And now I live in Madison.

Most of my things still live in Utah. My trailer reservation, U-haul went ahead and lost it. And I threw my hands up on that Saturday, the day before I was supposed to leave, and I said fuck it. Fuck it, I’m just going. I am going to fill up my little car with all the things it can carry and I am going to drive twenty hours across twenty states (was it twenty? It feels like twenty) and I am going to move to Madison with a few boxes filled full with random things and a heart full of determination and some slightly wild eyes and someday I will have my things but not now, because I am so ready to go, do you understand me? I am ready to leave now.

I left, and now I live in Madison.

I love this town. I bought an air mattress; I brought some pillows and my little dog. My apartment is the smallest apartment in the world, though probably not. When people walk in, they say, “Oh, this is a very small apartment” and they are not wrong.

The first week: I walk miles, across town and around. I walk down to the lake just three blocks away. Every morning Crom and I go. He discovers the visceral pleasure and eternal excitement of duck chasing. He learns to swim, and there is very little better in the world than watching a little dog swim very earnestly and determinedly, paddling fiercely but not well. He gets over his fear of putting his face in the water when he realizes it’s the only way to retrieve his ball, bobbing on the surface. Someday he will catch a duck and it will be the greatest day of his life. Every morning I watch him chase his dreams and they are very good mornings.

I swim almost every afternoon except for the days when it’s raining. It rains a lot, and it thunders a lot, and I’m going to have to get over being worried about thunder and flinching at lightning because I think it is not going away.

Every night I find a place to eat on the Capitol—I’m just a couple of blocks from Capitol Square, and everything happens there, and on the streets that radiate out. In walking distance there are all the restaurants and bars and cafes and coffee shops in all the world. There’s a lot of sushi, and most of it is good and some of it is great. I meet people randomly, because everyone wants to talk.

Almost every day I run into the friends I have here because it is such a small town. People I love are just minutes away and I’m still getting used to the fact that we don’t need to have long protracted goodbyes because I live here now and really they are just minutes away that is a literal, factual fact.

There’s a concentrated energy and it feels like everything is going on—I know not everything is going on. I know this is a small town, but that is what I love about it. It is small but it is vibrant. That’s the word for it, it really is I swear to you. I know how stupid it sounds; I feel a little stupid using that word, because who the hell uses the word “vibrant” except for writers for New York magazine and old ladies in caftans. But I am a little giddy with it. The vibrancy, okay? I do not own a caftan yet though. YET.

The second and third weeks are the farmer’s market and the concerts on the square and trying to settle into a routine. But I’m having trouble finding a routine. I’m a creature of routine and this is a terrible thing.

It feels like I am unmoored. It feels like I’m a little out of place. Sometimes, I feel a little lost even when I know exactly where I’m going. I know my neighborhood now, all the blocks miles around. I’ve walked down Willy street and loved it best. I’ve walked down Monroe street and loved it best. I love the whole town best. At my favorite sushi place they call me the redhead and they know which lunch special I’m going to order—they don’t bring me a menu anymore. I am trying to be stable and secure. I am trying to settle in. To fit in and figure out how I fit in my friends’ lives.

The fourth week, the fourth week I lose my mind completely.

It’s not surprising. The giddy energy dissipates a bit and that is to be expected and what’s left is uncertainty. Insecurity. A weird loneliness that I can’t figure out. A strange kind of panic. I know I’m where I want to be, but I am suddenly terrified that it’s not where I’m supposed to be and no one wants me here. I want so badly for someone to tell me what I was thinking please. Tell me I haven’t made a mistake.

I go and buy a dresser. I buy a desk. I hang some art up. I buy flowers and I cook in my tiny kitchen. I breathe in and out and follow up on the volunteer applications I submitted at the library and the YWCA and Planned Parenthood. I breathe some more and I go swimming a lot. I am satisfied to see that every time I take my dress off I am less worried about what random people think of me in a bikini. I don’t care. Crom chases ducks. I do some writing.

The giddiness is gone, but the panic is gone too and in its place is—not quite contentment. Not complete security. But more routine and with it, feelings that feel more honest. Worry, because I always worry. A feeling of hopefulness because I am always somehow basically optimistic or maybe just not so bright. Or maybe because things are going to be okay because I love this town and I am happy here, very basically very happy or basically not so bright and those are generally the same thing.

And it’s going to be okay because this is a very good place to be.

8 Replies to “Madiversary”

  1. Well, I think you absolutely did the right thing and are going to just fall in love over and over and settle into a routine and it will just keep getting better each day you wake up in that fabulous town. I so envy you–I loved Madison when I lived there for 7 years (now 7 years ago!). I didn’t love it when I was there but looking back, I really did. I wish I was there. I just moved across country too – Minneapolis to Phoenix. No job (yet), a couple volunteer gigs, a few interviews, but I really need an income soon. So now I have all these doubts and wonderments about whether it was time to go. But I can’t talk to them because I’m here. And I’m not going back there. Somewhere else maybe (hey, maybe Madison again!) but not there. Anyway, have fun. Summer is good, but just wait for the crackling and colorful leaves on the square this fall–it will be beautiful.

  2. I was in Madison July 2009, and my husband and I just loved it. We sat on the grass and then the cement of Lake Mendota, and just looked at the water and were still….for over an hour, maybe two. I could live there, I could.

    I hope you settle in and are very happy there. It’s a great city.

    I envy you. Congratulations.


  3. Welcome to Wisconsin! I get down to Madison every February for what we call Superior Days! Its our time to come down from our Northwest corner of the State and talk with elected officials and State administrators about our needs and concerns from this corner. We also remind them we are part of the State and not part of Minnesota or Canada. Oh ya and we do party, feel welcome to crash our party and say hello.

  4. So happy for you – for the beginnings of a routine, and some vibrancy. Selfishly, I hope the almost contentment might mean that we hear more from you, here! But regardless, here is an internet stranger cheering you on your changes from the deep south and wishing you all the the very best.

  5. One of my dearest friends lives in Madison and *adores* it there (she’s even a cab driver, because she loves the place so much!). And two other, separate, friends just moved there in the last month. I need to go out there to visit, myself. It seems to be becoming a nexus of awesome in my universe.

  6. I loved reading your book. I live in WI about 2 hours north of Madison. I just had weight loss surgery a month ago. Doing pretty good, but it’s kinda tough too. What kind of dog is that. We have a Blue Heeler and it looks similar.

  7. I grew up near Madison and live “in town” now…and *I* am still discovering all it has to offer.

    I think anytime you move somewhere new, you feel pretty adrift for a number of months…but if you can hang in there past the discomfort, you can love a place. But I’m sure you know this. Madison has LOTS to love. :)

    Just learned about your book; going to buy it. Gobbled the Kindle preview and want more. Love your writing.

    Gotta know; what’s your favorite sushi place!?

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