Chugging gas station coffee (20 oz. for $1.75), I sit at the desk of the dog kennel where I work. I know I need to head to the back and clean: sweep and vacuum dog hair, sweep and vacuum dog hair (it’s one of those never-ending tasks we find ourselves completing, mindlessly, until we’ve almost forgotten that not a penny of our $100,000 college education ever went towards this kind of learning). I furiously check my email. Groupon this, job alert that. Nothing good. I’m waiting to scroll through my inbox and find the kind of message that looks like a ticket out of here. I think I’m tired of working at a dog kennel.
Last night my boyfriend called me with big news. He has a pretty great job right now– as great as long hours and good pay in an expensive city can be. But there’s this new opportunity, this chance to do something he really enjoys, and a chance, if things work out, to be very successful.
“Have you made a pro/con list?” I ask, a little too late, since I’ve already exclaimed, “do what’s fun! don’t settle!” “I haven’t had time,” he sighed. I told him that was his answer–his current job keeps him from making a list about his current job. This new thing, this new bright and shiny opportunity, THIS sets that piece of paper on fire and says, come on, let’s do this. Let’s go. Your ticket out of here.
I have to renew my lease in the next six days. I’ve never renewed a lease before. For whatever reason, moving to a new place each year was the only option in college. Maybe we all wanted to start over every year. new roommates, new rooms. New selves. So, here I am, sitting on a lease that I received over a week ago. Why haven’t I signed it, passed it on to my sister for her signature, gotten paw prints from my cat and dog? What am I waiting for?
Tuesday was a Charleston snow day. Icy roads and closed bridges promised a day or two at home. In college I would have gotten sufficiently drunk (god, the smell of wet clothes, warm beer, and bags and bags of potato chips–who knew I’d long for that now?) and lounged around with my friends. But I don’t really have any friends here. The ones I do have are (closed) bridge distance away. No driving, no friends. My sister and I got into an argument about what we would do. I told her I didn’t want to hang out with her boyfriend. “Well then WHO are we going to hang out with?” she yelled, exasperated.
I went into my room and cried into my dog. “Guess it’s just me and you,” I moaned, as Emma licked my hands, seeking any remnant of peanut butter. Even my closest companion wasn’t concerned about my plight. I thought about my lease. I thought about my mother’s words–the ones I whisper to myself when I think I’m about to explode with uncertainty: “nothing’s irrevocable.” I don’t have to sign that lease. I can move anywhere! Me and Emma Louise on the open road! I could leave my sister. I could leave that friend-less apartment. I could be anyone and anything.
Sitting here now, I stare at the email: “12 Bee St. Lease Renewal 2014-2015.” I click on it. I print it. I’ll take it home and we’ll sign it and we’ll take it to the rental company. I need a ticket out of here. Here, though, isn’t Charleston. Here is this:
I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the Stern Fact, the Sad Self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.
Because as often as I repeat my mother’s words to myself, even more often do I reflect on Emerson’s wisdom. You can’t run away from yourself. I’ve been chewing on this quote since high school, when I really loved to wallow in mud baths of self-pity. It’s not particularly uplifting, but by god does it work when it needs to.
My boyfriend’s voice carried over hundreds of miles last night. I don’t even know if he knows how he glows in that kind of quivering potential. It’s pretty sexy. It’s strong. And it’s maybe even more inspirational than my mother and Emerson combined (although can you imagine a greater force? I shrink in fear at the way they’d kick my ass into gear). My ticket out of here? It’s all me. It’s me blogging this. It’s me writing and writing and writing ’til my fingers fall off. I know what I want to do. I think I know what I need to do. And if I can’t do that in one of the most beautiful cities in the country, well then my Sad Self is more far gone than I know.
I will make more friends and I will make more of an effort to see my existing ones. I will get a job where I can write. I will live in this city. I will not escape.
“You know if you smile, it makes things a whole lot easier. Don’t forget to breathe either.” Of course my yoga teacher said this (of course my new found sanity-keeping practice makes its way into this blog.) She crouched behind me and pushed me further into a stretch. I thought I’d rip apart. “In, out, in, out.” She pushed me on the “out,” until my nose ground into my mat. Under my sweaty mass of hair, I forced a smile to ease the pain. She knew I could do it–she saw my potential and she helped me reach it.
Where the taste of cheap hazelnut coffee, hazy tap water, running nose and cracked-skin lips meet–that’s where I see my potential. I’ll help myself. And then I’ll “embrace my friends, embark on the sea” and wake up somewhere we all knew we could get to, if only we tried.