I get restless. Even when things in my life are good, and I have everything I want, I get restless. Usually I can stave it off by dyeing my hair, or cutting all of it off, or buying shoes. Sometimes, I get drastic and start surfing craigslist, looking for a new apartment, a new neighborhood. When things get really bad, I start looking for a new city, and start imagining a whole new life with all-new people who don’t know me, and don’t know how fucked up I am; who, if I am careful and lucky, won’t figure it out for a long time. Until I fuck up again, in a month or a year or five, and need to move away to a whole new city. If I’m not careful, I’m going to run out of cities.
Sometimes, the auditioning of a whole new something is just fantasy. I do it as a matter of course, walking down the street in a neighborhood I’m visiting, looking through people’s lit windows and thinking about what color I’d paint the living room. When I visit a place for the first time, I try the city on. When we were in Boston over the summer, I spent a lot of time looking around and picking out my neighborhood, my coffee shop and my train station and imagining my triumphant return to the East Coast. Sometimes, that is enough for me. Right now, it doesn’t feel like enough.
This has happened before, over and over in my life. A pattern, you
might call it. I moved to New York, from Pennsylvania, more or less on
a whim. I had dropped out of high school, was working at a convenience
store and getting my diploma through a work-study program, and I felt
small and gray and lonely, until I couldn’t take it any more, and I was
off like a shot. I lived in New York and went to college. I moved from
apartment to apartment and borough to borough and could never quite get
comfortable in any of them. Then, a terrible roommate situation with a
terrible, terrible woman who delighted in
making others unhappy (I hope she is now as unhappy as she made us), and I gritted my teeth until I graduated, and
then I bolted for the wild new vistas of—New Jersey. I am not proud of
that. Especially because it was for a boy. But it shook everything up
and woke me up and I was happy, for a while.
Then, restlessness again. With him, my job, my life and my dingy little
apartment; and I found myself applying to grad schools as far away from
New Jersey as I could get; and then I was moving to San Francisco the
day before classes started. That was a little over five years ago, more
or less, and I’ve been the happiest ever, living here. I love this
city, and my life and my friends. I have a good job and a lovely little
apartment and I would tell you, if you asked me, that I am satisfied
with this life I’ve made for myself. Except that I’m restless. Losing
140 pounds and getting a new job and the end of my relationship isn’t
enough for me, apparently—now I’m surfing craigslist again, and it’s
not just the Bay Area craigslist. I’m looking at Portland and Seattle,
Salt Lake City and Madison and Chicago and Eugene and I don’t know,
somewhere in Vermont, maybe. Maine’s nice. Somewhere far away, that
would be nice.
I love my life, and I want a new one. I’m not happy—so what better way
to fix things than to flip the board over and scatter the pieces and
start all over again? It occurs to me that I have a freelance income;
that when I get a couple of big freelance checks I’m expecting, I’ll
have my credit card debt and medical bills paid off; that I can always
pick up more freelance income; that I want to write, not spend my day
at a desk proofreading. I want to write, and not proofread. I want to be happy. I could move to an inexpensive city, and maybe, I could do that.
The idea makes me sick to my stomach; the idea fills me with a manic
kind of terror. It thrills the fuck out of me. I’m scared of being
lonely, but don’t I always feel lonely anyway? I’m scared of being
broke and living on the street, but there are safety nets out there, I
think—and leaving one job, no matter how good it is, and how much it
pays, doesn’t mean that I’ll never have another good job ever again, if
I need one.
I don’t know if I am built for that kind of life—I have natural
tendency towards inertia and ennui. I can imagine starting off gung ho,
living my Exciting! New! Artistic! Life! Complete with working out and
meditation! And then, a month in, I’m sleeping until noon every day and
surfing the net for midget porn. I don’t know if I can really give up
the people I love here. I don’t know if I can give up this city I
love, this place I’ve felt more at home in than any place I’ve ever
lived. More practically: I don’t know if I can give up health
insurance, for fuck’s sake. I don’t know that I’m smart enough to live
on a freelance income without killing myself somehow or ruining the
whole rest of my life. I don’t know.
I’m restless, right now, jittery and looking for something, and
terrified this might be what I’ve been looking for, for even longer
than I’ve imagined.