23 February 2014


Very rarely do I write about writing. If I haven't posted anything here in a while, I figure that it's my blog, and I can write when and what I want to write. I find posts about why people haven't posted extremely boring, because I don't see any reason to make excuses about why you haven't written in a space you choose to write in or not. We are all busy. It happens. Move on.

But again, it's my blog, and I can write what I want to write, and so I will.

I haven't been able to write here for some time now, because I was too conflicted. 

I took a job back in the Mitten because ending up back there, someday, seemed inevitable, and why not now? I have a little niece and nephew to play with, and another of one or the other on the way. My parents are still young and mostly healthy. I was dating someone there. I got a job there. I was working so many hours in Gone West that it seemed to make sense to move now.

But then I went home for Christmas. The dating situation evaporated. I realized that the only people I know in that town are my family. Family is great, but I can't build my entire social life on them unless I want them to continue to be the only people I know, which means no other friends and no dating prospects. 

I moved to Gone West six years ago because I couldn't keep starting over and over and over the way my kind of international work required. I intended to stay in Gone West. Forever.

But then there were no jobs during the recession, and I moved to Universe City so that I could do the work I wanted to do. I didn't know anyone there. I started over.

Then I moved back to Gone West, even though many of my friends had moved away. I started over.

Moving back to the Mitten meant starting over again, for the third time in four years, the fourth time in six years, the - what, ninth? - time in 12 years.

I knew that I didn't want to go. I knew it through and through, but I convinced myself that it was my only real option, and so I got in my car and I went.

I left most of my belongings in Gone West, a security blanket telling me that I could come back. Just give it the summer, I told myself. Think of it like an internship.

But I kept finding reasons not to arrive. I spent six days on the road getting to the Mitten. I dallied with my sister in Mountain State. When I could have gone on to my parents' house, I stopped with friends in the Windy City. I stopped at an outlet mall just outside the state line.

And when I couldn't delay anymore, I sat in a parking lot one state over, unable to drive forward. "We'll find a way for you to go back right away," my sister promised me when I called her. "We'll find the money. Just go drop off some things at Mom and Dad's, spend the weekend with them, and we'll find a way for you to go back."

When I got to my parents' house, I sat out in the driveway, unable to go in. It wasn't until my mom came out and found me that I could get out of the car.

The only thing that made sense was to stay - I'd spent nearly all my savings (save retirement accounts) to get there.

But I couldn't stay. I couldn't start over again so soon.

It took me three days of driving (plus a day of weather delay in the Plains hanging out with some old Gone West friends) to get back to Gone West. I had to hold myself back from pushing on the accelerator harder and harder as I got close. (Admittedly, the speed limit is also lower here than in some other states *cough - Utah - cough*.)

I cried when I crossed the county line into Gone West's county, because I thought I'd lost all of this. I thought I had let it go. For something I value very deeply, yes, but lost it all the same. 

I still don't know for sure if I made the right decision. I'm still crying about it as I write. I wanted to be near my family. I still want that. I want to spend holidays with them - not just the big ones, but Mother's and Fathers Days, and the Fourth of July, and everything in between. I can't do that from here.

I have no money, not even enough to pay a month of rent. I can't afford to eat, but I have to do it anyway. There are a lot of lentils and rice in my future.

I don't have a job here. Tomorrow is Monday, and I'm going to get up without a job, and I'm going to go look for one. I'm not a person who likes not having a job. I like purpose. I like structure to my days. In a way, I'm starting over again anyway. 

Everything is uncertain, and I'm not sure what the ending will be. I'm trying to remind myself that, as terrifying as this is right now, it will be only a footnote, if that, in the story of my life. I'm trying to remind myself that I moved here without a job or a professional network in 2007.

I've learned some very important things. Among them is that I probably will end up back in the Mitten, but I have to be sure that I'm ready before I go, that I'm not just letting it happen. Another is (AGAIN - thought I'd learned this in 2007) that it isn't healthy to start over and over in too rapid a succession. Another is that you shouldn't move if it is even the slightest bit for a boy, especially the classic "I will put in no effort" sort of North American boy that makes all of us women crazy, especially if mostly you just felt like it was time for you to give up on all the qualities you really hoped your guy would have and settle for this one. Another is to save more money. Another is not to throw away all those clothes hangers or the drying rack (you'll regret it).

"This [moving back] is the most irresponsible thing I've ever done," I told my mom.

"If this is the most irresponsible thing you've ever done," she said, "you're doing pretty well."

Let's hope that turns out to be true.

19 February 2014


Some observations about the open road:

The Western part of this country is really big. Really, really big. A four hour flight does not do it justice.

The further east you go, the fewer weigh stations are open, and the more law enforcement you see along the road. They like their weigh stations out west.

The worse the weather, the fewer the law enforcement officers out and about. This is unfortunate, because that's when they seem the most necessary to help all the people. (Although it is a bit odd to pass a sheriff checking for speeders in the middle of nowhere in Mountain State while you are driving 20 miles per hour under the speed limit because of the snow blowing on the road.)

I no longer seem to care whether my total comes out to a round number when I fill my car with fuel.

If the speed limit is higher than 70, I feel no obligation to reach the speed limit. If the speed limit is 70 miles per hour or lower, I feel an obligation to go approximately the speed limit, or within five miles above it, just so as not to impede the speed of traffic. When the speed limit is 80? I will go whatever speed I want, thank you very much. You cannot force me to drive that fast if I don't wanna.

I refuse to adjust my speed just because some police officer/deputy sheriff/state trooper is checking how fast I am going. I refuse even to tap the brakes and give them the satisfaction of knowing that I noticed them. This means that I have to find a way to set my finicky, unreliable cruise control (best done while going uphill, holding a steady speed, it turns out) to the sweet spot in which it never gets to more than 7 miles per hour over the speed limit in its fluctuations. (My speedometer runs about 1-2 mph fast, so I have a little leeway.) I feel like I'm the only person on the road who doesn't automatically hit the brakes when I see a police officer. I've trained it out of myself. And probably I'll end up pulled over anyway, one day, in one of those places where they pull people over for doing 1 mph over the limit. (I hate those places.)

14 February 2014


On my drive from Gone West to my sister's place in Mountain State, I drove through five winter storm warnings in three days. And thanks to the winter storms, the drive took three days when it should have taken two. 

The morning of the third day, the highway was closed. Closed. The highway. The interstate. The major east-west thoroughfare through the middle of the country. 

I despaired of ever making it to my sister's house.

But then, 'round 10 am, they re-opened the interstate, and I made a break for it.

Not long before I left Gone West, I drove out along the river to the east on a very windy day. It was so windy that I thought there was something wrong with my car, but there was not. The only thing wrong was the wind. 

This experience served me well in the State of Wild Horses. The wind was coming from the west, so on most parts of my eastward drive on the interstate it wasn't bad, save for some gusts, but when I turned south, I had to hold my steering wheel to the right to stay straight on the road. I drove 100 miles that way, on a road that got progressively smaller and smaller as I drove into Mountain State. Like the highway, the road was clear in patches just large enough to fool me into accelerating, only to suddenly be blocked by drifts of snow or patches of ice. 

It was nerve-wracking. I was relieved to finally pull into my sister's driveway (it took two tries to get in between the snowbanks). She had a warm dinner waiting, and my long puffy coat from the Big Apple. 

After gorging myself (I'd barely eaten all day, due to trying to stay on the road), we all bundled up for Ski Town's winter celebration. It involved kids doing ski jumps in the dark carrying flares, as one does. It also involved a man skiing down a mountain in the dark with fireworks shooting out of his head, and then a whole lot of (normally lit) beautiful fireworks reflected on the snow.

It felt worth the drive.

10 February 2014


I thought all I had to do was throw my stuff into my car and drive out of Gone West. And that was true, to a certain extent, except that it turned out that I had a lot of stuff. A lot a lot of stuff. More stuff than could fit into my car.

It took me about six hours of tetris to fit most of it into my car, and also I threw away things I intended to keep, and also I left a few things in my old basement that I will have to pick up the next time I am in Gone West (sorry, roommates!).

By this time, it was 2 pm, and it had started to snow.

It doesn't snow in Gone West very often, so everyone panics when it does. Cars line up to flee the city. 

I joined them, but for a different reason. I wasn't trying to flee.

Just outside of the Gone West metro area, I moved left and slowed down to drive around a group of stopped cars, only to see that one of the cars was actually a van, on its side. I stopped, along with a couple of other cars, to see if there was anything I could do. I was certified in CPR a couple of years ago, I reminded myself.

There was only one man in the van, and he was bleeding pretty badly from his head, but the rest of him seemed okay. He had apparently been driving westbound on the highway before he flipped the van three times onto the far side of the eastbound lanes. Several people from the westbound lanes stopped, too, and one of them said that the van had passed him a ways back, going way too fast. "I'm surprised he made it this far," he said.

Once we-the-group had established that the guy was okay, found some blankets that had fallen out of the back of his van to cover him, retrieved gauze from someone's first aid kit to apply to his bleeding head, determined that emergency personnel were on their way, and removed most of the debris from the middle of the highway (apparently some people carry brooms in their vehicles), most of us left. Soon after I drove away, I saw the ambulance and police car heading toward the scene.

I thought the weather would clear once I got out of the strange little weather system that is Gone West, surrounded by mountains, but this did not happen. 

For hours, I drove through whiteout snow, trying hard to keep my car on the road, watching the reflector poles on the side of the highway to gauge if I was still approximately in my lane. Semis roared by me. I rarely got above 40 miles per hour.

I gave up and got a hotel around 8 pm. I'd barely made it 200 miles from Gone West, but at least I had gotten started.