This time last year, give or take a couple of days, I was hand-washing underwear in the bathroom sink of a Motel 6 next to the Dallas – Fort Worth airport after a canceled flight left me stranded. I was on edge because not only was I separated from my luggage (and the rest of my underwear), but I was also two days late to start a new job. The next morning, I bought a chai latte and an overpriced Lady Speed Stick from an airport kiosk and finally flew home.
The job turned out to be a mistake. A well-paid mistake that lasted almost nine months. I took it because I had convinced myself I needed that salary and that I missed working around other people. Maybe I was right about the former, but I was off-base about the latter. When I look back, I feel hot shame at how hard I bit my tongue during those months and how hard I was on myself for not fitting in — the same kind of shame that’s attached to poor romantic choices. I did meet good people there, but I was never going to be able to fully decode them. I knew that at the first interview. I forged ahead, because that’s what I’ve always done.
That job, however, helped me get this job. The one I gave up my prohibitively-priced west coast studio apartment and all my IKEA furniture and moved 2000 miles for. There were other reasons, too, of course. There are always other reasons.
Life is much cheaper, much quieter, much colder here. Drama is not a Midwestern value. I’ve gone apple picking, turning the literal fruits of my labor into multiple baked goods. A coworker gave me free college football tickets and I stood for hours in frigid temperatures until I couldn’t feel my feet to watch our team go 11-0 on the way to undefeated season. I’m making a spreadsheet to track my holiday spending, logging each intended gift and its status, trying to intercept the mail as it arrives. I have someone to watch $5 movies with on Tuesdays. Most days, I feel like I’ve put a string of three or four good life choices together in the last 12 months, which is quite a winning streak for someone who has moved 11 times in the last five years, someone who hasn’t owned a bed since 2010.
There’s still work to be done, of course. There is always work to be done.