I started writing my recaps before their respective months had even ended, and I’ve found that the tail end of each month (28-31st or so) are usually the most eventful. Not always in a good way. For the past few months, at least, it seems like I’m always given some significant chunk of information that makes me question exactly what the hell I’m doing.
New Years Eve was spent under my desk. I had a bowl with 12 giant cotton candy grapes and a notes app full of wishes. The night before I was in the shower sobbing like Tobias Funke.
I’d been terrified of fully moving on, and kept one foot in and one foot out of an old relationship. I convinced myself we could be friends, and had learned in that 28th-31st time frame that it wouldn’t be the case. So after crying a gallon of tears, I caved into Twitter’s NYE superstitions and ate my grapes. I had to have some sort of comedic relief. I hit my head on the table when I got up.
The next two weeks were awful – and I blame mercury retrograde. At one point, I got stuck in the parking lot at Whole Foods because the downpour was endless. Why did it rain so much in January? I sat in my car and sipped the disgusting green juice I bought for $5. The rain just wouldn’t let up, so I screamed at the top of my lungs.
Screamed about how I felt like a loser, how the pressure of adulthood was finally coming down, and how ginger has no business being so biting. About how I felt ugly, hated my body, and was just trying, trying, trying so hard. The rain momentarily let up and I gathered myself. Drove to the gym, had a shit workout, went home, and just stood in the cold rain that had since restarted its dramatics. My mom yelled at me, sure I’d get struck by lightning, but I told her I hadn’t been that lucky in a while.
I thought back to September, when it had officially been 3 months since my grandpa had passed. This weird sense of grief had crept up on me and it didn’t feel familiar. It didn’t feel like crying in bed, or feeling empty in drive-thrus. It felt like, somehow, his death had reminded me of how much living I had to do. I noticed how much I was settling, and grieved my own potential (in the most non-dickish way, I promise.)
Settling for tiny, suffocating Kansas City, and low-paying jobs. For snow, ice, and salt on my car mats. For the bare-minimum and an anxious attachment style. On one particular day that month, I sat on the far edge of the climbing gym I frequented, and I realized: I was afraid of being alone for so long that I failed to notice I had been alone for a while. So I walked away from my relationship, and multiple long-dried up friendships.
I felt guilty that I felt relieved. I didn’t want to be stuck, and I was secretly glad that I’d made it out. I wished that was enough.
That rainy night, I took a photo of myself on the floor in front of my cheap Target mirror. My hair was frizzy, my mascara trailed down my cheeks, and I was shivering. My cat shimmied up to me, and bumped her head against my knee as if she were saying don’t be so dramatic! I’ve always thought it was so odd how much she could understand me – I’m thankful.
For the next two weeks, I packed the rest of my bedroom. I watched my favorite movies on Netflix and ate ice cream out of a Snoopy mug. I marinated on the idea I’d kept for the past two years. No. Yes. Of course. There’s nothing left to do. And I’d always wonder...
I sat in the dark, frustrated with the amount of LA weirdos (they’re transplants) needlessly anal about subletting. Instead, I’d found an Airbnb that had parking and tiny kitchen. I showed my mom, and sat on her bed.
“What do you think?”
“What do I think? I don’t think anything. You’ve been wanting this.” She adjusted her reading glasses. She must have 10 pairs.
We sat in silence.
“You’re old enough to make your own decisions.”
I nodded. I am.
“I think you should do this on your own,” she said gesturing to my laptop.
I went back into my room, entered in my card information and hit ‘book’. Non refundable.
That night, I didn’t get a lick of sleep. I kept thinking of how easily my ex had moved on, and how that must mean I lacked significance. I thought about the conversations I had with my friends at 16 – we were so sure we’d all be in different cities and it was coming true. One in Spain, another in New York, Salt Lake City, soon to be Chicago and now Los Angeles…
About how it only takes 10 minutes to get to the same Starbucks I considered a haven for the past 6 years. The familiarity of Hy-Vee and the girl with the blue hair at Jerusalem Cafe. The scent of my mom’s lotion, how talkative my cat is, how my little brother had become my best friend, and how much I’d miss not home but my people.
My home has always been my people.
I left little time for thinking. It was January 22nd and I’d booked my stay for February 1st.
My brother confessed he’d miss me and I noticed there was a softness to my mom’s eyes that wasn’t there before. Two years of empty promises and I’d finally kept my word – for her, there would never be enough time and it would always feel like this day had come faster than a bullet train. I guess we were all being dramatic.
It cost over a thousand dollars to ship my car, so I made sure the trunk was packed with my life’s belongings. Books, journals, boxes of photos, clothes, shoes, and odd things like a cow clock and a magic 8 ball. Before they picked it up, I shook it and asked am I doing the right thing? The die spun around in the blue ink and said, it is certain.
The five-ish days before leaving were spent with family and friends, obviously. My older brother lent me his car so I could still drive around the city – being confined to my empty bedroom would make me insane. I weaved through the streets of downtown, and things started to feel permanent. When I lived in Chicago for school, I visited every 10 weeks when the quarters ended. Now there wasn’t any structure to urge me when to go back home. Other than birthdays, holidays, funerals and people-sickness.
I also took the time to reflect on how jealous I felt. I don’t like being a hateful, spiteful person but I also recognized I was allowed to feel hurt. I thought things were more special than they actually were, and that pain is mine and I’m not a bad person for wanting to feel it. My friend let me know I wasn’t the bad guy, though up until a few days ago I continued to think so.
One night, I sat in the backseat while my mom drove around, and I stared at the stars like I did when I was a kid. Thinking they were chasing me, obsessing over where I’d been and where I was going. We pulled up to the gas station, and my mom went to clean the salt off the windows. I started to record her and laughed.
There was a time before when I did the same thing with my ex. He’d slap the window with the squeegee and I’d laugh at how dumb he looked. She cleaned it so messily, leaving salt trails in the crevices. She was better off leaving it be. For a split second I realized that it was me that took a moment so mundane and made it feel special and I hadn’t lost anything at all. It’s always been there – before and after he’d gone.
Suddenly, two days were left before I’d leave!
I had brunch with my brothers and cousin (who lives in LA), and he assured me I’d feel better once I actually moved. He told me about his hiking, love for Manhattan Beach and bragged about his included parking and in-unit laundry.
I went to the climbing gym for the last time before I’d cancel my membership. I hoped I’d see my ex, stupidly enough. It was so cold, my knuckles were turning white gripping the steering wheel on the way there. I turned to park and didn’t see his license plate, but I went inside anyway to climb for an hour.
When I left, I trudged to the car as if I was walking through knee-deep snow. I kept turning to look back, as if his headlights would pull just over the hill and we could have one last one-sided convo that’d leave me feeling worse. Things had already ended a long, long time ago and all that was left was my inability to detach. To be fair, things had always been doomed from the beginning but I guess I had hoped that, at the very least, I could walk away feeling even slightly fulfilled for once.
I’ve been told time and time again that 23 is difficult but it had just clicked when I pulled open the squeaky car door and drove off for good. I could always visit when I’d come back in town, but I know it would never feel the same as it did before and it was one of those times when you know it’s the very tail end of a good memory. One only I was still needlessly romanticizing.
Then it was one more day, and suddenly I was eating gyros with my little brother and mom.
We talked about how the rice was well-seasoned, and the tzatziki had extra garlic. They reassured me – not everyone has the ability to leave, and even trying is a privilege. Later, I fell asleep with the cat at my feet and an alarm for 8 AM. I put my suitcases in the car, gave everyone their hugs, and was drove to the airport. I got orange juice and a hash brown for breakfast.
My mom tucked an orange envelope in my backpack, and told me it was a letter from my (estranged) sister, and I didn’t have to read it if I didn’t want to. I offered a teary smile, she smoothed my frizzy hair, and off I went, lugging my bags to the checking counter. I didn’t cry during the flight, nor when I landed. I made my way to my Airbnb, and sat on the edge of the bed after check-in, thinking about how in over my head I was.
Twice. I had now moved alone, scared, stupid and excited – twice.
It’s February 12th now. I’ve been apartment hunting, exploring, and taking up space. My family FaceTimes me nearly twice a day (they miss me) and we laugh about whatever. I chopped off almost 7 inches of my hair, and went to Manhattan Beach. I closed my eyes and for once, thought about life aside from career, love, money, and all the other bullshit. It’s whatever we want, and I have been so stupid to not see that the opportunities are endless.
We really are just on a floating rock. I was laying on trillions of tinier rocks. Listening to Jeff Buckley, thinking, I really brought myself here.
I did. And I realized, I must really love myself, even if I can’t see it. I must really trust myself. I’d always caught myself when I fell, after all. And I adored myself enough to spend so much money, time, and tears on a dream I thought was such a long shot.
I thought about my grandpa, too. How, in his last days, he kept saying his friends were waiting for him at the train station in Los Angeles. I think they really were waiting, and I’m happy they were reunited. I’m happy that he paved the way for me to be here, too. I’m happy that I’m not throwing that away – the privilege, the struggle, the multi-generational fight for a better, better, better life.
And I’ve no clue how long I’ll be in Los Angeles. I don’t know what color my first electric guitar will be, when I’ll start school again, or when I’ll make new best friends. I don’t know when I’ll decide I need to spend a year or two in NYC, three in London, or four in Japan. All I know is, my grandpa had sincerely crossed the globe twice in 99 years and met so many lovely people – and assuming I’d live to see 99 too, I’ve got 76 years to play catch-up.