We had been talking about it since September, but then all of a sudden in January, we decided to do it. It seemed like one of those crossroads, that last chance: live an interesting life, or settle down into something safe and easy. Unlike most of the more youthful crossroads, we actually had the safe and easy grasped in our hands already. It wasn’t a matter of choose one potential or the other, it was choosing potential and risk over a stability we already had.
And we’re taking that risk. We’re moving to New York. We’re actually doing this thing.
I’m ready. Because stability and safety were crushing my spirit. I had fallen too easily into the script I’d memorized as a child. I found myself defaulting to staying at home, doing the housework, withdrawing until the thought of human interaction sent me spinning into waves of panic. I have loved gardening, and having leisure time, but the rest of it has been increasingly difficult.
Despite all this, as I begin to pack, I find myself drowning in the agony of never-ending anxiety. At first I thought that this anxiety was just the way time is moving so quickly and the to-do list in my mind has no end. But that’s not it, and I realized today where it’s all coming from.
I have no script for this.
I’ve been getting increasingly further from the script that I was taught for the first twenty years of my life, but there was always something to fall back on. The deviation began when I graduated college, because I hadn’t found a husband or a good job like I was supposed to. But I stuck with parts of the script anyway. For a while, I lived nearly on the doorstep of the Christian university I went to, living in the same small town and following the same pattern of life I’d followed for four years, simply going to work instead of going to class. Then I lived with my parents for a few months, hiding out in my basement bedroom and reading like I used to when I was friendless in high school. In Chapel Hill, I was just trying things out, a lot of different things for a while, but work was my constant, a nine to five that guaranteed I would avoid getting into too much trouble. And now I’ve been following parts of the script about being a good housewife, even though I don’t want to and I know that’s not right, it’s just what I’ve fallen into.
New York is something totally new. I can imagine myself being happy and busy and meeting interesting people and doing interesting things but there’s no rhythm to it yet. I don’t have anything in my past that has told me what a life fully created for myself is going to be like. I’m throwing out the housewife script, and my work will probably not be stable. I can use some of the things I wrote for myself in Chapel Hill, but let’s be honest, I was a pretty flaky party girl for a while there and that’s not really a blueprint I want to go back to full-time (mostly because I’m old and tired and my back and feet get sore when I wear heels and I’m more likely to yell about politics at a party than to be peppy and hot).
As I lay on the couch with a blanket pulled over my head thinking about all of this and feeling about as optimistic as a pile of dirty laundry, I realized, wait, I do have a blueprint for this. This story isn’t as new as I’m making it out to be.
Yeah, I’m not used to this script yet. I haven’t acted it out a million times since before I can remember. It’s just some stories I’ve been telling myself for the past couple of years. Better stories than the old one. The old one was the story of how I go to college and get a husband and have children and die and go to heaven. Or, revised and updated, how I go to college and get a steady job and find love and then live for a long time and then die.
The new stories are about transformation, evolution, becoming. They are about me as a being of creativity, fueled by passion. Most of all, as I look around at the blossoming flowers and growing herbs all around me, the birds nesting and the bees already buzzing, I think that I’m in the part of the new story where something old dies and something new is born, and it’s all one spiral of change. The old script I’ve somehow clung to all these years has to die now, so that something better, something more daring and interesting than I could have imagined, can be born.
Of course I’m still panicking. Having bits of yourself and the way you’ve acted for years falling away and dying is scary business. Not knowing where you’ll be working come summertime is terrifying. And packing is for some reason feeling extremely Sisyphean right now. But I’m working on trying to breathe, and I’m telling myself the new stories. I don’t think there’s any room in my luggage for the old ones.