I had this whole post written about why I'm driving across the country and I read it over this morning and it annoyed me so much that I'm going to spare everyone else .
If there is a person who can do short story long, it is me. I'm not sure how I got out of journalism school or why I so much time on a communication platform with a 140-character self-expression limit. Masochism. Irony. It is a conundrum, is what it is.
This is the summary (please may it be shorter.): I came back from New York and plunged into a disgusting day-old salsa bowl of despair, loneliness, anxiety, and isolation. I have respect like you wouldn't believe for depression, seeing as how it's done its best for lo these past 12 years or so to dance around in my cortex and keep me down, like the chemical MAN. I get it, and I understand it, clinically and emotionally. I do not, however, always do the correct thing in response to it, because when I get in the bad mental neighborhood, my already abstract-brain melts in the trippiest Dalian fashion, good ideas dribbling off to the right, common sense a tiger dressed like a courtesan enmeshed in a map of the world in the middle. (That is not anything he painted, to my knowledge. I also make things up sometimes.)
After two weeks of this nonsense, I decided that I needed to do something. I felt like hell, and it showed no sign of abating, and one can only do so many yoga classes and read so many inspirational blog posts. Sitting in my apartment in front of my computer like it was going to start spitting out hundred dollar bills every second was not helping matters. Living at a standstill in an area where I have a walkable neighborhood but no community, roots deeper than most in the metro but increasingly no sense of place, and a family I love but cannot serve so well in my current state even though I live close by all started to fall into place as a reality that I could no longer accept.
Yes, I can take medicine and go to therapy, but this time felt different. It felt like I'd located a pain source and needed to rip it out with my hands, and that is not just an unnecessarily dramatic turn of phrase, I swear.
I worried and fussed for another few days, then I accepted an invitation in California for the first week of September with no idea of how I was going to get there. I also threw out a question about cities on Twitter one night when I was particularly restless. It sparked the best response I've ever seen there, and that made me curious about how people had found their spot, not just where it was, but what it meant to them.
(Briar has written a four-part series on Brooklyn in response. I love this.)
I only told a very few other people about my travel goals, people I can count on to tell me I'm for real out of my mind this time, and they didn't say that. I don't know if this is the part where the universe conspires to help you if you open your mouth (Coelho? Emerson? Lady Gaga?) But people (and this is the part that blows me away) started contacting me when they got some idea that I hoped to do some traveling, and started offering me guest rooms and tour guides. I sat at my computer for a few days and cried at these offers, partially because I'm so strange about imposing to an almost paralytic degree, and partially because it occurred to me, fully as it had not before:
A lot of my community, if I'm going to call it that, is out there (which is now to say out here, by the side of the road in Western Arkansas, I guess.) I don't know if that is because I've focused on the larger world of the web at the expense of my physical space at home, but I can't really undo that now, and I don't want to, either. It's just the way it's turned out.
I left last Wednesday, my first stop a Duran Duran show in Portsmouth, Virginia. I told myself all day that if I felt funny I could just go home the next morning, but the next morning I got up and went to Asheville and hung out with Robin, so I guess it was a go. I took a somewhat overwhelming Pigeon Forge detour after that, which I may have to detail later. Then I went to Memphis for the weekend and Faiqa's family welcomed me, and my mind was officially blown by the collected stories of civil rights and rock and roll, obviously in very different ways.
Now I am headed to Texas (I'm a little afraid to drive Texas. It is large, Texas) and to see New Mexico for the first time, which I'm very excited about. It was a lot of years ago that a boy tripping on acid stood on my front porch and dared me to go to Santa Fe.
I think it's better that I'll be there without him.
Then there will be other places, and at the end I'm told there will be margaritas with friends. And then I will go another direction home.
Most of the time I'm feeling good, and I'm okay with most miles that roll under me, although fast lane ignorance and abuse makes me sad. I love the moments of traveling, road signs and tourist traps, recalculating routes and checking new states off of my list. I've heard ridiculous songs I haven't heard in decades but still know all the words to on better radio stations than we have in DC by a long shot.
Ex.: A child of my age shouldn't have been singing along to the sleazy terribleness that was Hot Rod Hearts, but that's a long done deal, and and a new listen to Meet Me Half the Way indicates that Crystal Gayle may well have been my first girl crush. So I'm learning things.
I'm excited to be bumping something up on the life list (boy does this sucker already need editing) that I had no idea would happen this year. I have no problem driving alone, or doing anything else alone, for that matter. But sometimes, because I am me, I am nervous and uncertain. This morning a colleague and friend texted me from the campus opening meeting that I am not at for the first time in many, many years. It arrived shortly after I woke up, and I wept in bed like a freak who really, secretly loved the job I left and hated the environment and what it did to my spirit for the work.
The sadness I am feeling about this right now is deep and strange, a different layer of a heart that is honestly hurting some. I think teasing out the things you miss from the whole is the hardest part of leaving whatever that is behind, and the most important thing about not looking back too hard or, god forbid, going back entirely. But it's still rough. Nothing is all bad, and stability has its merits.
All this movement signifies something, though, and it's what my friend Laurie said last week when I was whining about whether to do this or what to do or blah blah blah: You've changed everything else. Complete the transition.
(I have to write down many things she says. Again, if you are the smartest person in the room, get out.)
This year has been massive so far for me -- change after change after change. I set out in February to make things different because what was going on wasn't working. But the truth is that you can change the structure of your days like crazy, and if you don't catch up with you out here, it doesn't really matter.
You go everywhere with you, so you may as well be tolerable to yourself, and to other people, at baseline.
I'm really committed to doing that. I'm not in search of a geographic cure so much as a reconfiguring of my perspective, a better lens on what I've got and what I want, even for the short term. The best way to do that for me is to get out of my own head and among people I like (And even people I don't. That has its significant merits.) The walls of my physical space closing around me like they were was the usual metaphor, so I'm going to ignore that I went for the obvious open road variety as a response. It's the first time I've ever done it on this scale, so for me it's new. I can claim that.
Now that I have told the story, I can get to the fun stuff, which is daily recaps (I hope. I can get tired from all this running around, honestly, plus I still have actual jobs to do.) of where I'm going and what I'm doing and seeing. I'm also taking a lot of pictures, naturally, but I'm not sure how fast I can get them on Flickr because my laptop is not so reliable. Meanwhile, feel free to follow me on Instagram, where my username is laurieanne.