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In transit.

After I saw it a few months ago, just floating there in the sky, everything started to change.

I spent almost the entire year before that in relative unhappiness. I had nuked my entire life flat and moved to California with a guy I had known for four weeks. I did this because I didn’t think it was a mistake, because my instincts told me to jump.

It wasn’t a mistake. But oh, starting over has its price.

I knew it would; I still remember the last time, years ago now, that I moved to a city where I didn’t know anyone but the man I had arrived with — how I became convinced I had wrecked my life, how I wept almost daily in the bathtub out of loneliness and fear. I remember how I longed for some kind of source of familiar comfort in my own life, some carved-out nook to curl up in, and had found nothing. You do eventually find some beginning point to chip away at, and what you unearth will be nothing less than all-encompassing revelation, but I hadn’t known that the first time.

No friends. No hobbies. No rest. No time for anything amid the tsunami of romantic and professional transition, with those same old reliable instincts telling me to respect the exhaustion permeating my bones, to bide my time on moving forward. I bore it as patiently as I could. If I have cultivated any form of discipline over the course of my life, it’s the patience to endure the desolate landscape of in-between, where there isn’t much air and very little to grab onto.

I’ve learned not to flinch away from the suspense, not to give in to the temptation to just grab a story by the arm so I can make something happen already.

People have gotten entire academic degrees just to make something happen. People have entered marriages, had babies, and gotten divorces just to make something happen. So much of the rhetoric of our culture is built around going out there and making something happen that I sometimes forget I’m not my own personal deity, a mistake for which I have paid dearly.

So I waited. I met the train every morning, rode into the city, detrained in an orderly fashion on the other end, waited for the crosswalk man to light up a few times, and arrived at my desk. Hours later I did the whole thing in reverse. I did this a seemingly impossible number of times. All the while I waited for a pattern to emerge, waited to make a trail long enough that I could look back and feel as if I’d gotten anywhere. The future has to arrive eventually; that is what it does.

Sometimes, in those involuntarily contemplative moments we all must endure on the train platform, I thought maybe I could hear it coming.

11 Comments

  1. Bethany wrote:

    This REALLY speaks to me right now, in a very comforting way. Thank you for writing it.

    Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 4:20 am | Permalink
  2. Diary of Why wrote:

    It’s funny, I had my comment in my head before I read Bethany’s, and it also said, this post speaks to me. Yes, yes.

    Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 5:57 am | Permalink
  3. sweetney wrote:

    I’ve done this several times. When we moved here to Baltimore, my kid was two and my only contacts were a couple slightly crazy folk from a Mama-related listserv I was on. Those people have since disappeared. As someone who works from home and doesn’t have the luxury of work friends, I have exactly two couples within a hour’s drive of me I know, and my neighbors, who while neighborly, aren’t really buddies. I know a lot of people – acquaintances – but I still often feel like I’m living alone in a city where I know no one, with just the kid and the boyfriend to keep me company. It’s weird and isolating – harder to make friends as you get older, especially when you’ve moved 5 times since you were 28 years old. I have friends scattered all over the country, good ones. But sometimes there’s a lot of loneliness in the here-and-now.

    Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 6:51 am | Permalink
  4. Jen wrote:

    Sweetney, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, about how isolated I am capable of becoming. I have wonderful friends, tons of them, but not that many who are within geographical reach. And we’re all so terribly busy, and it doesn’t seem as if friendship is as emphasized as it once was, even in my own life and according to my own actions. Which makes no sense, because sitting down with a friend and a warm drink has to be the best thing in the world.

    This story can’t really promise any sort of easy solution, but things have gotten better, at least, and I’ve found that process really interesting — and helpful to other people, hopefully.

    Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink
  5. Sometimes I feel like my life is one long transition. I transferred schools at odd times in elementary, high school, and college. I married a Navy officer and we’ve moved nine times in 16 years, and will move again late this summer. Often I’m just getting comfortable I’m a new place when it’s time to start getting ready for another move.

    Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  6. the muskrat wrote:

    I’m seeing the exchange with Sweetney above and my thought is that perhaps you should try to engage more with your online peeps like she does. Am I being too stereotypically male by trying to offer a solution in stead of listening and saying, “yeah, me too!”?

    Maybe it’s because I was at her house a few days ago in Baltimore, but I just think if I were in your shoes, I’d reach out to my readers and those whom I read online more, like Sweetney does. I’ve truly treasured such interactions I’ve been lucky enough to have during the 4 years or so I’ve been regularly blogging.

    Hoping for the best for you and yours – michael

    Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink
  7. Jen wrote:

    Michael, you’re always welcome to share your insights. :) The problem is more of a local one. I have no shortage of online friends — I used to be downright whore-ish about making friends on the Internet, to the point that I did a month-long couchsurfing trip across the country and stayed with all kinds of bloggers. One of my very best friends in the entire world is someone I met through blogging, and I fully credit her with preserving my sanity during a pretty lonely and stressful time.

    I’m referring more to my lack of a LOCAL community, which is something Sweetney seemed to be alluding to as well (as I’m certain she’s not short on online friends either).

    The problem extends beyond socialization. I simply did not have any sort of identity here beyond work and my boyfriend, not even hobbies I participated in solo.

    At the time, I was less interested in “fixing” that and more interested in being patient and letting it get here when it was ready to, when I was ready for it to. So yes, this post is less about fixing and more about how, sometimes, you’ll simply have to wait until you have the strength to do what you’ll have to do to be happier.

    People really do always want to fix everything, myself included, but I think that learning to suffer, and to do it with a relatively clear head, rather than diving for this or that to make it better, is a very worthy endeavor.

    Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink
  8. the muskrat wrote:

    That makes sense…and, I forgot that you used to blog elsewhere and have actually been around for a long time!

    Your lot is one I’m sure a lot of military spouses share (my mother certainly did), but it’s likely worse in your situation, since you’re not on a base full of people (but mainly wives/girlfriends) in the same situation. I recall your ex was in the service, so that might be a bad analogy.

    In any event, I hope you find some roller derby girls,a former journalists/editors recovery groups or something similar, and that it’s soon.

    Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  9. Jen wrote:

    Oh, I’m guessing it worked out all right. I probably wouldn’t be telling the story if it hadn’t. :)

    Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink
  10. Jenn wrote:

    Yes. I say YES. And more YES. Thank you for this.

    Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  11. Janet wrote:

    Like your first two commenters, this post REALLY speaks to me too. And I must say it’s comforting to know you’re not the only one. I moved across the country to be with my now ex-boyfriend and were together for 7 years, but broke up over a year ago. I decided to stay here as I didn’t want to make a knee jerk decision to move home ,and also I’m just used to living here now. I lost his friends in the breakup and have a few of my own, but they are married and have babies now (which I do not). So I spend a lot of time on my own, and that’s really become my life. It’s not bad, but different. I mean, I have hobbies, and the internet is endlessly interesting and amusing, but I remember those days of my youth, when friendships were the most important relationships in your life, and you were never out without your friends. Now it’s the opposite. I do, like Sweetney, have many acquaintances here, but I do essentially feel I live alone every day in this big city.

    Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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