Coming back from lunch yesterday I was walking down Sutter holding a latte, in a grand, introspective, post-birthday mood—despite the weather, cold and gray. I was fumbling in my bag for my phone, needing to check the time and wondering if I was running late. I looked up, and a guy coming toward me—a nicely-dressed, normal looking guy in a suit—veered out of his path and cut right in front of me. I stopped, startled, with my phone in my hand. He leaned close and said, "You. You’re a very lucky person."
I slowed, paused, stared at him wide-eyed for a moment, and he opened his mouth again. I yelped and dodged around him and flung myself into the Fresh store, examining $60 candles extremely carefully, until my heart stopped strumming and I was sure he had found some other woman to drag into a dressing room at Banana Republic to eat her heart out of her chest. I did not really think he was going to scoop my liver from the hollow of my body, but it was still hard to breathe and my heart was fluttering and I don’t know why.
This has happened to me once before. Six years ago, I was living in New
Jersey, in a relationship that was bad for me and just bad, and I was
unhappy in my life—feeling stagnant, directionless, lost and unsure. I
was in a job at a start-up company that was sucking the life out of
me, and which just sucked, and which I sucked at. There was no
structure, I wasn’t even sure what my job description was and what I
was supposed to be doing, exactly, and every morning, I had a panic
attack, thinking about going in to the office again and trying to
figure out how to do a job which may or may not have actually existed.
Every single second of my life, I wished it didn’t exist. Sometimes I
wished I didn’t.
I was looking for a way out, a way to change everything and shake
everything up. Tear it all apart and throw the pieces in the air, and
let them land where they would. I had a visit planned to San Francisco.
It was just supposed to be a visit—four days, I think. But my secret
plan, the one in my heart, the one I didn’t tell the people I was
visiting, or tell my boyfriend, was that I was seeing if San Francisco
was a place I would want to move to, give up my life for. Giving up my
life did not sound difficult, but—you wear a groove in your life, and
it’s a comfortable place, and hard to haul yourself out of. Was it
really something I could do? I was just toying with the idea.
The day before I left, I was walking down Fifth Avenue when a woman
standing by the curb called to me. "You’re going to California," she
said. "And it’s going to change your entire life." I slowed, paused,
stared at her wide-eyed. “You’re going soon,” she said. “Tomorrow,” I
said. “Do you want to know more?” she asked me. Of course I did. Tell
me that everything is going to be wonderful. Tell me that this is a
decision I should be making, the right decision, the only possible
decision, the most brilliant plan anyone has ever had in the history of
plans. “Oh, yes,” I said. She asked me for $20, because as
it turns out, she was a psychic, and I did not have $20.
"Come back when you can," she told me, and gave me her flyer, and I swore
I would, but when I got home, it was gone from my bag. But that was
really all I needed.
I flew to California, and loved the city, and found that there were
decent MFA programs, and applied, and accepted, and broke the news to
my boyfriend that I was going by myself, and I moved. Five years later,
my life is entirely changed, and it was hard and awful sometimes and
often lonely, but it remains the best decision I ever made. I think
about that woman a lot, and sometimes wish I could find her and ask her
what’s next. What do I do now? Do I stay here? Do I go? Tell me what I
do to change my entire life. Sometimes I am sure I do not want to know,
because that sounds like the worst possible thing that could happen to
me. Haven’t I had enough change? Can I breathe for awhile, please?
The guy on Sutter did not ask me for money, or give me a flyer. He just
smiled at me, as if we were both very happy that I am so lucky, and I
am not sure why it scared me so much. He’s as right as that woman in
New York was—I am lucky. It is true that I am lucky, and true that I do
not remember that often enough.