(For those playing “Where In the World Is Carmen San Diego” with me: I’m posting from my mom’s guest room in NoVA, which will be “home” for all intents and purposes until early September.)
I moved to New York City in August 2005 to do a Masters program at NYU Steinhardt. Thirteen years, the foundation years of adulthood really, is both a long and short time, depending on how you look at it. For the final six years, I lived in a one bedroom in Kensington Brooklyn. It was the second apartment I had by myself, no roomie to split costs or share the kitchen and bathroom. Besides my childhood home, it’s the place I lived the longest. In college, it was in and out of the dorms every year. For my first three years in NYC, I lived in three places. A friend told me I wasn’t allowed to move so often because she was wearing the paper thin in her address book by erasing and re-writing my address! (Yes, I am truly an Oregon Trail baby because my friends and I use(d) paper address books and wrote actual letters to each other.) When I moved in to the apartment in Kensington in August 2012, I was tired of moving. I told myself that the next place I moved to would either be a place I own or a place in another country, otherwise I was staying put.
I guess I held true to my word! Walking out of the emptied space on Wednesday was a big deal… and while I’m stopping by my mom’s for a little while, my final destination is London. It’s overwhelming in all ways – mostly good, but there were some anxiety tsunamis in the last ten days, so severe that I thought I was going under.
New York strung together some beautiful early June days for my morning walks in Prospect Park, tempting me to question why I wanted to leave. But gorgeous early June days are found the world over, so those weren’t enough to freak me out. Making decisions about what to keep and what to toss was more problematic. The fact that stuff got soaked in the truck on the way to Virginia only added to the decision fatigue. I was fairly aggressive (by my own standards) with recycling papers that I know I will never use again, so what I did keep has more meaning, is more valuable. As my mom described, I winced at every single rain drop that fell after the tarp came undone.
I’m getting ahead of myself in storytelling though.
I was also aggressive with getting rid of furniture that I knew I wouldn’t want if/when I move back to the US, not to even consider shipping it over the Atlantic. So I gave a lot away. Several pieces to former students, visiting with whom was a trip. It was a reminder that I really did make a difference in a system that very nearly bled me dry. It also solidified that prior to things kind of going off the rails in 2014, I was excellent at my job. One of my sisters and a friend took some stuff, and some stuff went to charity. I thought I’d done enough to whittle it down to “essentials” (I use quotes because clearly I’m coming at the idea from a privileged capitalist angle… I have so much beyond what’s essential that it might make a person sick.) Yet when mom arrived with the Ford F-150 dad lent us for the move, I had too much. A passerby got some of the overflow. The trash pile outside my apartment building got some. I hope someone came by and picked up the useful items… I feel extremely wasteful about a lot of things.
I said anxiety tsunami though. I have to look at how materialistic I am because STUFF caused a lot of the anxiety. Where is the stuff going? Can I keep the stuff? Why do I WANT to keep the stuff? Where will the stuff be put to the best use if I give it up? And of course the feeling of wanting to just give up on the whole moving thing because I’m trapped by the stuff and it’s all too much to handle. Let’s just stay here with all the stuff and be here until I did or it all burns down.
But I know it wasn’t just the stuff that caused the tsunami, so I can lay off myself on the materialism. Some of it was feeling my way through the transition. My mom, brother, and I used to joke that I was terrible with change. I hated it and I didn’t handle it well. I’m not sure how true our jokes were. I know it’s not all that true anymore because the changes I’m making now are ones I sought out, worked for, bent heaven and earth to make happen. And this change is huge in a lot of ways. NYC and London are comparable as big cities, but moving my life from one to the other is more than getting myself on a plane with a suitcase. Oh, and the small detail that instead of teaching there, I’ll be a student again, which means instead of making money, I’ll be spending it. Plus I’m not bringing all my people with me.
That’s another few gallons of the anxiety tsunami… making sure I got to see everyone I wanted to see before I left – from doctors to former colleagues to friends. To make sure I didn’t overlook anyone and that I took special time with the people I’d miss most. I’d been going to my therapist weekly for twelve years, which is the longest, most consistent counseling relationship I’ve had, plus the whole adult years thing. The brief time we took to reflect on how I’ve progressed in those years was emotional… that it happened to be on the day the anxiety tsunami crested was probably best because it helped me cry. Though saying goodbye has been tough, it’s also been wonderful because people are so excited for me. I’ve been trying to take things one thing at a time – move out of NYC first, then the month in Ireland, THEN I can get everything together for London – so I’ve kept the excitement at a low simmer just to get shit done. But the people in my life a boiling with it, and it makes me feel so loved. I always know that I am loved, but I don’t always feel it. In the last several weeks, I have felt it around me like a bear hug. That has been such a gift, and to everyone who expressed their happiness for me, through whatever medium, I can’t begin to tell you how much your support means to me. I’m getting choked up typing about it.
But this entry isn’t called anxiety tsunami or saying goodbye to NYC; it’s called BUMPS AND BRUISES… because I made the poor decision to move myself out instead of higher professionals. You already know that I ran out of room when packing up the truck so stuff ended up in the trash instead of my mom’s storage space. What I haven’t said is that not only did I pack and label all the boxes myself, I carried a lot of them to the truck and I organized ALL of them in the truck. I also did my best to secure them under a tarp, bungee cords, and heavy duty tie downs. It’s a good thing I’ve been working out with weights, not just doing cardio. However, I can’t make my bones smaller even if I make my muscles bigger and burn the fat away. Trying to slide my arm between boxes and the side of the truck bed to hook the tie down in once the tarp was over everything… not cute. Both my forearms are pretty much big bruises. I would try to count them, but it’s more like one bruise blossoms into another. Let’s talk about my legs for a second. The source of bruising there is less clear, but I have tons of bruises from my mid-thigh to my mid-shin and my knees are especially colorful.
I did some things right in loading the truck. In hindsight, I see several things I could’ve done better. Mostly I learned that I’ll just pay movers for any future jobs. Like I said to my dad, “I CAN do it, which is a confidence boost, but I know for the next time that I don’t want to do it. So the truck was bursting full and the tarp was strapped down. Except it wasn’t secure. The driver’s side came undone pretty quickly, so we made our first of many stops on the New Jersey Turnpike to re-do things. Apparently we didn’t do a good job because as soon as we got back on, someone was honking at us. We discovered later it was because some bungees were flying away. Then mom saw and I heard something fall off, so we had to pull over – not enter a rest area, just pull over to the shoulder of the NJ Turnpike – to assess the damage. What went wasn’t that important or damaging to other cars, just interlocking floor tiles for exercising. Scary, but okay. As we were working to secure everything else (and maybe leave a bulletin board on the side of the highway) a transit truck came up to us. I was standing on the back bumper pulling straps, clearly doing my level best to make sure everything was going to stay in the truck… my mom was trying to tighten another strap. The guy could have been a real jerk because human beings often are. He wasn’t though. I don’t know if he changed his mind of how he was going to approach us, but when he got to me, he wore a big smile and asked how we were doing. I don’t know if he saw the stuff that fell off or if he only came up to see why we’d stopped, so I explained that we were trying to make sure nothing fell off. Instead of trying to mansplain what I was doing wrong or to otherwise correct my action, he made a joke that anything that fell off and didn’t break, he got to keep. It was the perfect levity for what was a stressful situation. I think he was an undercover angel for being so nice when I know very well he could have been a total dick about it.
Not entirely happy with our side of the road job, I asked mom to go even slower as we got back on our way. It didn’t help. We didn’t lose anything else, but we were very close to when we pulled over on the side of the highway for the second time (or third adjustment since leaving Brooklyn). This time we took some stuff out of the back and shoved it into the cab with us so that I made the rest of the trip with a deflated air mattress and my cat in his carrier on my lap. (Did I not mention my cat was making this exodus with me? He smelled like fear the whole time.) We gave up on trying to keep the tarp over everything and said a prayer that nothing else fell out. We should have included a lot more in that prayer given what happened next.
Loaded up with my lap completely occupied, mom accelerated to get back in to traffic. The truck isn’t hers. It’s my dad’s. Mom isn’t familiar with all its bells and whistles. Through some fancy setting or glitch, the truck kept accelerating even when mom took her foot off the pedal. It kept accelerating even when mom pushed down on the brakes. I don’t drive and from the passenger seat with my arms and lap full of air mattress and cat, I don’t know how to help or what to do. Mom didn’t scream or anything, but she told me what was happening in a panicked voice. She told me she had no control. As is my super power, I stayed stupidly calm as I watched the highway breeze by. I asked if she could steer. She was panicked because she could not brake at all, but she could steer it seemed, so we steered to an exit going too fast on the curve, me holding everything in my lap as I watched the guard rail looking too close and mom saying she couldn’t stop and she had no control at all. Neither of us know what happened or how, but as we took the exit further, she was able to brake. In the moment we were shaken up, but the real processing of the situation has come in waves in the last two days, kind of on a delayed release. It’s been more pronounced for mom because as the driver it was scarier for her (and with her daughter in the car on her way to a new adventure that looked like it may end in death before I even got across the ocean….) Anyway, we survived. We aren’t dead. And yeah, nothing else fell out of the truck, but maybe our prayer should have included “please make sure the truck doesn’t get possessed and try to kill us.”
I mentioned that we gave up on the tarp covering things… yeah. Our prayer should have also included please let it not rain on us. But it did. Mattress took a full 24 hours to dry out. A box of memories and keepsakes was soaked through the cardboard, but I have yet to assess the damage to paper inside. A box of decorative knicknacks was drenched, but most everything in there was wrapped in bubble wrap. Then there’s the box that had A TON of my writing… it looks like just the box is ruined, not its contents, but my heart broke a little with every rain drop.
It was a harrowing journey. Then I discovered that things don’t fit in the room the way I thought they would, so the purge continues. I can only get so much done before I leave for Ireland though. So purge and organize phase 2 will have to wait… Lord knows I need a break.
ON TOP OF EVERYTHING it’s World Cup time, and I’m trying to watch as much as I can because I love World Cup (and Euro Cup…. I may love Euro Cup even more). It’s hard work to have so many exciting things going on, hence my lack of posting anything during the whirlwind.
(I didn’t proof read this because I’m eager to get to sleep. I think I’ve earned it with all the bumps and bruises of the last days.)