As my parents prepared to return to Minnesota and the reality that I wouldn't be returning with them set in, I kept saying, “I want this experience of leaving. I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.”
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We arrived in Maryland last Wednesday after a Herculean 20+ hour drive, and spent Wednesday through Saturday existing in a bubble of excitement. Look, the Capitol! The Potomac! The Chesapeake Bay! The weather app now includes tides patterns! Target is five minutes away! There's Alexandria! Mount Vernon! Mountains! Crabs!
Our parents were still with, and our brand-new apartment smelled of fresh paint. Our floors were a disaster of cardboard boxes and IKEA assembly, but look how the space was coming together! Everything was unfamiliar. Everything was exciting. We were riding high on adrenaline and adventure. All the reasons we came out were felt present and close.
Then my parents left before dawn on Sunday morning, and the weight of what it means to leave fell on me. I watched their tail lights until they disappeared, then I let Chris bring me back inside.
We spent that first day alone in a heavy quiet. I cried and put books on my shelves as my mom’s location moved farther and farther away on the Apple map. This was the weight I couldn't feel when this move was just an idea and a plan, the weight of what it means to live separate from everyone you love.
I went to bed on Sunday still crying. In the dark, I told Chris that I'd thought I was strong enough to do this, and he said to me: “just because you're strong enough doesn't make this easy.”
I’ve long been afraid that I’m not brave enough or strong enough to withstand the fullness I so desperately want out of life. Getting out here to Maryland, and finding myself immediately mired in tears and homesickness resurfaced this fear. We’re on this grand adventure--why do I so desperately want to return to what I know? Why aren’t I more excited?
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The shape and weight of my homesickness has taken me by surprise. I expected a swell of sadness, but I didn’t expect it to edge out the excitement or joy of the move. I didn’t expected all these strange moments of sadness -- crying over a shelf pin found at the bottom of my purse, because it reminds me of my dad, who built me my desk or overspending at Target, because I felt oddly conspicuous and obviously out of place.
I’ve never been the girl to have a mantra, but mid-week, I made a deal with myself to “be present, but have a plan.” My sensitivity, my sadness, my love for the things that feel so far away aren’t wrong, but I don’t want them to consume me. When you’ve the history of depression I have, sadness can feel frightening. Who's to say this won’t be the blue patch that sends back into that dark country you’ve worked so hard to leave?
But not all sadness is depression or leads to depression, and as Chris so kindly repeated to me through all my tears: what I’m feeling is right, and it’s appropriate. Feeling my feelings is healthy and good. Loving something enough to cry for its absence is beautiful. It honors that love.
And while homesickness has dampened the excitement, it hasn't, by any stretch, extinguished it. There are all the things to do that I'm excited for: I want to visit every Smithsonian, and hike on the Appalachian Trail. In December, Mount Vernon does candlelight tours, and on Assateague National Seashore, there are wild horses. Last weekend, we visited a state park known for its fossils.
And then there's the beating heart of why we moved: the possibility. Above the job offers and the day trips, we came here for what if and what will. What will happen as we grow? How will we change? And in what ways will we become more of who we are meant to be?
We came out here to line up the dominoes, and see where they fall. We've set ourselves up to experience an onslaught of the unknown. That is absolutely going to make us uncomfortable.
Tears aside, here;s the highlight reel of the move so far: Our apartment is lovely. We leased it sight unseen, and what could have gone so badly has gone so well. This space is comfortable, large; the light is clean and effulgent. There's space for me to have a small writing nook, but not so large that Chris and I could lose each other in it. Our town is a surprising mix of rural and suburban. We’re five minutes in any direction from: A suburban, commercial stretch that includes a Target, a one stoplight "downtown," all county services, including the courthouse, and farmsteads. We’re also only thirty minutes from a metro station that bring us directly to DC, forty-five minutes from both Alexandria and the Chesapeake Bay (in different directions), a little over an hour from Baltimore, and a little over two hours from the Atlantic Ocean. (We’re also only four hours from Asbury Park, which is important since our entryway is dominated by a massive poster of Bruce Springsteen).
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This move is an experience and an adventure. We’re at the very beginning, and like any story, we don’t know how this all unfold. Thinking about it this way gives me the most excitement. I deal in stories, and here we are at the very beginning of our next one.