (Just kidding! You guys have been great! Don’t look too closely at the drywall, though. Or the front door for that matter–I went through a bit of a knife throwing phase and my aim left something to be desired. And maybe avoid glancing down at the carpet–I can’t fathom why I chose to start a collection of rusted scrap-metal, either!)

The second sign of the impending apocalypse is the arrival of the wasps. For the past two weeks they have sent daily envoys from their nest in the eaves and I’m beginning to get the feeling they don’t come in peace. This burning desire to lay siege to my apartment is truly perplexing because no sooner have they entered than they begin their desperate quest for escape. They drift menacingly by as I’m relaxing on the couch, shattering my foolhardy belief that having four walls and a roof might afford me some magnitude of protection from the perils of the outdoors. If they’re lucky, I spot them in time to escort them from the premises via my handy bug-catching jar (every home needs one), but an unfortunate few succumb to the inevitable heatstroke that results from more than an hour spent in my apartment, and their needle-thin corpses pile in the corners of my window sills, forming tiny mass graves. I’ve kept a running count of the wasps–seven dead and twelve live ones. Will I make it to twenty before I move out? Stay tuned!

So, between the stifling heat and the invading hordes of wasps, I’ve found myself wondering aloud as I pack, “What circle of hell is this?” My first inclination was the sixth circle–being entombed in flames– because it feels as though I’m roasting alive. But I’m also knee-deep in a pool of my own sweat, so it’s more like boiling, really, which I suppose would make this the seventh circle–a river of boiling blood and fire. I may be a godless heretic, but I’m no murderer, so I can’t imagine what I’ve done to deserve this torture. I hear boiling meat retains its nutrients better than roasting, though, so at least that’s good news for the wasps when they come to feast on my molten flesh.

The one bright spot in this ghastly inferno (other than eternal hell-fire) is that the constant, looming threat of heat exhaustion and anaphylaxis leaves little room to feel the gut-wrenching emotions that this undertaking would otherwise engender. It wasn’t until I sat back after four solid hours of dismantling the home I’ve spent the past eight years creating with such love, care, and devotion, that I began to sense the first inklings of heartache. The all-consuming nature of such a monumental task can only draw focus for so long, but eventually the boxes are stacked, the packing tape is set down (after untangling it from my hands and every other available surface–seriously, fuck packing tape) and there’s nothing left to mask the gnawing realization that the time has come bid farewell to a chapter of my life–a chapter that has spanned the better part of a decade and seen me through such innumerable triumphs and tribulations that the notion that its trappings could be stripped bare in a matter of days is incomprehensible. I know the things that I’m packing away are just that–things–but the amassing of material possessions is a means of creating personal history, a living museum where each item is imbued with a certain set of memories, recollected upon sight, touch, or smell. (Or taste, I guess–I don’t know what weird shit you’re into.) The ransacking of that museum feels a bit like having the pieces of your brain and your heart torn apart and rearranged in a heedless jumble, like an ill fitting jig-saw puzzle, then being told, “Carry on–this is par for the course.” I suppose that’s the nature of moving on–it’s impossible to build anew without some small measure of destruction.

Once I’d met my quota of necessary destruction for the day, I headed to the sailing center in search of respite from the heat and the heartache. I went for a restorative paddle, drifting lazily beneath the balm of cerulean skies and hare’s tail wisps of cirrus clouds, relishing the lap of cool water as my board bucked beneath the muddled chop of Lake Michigan waves. After, as I wandered home along the lakefront toward Chicago with its skyscrapers standing tall like giants, gaunt faces of steel and stone, I knew another pang of sorrow–not just for the home I would be leaving, but for the city, too. I recalled countless nights at the beach spent lying on the bed of a catamaran, hair still damp and smelling of seaweed, a bottle of beer in hand, slick with condensation in the summer heat. Off in the distance the traffic would hum, the El trains grinding along their rails, but the water’s edge invoked a hushed reverence–a sense that these were hallowed grounds. I’d pass hours watching planes take off from O’Hare, arcing out over the water in trails of blinking light–the only bright stars you’ll see in a city where it is never truly night. So much of my life has transpired along this small stretch of shore–how can I possibly leave it? But I know I have my reasons. Drowned as they are by fear and uncertainty, I’m sure they still exist. I need only to summon the faith that they’ll resurface once more when this period of upheaval has passed. Besides, what’s the alternative–languishing in a blistering apartment, trapped with a swarm of stinging insects? Better purgatory than hell, I suppose.

Honey-Don’t

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It turns out, there is such a thing as being too productive.  My once beloved to-do lists–hallmarks of my post-ketamine productivity–have run roughshod over my life.  They consume my every conscious thought.  I awake each day and arrive home each evening to a chain of emails I’ve sent myself and then replied to endlessly, with items to be purchased, phone calls to be made, errands to be run, notes, reminders, and thoughts that have roused me in the middle of the night, taunting, You’ll be sorry if you’ve forgotten us come morning!  So, I write them all down on one of my myriad lists–the number of which seems to multiply exponentially with every passing week.

In architecture, there’s a term called “project creep.”  It’s the result of a nagging feeling that, if you’re going to do X, you might as well take care of Y, and, oh hell, let’s throw Z in there, too, while we’re at it.  It’s how clients who set out to do a guest bathroom remodel end up with a two story addition and a new garage.  They start with well-intentioned, realistic plans, but before they know it, reason takes a back seat to their burning desire to tackle every project they’ve ever dreamt of in one fell swoop–no matter how implausible or costly.   On ketamine, my project creep looks a little like this: I need to brush my teeth.  While I’m at it, why don’t I polish them with some baking soda?  (Crunchy hippie trick!)  Hmm, do I have any floss?  Cut to fifteen minutes later and I’m drooling over the bathroom sink, enthusiastically yanking my dental work out with a safety pin and a pair of rusty needle nose pliers, all the while praising myself, Look how much you’re accomplishing!  You’ve wanted to do this for ages!  Keep at it, you’re almost done!  Thank god I had to go to work or that avenue of productivity might have ended with me sitting in a bathtub full of ice, performing DIY surgery a la House MD, shouting, This is great!  What is this, my appendix?  Who needs that?!  Ooh, I’ve always wanted to take a stab at suturing.  I’m learning so much!  Mercifully, my organs are still intact, and I’ve since made a dental appointment to clean up my handiwork and grind off any residual glue.  (I may have no qualms about prying wires from my teeth with simple tools, but I draw the line at wielding anything with a power cord near my face.)

Beyond the day-to-day chores, moving has sparked a whirlwind of “getting shit done” that has me tackling bigger ticket items, as well–things I’ve been putting off for years.  I’ve arranged long-overdue doctor’s appointments (my automated healthcare system informs me I haven’t had a physical in eight years!  Who knew?!), cleaned out my closets three times over, purchased new dinnerware (after eating from two plates, one bowl, and barely a handful of silverware–all pilfered from my parent’s collection–for the past eight years)–I’ve even made plans to purchase a proper dining table!  No more eating on the couch like a slovenly frat boy, for me.  Gone are the days of licking spilled barbecue sauce from my sweatshirt because the couch cushions jostle my plate when I lean forward to inform Netflix that, Yes, I am still watching and I find it rude–and more than a little judgmental–that you felt the need to ask.  Soon I’ll be sitting upright in a formal dining room, eating over a table (okay, okay, it’s not actually a proper dining table–it’s a dough-prep table.  What did you expect?) enjoying my meals like a grown up, living beyond my means like a grown up, eternally fretting about finances like a grown up.  Ahh, adulthood–feels great!

All this productivity may seem like an asset, but I’ve reached the zenith of tackling necessary assignments and sailed right on by to inventing problems to solve in an attempt to soothe the task-driven beast in my mind screaming, DO MORE!  DO IT ALL!  YOU HAVE NO NEED FOR SLEEP WHEN THERE ARE THINGS THAT CAN BE DONE!  I can’t seem to strike that sweet balance between efficiency and down time.  Rather, my options appear to be ignoring the beast altogether at the risk of missing the occasional directive of actual import, or bowing down to the pressure and checking items off my lists in a maniacal frenzy before appearing to reach the bottom and jotting down, “Add more to-dos to your to-do list,” resulting in some sick, ouroboros-like cycle of eternal, gratuitous labor.

I’ve made every attempt to mellow out.  Yoga feels like a painfully slow waste of time that could be better spent making phone calls.  Watching TV is no distraction–so much paperwork and research can be done while watching TV that it’s more of an adjunct, really.  Even my favorite activity–baking–is interrupted by mad dashes to my computer as I recall yet another baking tool that needs to be added to my To Purchase list (subsection: kitchen). The only real cure I’ve found seems to be crossword puzzles–a hobby with which I’m so obsessed, my mind so consumed, that the world around me disappears until I come to hours later covered in ink (yes, I do them in pen–I’m a rebel, Dottie), still muttering in crossword-ese.

So, if I seem a little distracted to you lately, please understand I have a lot on my plate.  There are t’s to crossed, i’s to be dotted, any number of lists (currently, eight) to be expanded on and amended, a tome’s worth of paperwork to be completed and submitted by an irksomely vast array of deadlines, and I’m still trying to figured out the name of that 18th century Austrian composer.  You know the one–begins with an A, fifteen letters, the sixth of which is C.  Surely, one of you must know.  For the love of god, somebody help me out, here!

Sea Change

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Walking in the tracks of the surf rake this morning, the freshly-turned sand crumbles beneath my feet like brown sugar.  Elwood has scavenged a chicken bone from the remnants of a late-night gathering–bits of peanut shell,  watermelon rind, and an empty box of fireworks scattered across the sand.   Discarded beer bottles glow like torches in the light of the rising sun, mirroring the reflections that flicker across the water in the ripple of waves.  The disgust with which I view this ubiquitous trash lends a sense of irony to the delight I find in spotting the glint of frosted glass along the shoreline, relinquished from the steady churn of the lake.  Sometimes the difference between trash and treasure is merely the passage of time.  How often our tales of woe become our most winsome stories.  Through their retelling, they are honed and polished like bits of sea glass, made small and palatable, their rough edges smoothed.

I hope this is the light in which I will come to view this transition from Chicago to Arizona, sea glass to red rock, cynical high school drop out to open-minded denizen of the world of higher education–colorful, shimmering, and imbued with the magic of hind-sight.  Because right now I feel the sting of jagged glass, unweathered by the passing of time.  It feels like performing surgery with a broken bottle–dissecting the tissues that bind me to this place with artless and imprecise strokes until all my tethers have been loosed and I’m ready for transplantation.  I worry about how slowly this connective tissue regrows, how long I’ll spend adrift before I begin to feel some sense of belonging in a new place.  More than that, I worry that the sinews joining heart and home can never truly be slackened enough to allow for this distance.  I fear that I will live with an unbearable tautness in my chest, forever calling me home.

I try to remind myself that it’s better to dive into the unknown with grace and daring than languish in the comfortable monotony of the devil you know.  Better the vast potential of open water than the stagnation of refuse-strewn shores.  (Speaking metaphorically, of course–people need to stop throwing their shit in the lake.)  With any luck, I will one day emerge from this rough and tumble sea of change honed and polished with my rough edges smoothed.  Whether the waves will spit me out on distant sands or those of my local beach, only time will tell.

You May Ask Yourself, “Well… How Did I Get Here?”

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Today was one of those days where change hung palpably in the air, like catching the first scent of an oncoming storm. It could be, in part, because summer has finally arrived in earnest: cottonwood seeds drift lazily through the air, collecting in the un-mown grass like banks of snow, fat, black pincher beetles gleam from the sidewalk’s edge like onyx cabochons, and one week into this Chicago June, I finally felt secure enough to put my winter coat in storage. (So, expect snow tomorrow, obviously.) But while the dawning of a new season always feels ripe with alteration, more than that, I think the impending changes in my life that once shimmered nebulously on the horizon, small and unobtrusive, are no longer mired in the benign haze of distance. They loom before me now like the Annapurna Massif–a stark and formidable imposition on the landscape of my future.

After leaving my job on Friday, I spent the past week in merciful limbo. My parents were off vacationing on the McKenzie River in Oregon while I lay low at their house and looked after Elwood, our dog. Following the hellacious rollercoaster ride of employment under a mercurial boss, I was relieved to finally come to rest in the valley of my parent’s couch cushions where I whiled away the days drawing, writing, and consuming an obscene quantity of smoothies and espresso, one after another, in much the same manner one might chain smoke a pack of cigarettes. There were long, solitary (save for Elwood) walks on the beach and the odd foray into socialization, but for the most part I had nothing to do and nowhere to be, and the opportunity to be alone with my thoughts, without the intrusion of obligation, was a luxury nearly as delicious as those 200 ounces of smoothie. (The Jetsons era blender I have at home doesn’t get used on account of it smelling like a tire fire, so unfettered access to smoothie making equipment is kind of a big deal for me.)

This retreat from the daily grind was restful at first, meditative even, but without the dread of an insufferable job clouding my every conscious thought, my mind finally turned to my swiftly approaching departure for Arizona. My god, there is so much to do. I’ve begun hacking away at this seemingly infinite to-do list, grateful for the delusory sense of control that productivity affords, but my daily duel with progress feels rather like attempting to chisel Michelangelo’s David from a hunk of marble with a blunt pair of safety scissors and Trumpian hands. For every infinitesimal grain of stone that falls away, countless more surface and it’s all I can do not to collapse at the foot of this stubborn behemoth of rock and concede defeat. But I know that, just as this whirlwind of anticipation and preparation has sprung upon me in the blink of one myopic eye, so too will the end result of all this toil. Honestly, I’m not sure what’s harder—the laborious slog through an infinite sea of errands, tasks, and other accouterments of heart-rending life change that manifest, paradoxically, in such mundane and tedious fashion, or the knowledge that, in hindsight, it will all have passed so quickly and I’ll find myself thrown to the wolves of an unfathomable future with barely a moment to ponder, How did I get here? Such is the nature of time—it plods along like a dull film while you jam your finger against the fast forward button to no avail and then, when you’re finally ready to hit pause, it skips ahead in a blurred series of flash-frames and the end credits are rolling before you’ve even sussed out the plot. So, despite the dance with drudgery that a large move entails, I’m trying to relish the calm before the storm and use this opportunity not only to plan ahead, but to reflect, as well.

After emerging from my limbo and transporting my belongings from my parent’s house back to my apartment, I took a break from the evening’s chores to walk by the lake. I had just spoken with my landlord and received some surprising news (which they currently wish to keep private) that left me marveling at the serendipity of it all—the crux being that the agonizing uncertainty I faced when making the decision to leave Evanston turns out to have been for naught. I don’t believe in fate, but I won’t deny that every so often the timing of things can engender such awe as to give the impression that life is a well-choreographed play whose script we haven’t seen and, for the most part, weren’t aware existed, but whose occasional stroke of artfulness has the capacity to break the fourth wall giving us no choice but to applaud its wit. As I was musing over this on my way to the lake, waxing nostalgic for the eight wonderful, terrible, and tumultuous years I spent in my apartment in a way that only the end of such an era can inspire, I spotted two of my grade school teachers walking toward me like guests appearing on an episode of This Is Your Life. I hadn’t seen these women in years and it was a sentimental delight made all the more poignant for its contribution to that fortuitous sense of timing. We reminisced fondly before I carried on my way, continuing this jaunt down memory lane with a visit to the sailing center–a place so haunted by the specter of memory as to be imbued with an aura of anachronism, making it difficult to reconcile the tangibility of recollections with just how much time truly has moved on. As I gazed out across Lake Michigan—a view at once as familiar as my own reflection, yet never ceasing in its evocation of wonder–I felt a small frisson of longing course through me. Whether this was longing for the past, present, future, or some confluence of the three, I can’t really be sure. I quelled the synchronous urge to laugh and cry and said one of an endless series of goodbyes before making my way home.

What’s That Smell?

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Eight years ago today, I moved into my first and only apartment. I was excited to be living alone for the first time, but I was more than a little hesitant—okay, I was downright petrified.  I wasn’t escaping an unhappy home or the oppressive rule of an over-bearing parent, I was leaving behind the comfort of a home that my mom—my best friend—had created for the two of us.  I had grown up in that house, at first with my mom, dad, and brother.  Then my parents divorced and my dad moved out and, soon after, my brother went off to college, and it was just the two of us–my mom and I, along with Tillie and Zeus, our dog and rabbit–in our cozy, little bungalow, each room painted in wild and wonderful colors like a Mexican casita.  The first few weeks, even months, in my apartment felt strange and unsettled.  Every challenge I faced seemed insurmountable now that I was on my own.  When the pilot light on the stove blew out I called my parents in a panic, convinced that striking a match to reignite it would set my apartment alight in a blazing inferno.  (In fact, I harbored a pretty concrete fear of the oven up until three years ago when I started baking.  I guess I really took that whole “Oven–hot! Don’t touch!” lesson to heart as a child.)  Each leaking faucet, jarring sound, or peculiar smell felt like a personal affront to my independence, signaling that maybe I just couldn’t hack it on my own.  I’m sure my parents cringed every time the phone rang. (My mom just read this and assures me they did.)

I look back on myself during that time with compassion and no small measure of amusement.  It seems like a lifetime ago, now.  The other week I came home from work at ten in the evening wanting nothing more than to take a hot shower, scarf down some dinner, and collapse in bed, but upon opening the front door I was met with an unidentifiable odor foul enough to wipe all thought of food from my mind.  Instead, I was forced to play a thrilling game of “What’s that smell and where is it coming from?” that had me crawling all the way through my kitchen cabinets into the spider-infested Narnia that exists in the eaves beyond.  I almost lost a pair of my favorite underwear on a low hanging drain pipe in the process, but when hunting weird smells it’s best to do so sans clothing so you don’t end up having to burn them later.  I never did find the source of the smell, but the extra square footage back there was a nice surprise should I ever find myself in trouble with the law and in need of a place to hide.  And from the smell of things, there might already be something back there to eat!  (Not that I eat meat, but at least consuming something that died of natural causes is more ethical–a silver lining in this bizarre life-of-crime fantasy.)  Eight years later, who would have thought there were still surprises to be found in this place?

It dawned on me later how different this response was to the one I might have had after first moving in.  There was no panic, no paralyzing fear, just a nonchalant resignation that it was time to strip down to my underwear and fish a dead animal out of the crawl space.  The situation hadn’t changed, but I had.  I realized that the trials I’d confronted all those years ago weren’t intimidating in nature–minor home-repairs, dead animals, and the like were all tasks I had handled before and was quite capable of–they were merely a surrogate for the real fear I was facing, the fear of standing on my own.

While I may never be as handy as my parents (let’s face it, architecture is one of the handier professions), after eight years living on my own I now possess a well-earned sense of confidence and capability (and such charming habits as muttering to myself and forgetting to put on pants).  I won’t pretend I’ve outgrown, or will ever outgrow, the need for the occasional panicked phone call to my parents (aren’t you glad you had kids?!), but the idea of moving half way across the country doesn’t seem so daunting to me, now.  In fact, though a recent email I sent to my mom might suggest otherwise, it seems pretty damn manageable.  So yeah, (poisonous insects, aside) I think I’ve got this.

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