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.

10 Replies to “overturn”

  1. So there are several ways to look at this.

    One person might ask you why you are always looking to run away.

    But another person might say, Wow, good for you, you’re fearless, always looking for fresh starts and new adventures.

    Here are my thoughts: there is a window of opportunity you have in life to take these kinds of chances, make big moves at the drop of a hat, decide to strike out on your own and freelance, etc. After that window ends, it becomes more complicated–mortgages, bills, husband, children, etc.

    (Mind you, I realize not everyone ends up going down the mortgage/family route–some people live the free life forever because that works for them; and good for them if it does–I’m just saying that most people tend to get more tied down as they get older. As to whether that’s a good thing or bad thing…that’s for an individual to decide for him/herself).

    It seems to me you’d really like to give the freelance route a shot. I think this is the time in your life to do, if you’re ever going to.

    And, selfishly, I’m putting in a plug for the east coast.

  2. I have this problem too but I am not as brave as you. To settle my need for change, I like to rearrange things.

    I think it’s a big deal to say you’re restless and face the change head on.

  3. Ok, so another lurker comes out of the shadows to comment.. Firstly, I adore your honesty and your vulnerability and all the things that you think make you a f*ck up are the things that everyone else fears as well but just doesn’t have the courage to articulate it like you.

    So that said, I had to comment on this post.. I’m exactly the same way. I swear I must have traveller’s blood. Funny thing too is that I started my life in NJ, and grew up in Pennsylvania (my parents were from New York originally & I’ve still got lots of family there so I’ve got that connection there as well). As soon as I was able and because living in a crummy resort town in the Poconos was doing my head in, I moved at the first opportunity to Denver. And then I missed home & the rain & the GREEN & for a boy, moved back to PA… that relationship ended & my feet started itching and I moved to California (LA). It didn’t take long for me to get bored and back to the safety net of PA. When life got very hard & I was very unhappy, I decided to wipe the slate clean and moved to Wisconsin. Best thing I’d ever done at that point – I loved it there, I had amazing friends and a good job etc etc.. and yet. I wanted something else. I grew restless. The opportunity arose to move to the UK. Another Country! How could I pass it up?

    And for months when I arrived here in England, I questioned why I had given up so much for the sake of change. It was much harder to adjust than I had anticipated and yet I knew I had to make it work, if only for my own self preservation…

    Well I’ve been here in the UK for 6 years. The longest I’ve ever stayed anywhere as an adult. Admittedly, I’ve moved around a bit within the country but I feel RIGHT here where I am now, I feel like this is where i want to be, where I want to stay. I’m in a relationship that’s healthy (for once) and I’ve made amazing friends. People have said I must be fearless for what I did but for me, it was something I felt desperately I HAD to do and couldn’t understand why others didn’t embrace – no illicit – change the way I did…

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, if it’s truly right, I think you will know. It’s too easy for me to say that you are running away because hell, I’ve done that too. But in the end, I’ve ended up in a place that I know I will be for a long time. I just bought my first property here and that was a sign of my commitment in some ways.

    Follow your instincts and trust yourself. Ask yourself WHY you are going and if you can’t give yourself a very good reason for not doing it then go for it. If it’s because your relationship ended and you are feeling lonely and living in a new town where you can give yourself a REASON for your loneliness… well, maybe that’s not such a good reason. Only you will know though.

    Good luck, darlin, I’m routin’ for ya.


  4. Hi Anne,
    Similarly, one of my life patterns until recently has always been: when in crisis, be sure to create ANOTHER crisis–more is always better!
    For example, during a pre and post-partum depression, I decided to get a divorce!!!
    (That’s just one example from 17 years ago. There are other fun ones.)

    You’ve just been through this huge life change–gone from Kansas to Oz and back again–my gut feeling is you need to hang out in Kansas a little longer, get used to having health insurance, get used to the new Sleeping Arrangements, let yourself rest & recover for a while longer…
    There’s no rush, the daily grind is long…what you need to do will form itself as a persistent vision over time, not an impulse that throws you out the door in a day…of course we all know you must write. That’s a given. The particulars? Eh, that’ll be revealed in the fullness of time.

  5. Holy shit. I could’ve written this myself. Definitely in the same place. After college, I left for Boston (8 years), then Quaint New England Island (11 years), then Upstate New York town (1 year). Now I’m feeling it, and wondering what’s next. Completely identify with the feeling – but wonder if “Anywhere” will be enough.

  6. I know the feeling. It’ll sound silly but try re-positioning your bed. Sometimes waking up and facing the world from a new angle can make all the difference. Plus it can help you sleep in a different place on the bed too.

    I’m a risk taker myself but I say give it a bit more time, either way. Make a date to re-evaluate in a couple of months and see what you think. If it’s still there and you’re more firm on the next step, go for it!

    Big hug!

  7. Whenever I’m in a similar situation I hope and pray that someone will approach me with a ‘fast forward’ button for my life and I can just skip the next 3 months, or 6 months or year or however long I estimate I’m going to be stuck in a rut of sadness.
    You KNOW this lonliness will pass, and yet waiting for it feels impossible.

    Only you know if its time to pick up and move (and BTW… I love living in Portland! Affordable, artsy, great music, and I think it is almost mandatory to have multiple tattoos and punky cool hair…eventhough I have neither!) but I can’t help but point out that it seems like you’ve got a good groove going in San Fran…Perhaps time will tell?

    In any case, I’m sending a hug south for you and hang in there!

  8. Columbus, Ohio is very affordable, but I am not sure about the taxes. I do know a few freelance writers and they do very well in Chapel Hill, NC.

    I like the idea mentioned several times above about rearranging your rooms. When I feel restless that is the first thing I do.

  9. My 1-bedroom apartment in St. Louis costs $425/month and comes with central air, offstreet parking, and a storage locker in the basement.

    I’m just sayin.

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