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big feelings big feelings and rubber bands
*I wrote this shortly after the new year and didn’t post it because I didn’t have the energy to reread and edit what I had written in my notes app during a particularly anxious day. A month later I came back to it and most of it still resonated, though less intensely. So I’m sharing. Because I’m not the only one who was in the middle of doing something really hard and then had the hard things compounded.
Moving was always going to be hard for me. Senior year everyone was asking what I’d do after and my answer was find a job in journalism or communications in Minnesota preferably close to home.
Instead, when the time came I picked up and moved three hours away from my most essential squad.
Origins are important to me. It’s why I introduce myself as being from “a home school family of 13” even though I am t i r e d of people being aghast that my parents had 13 kids and are still married and aren't Mormons. To me, if you don’t know at least know those 14 other family members, you don’t know me. Heck, if I can’t be around those 14 people I sometimes feel like I don’t know myself either. Sometimes I go home for the sake of my own sanity and to have just two days where I don’t have to explain my inside jokes.
Maybe under ordinary circumstances moving away wouldn’t have been quite so bad. Three hours is far, but not far-far. I can go home for the weekend and have a full weekend. Long enough to be ready to leave, even. But with social distancing and COVID surges, three hours can feel like the other side of the world.
I picked up and relocated to start a new job in a new place with new people. New is hard for me.
I want to know the expectations. I want to know what success looks like so I can chart a path in that direction. I struggle to figure out how new environments work because you don't know what you don't know until you're blindsided by it.
I want to be good so badly and it's been FIVE MONTHS already and I don’t feel good.
In previous jobs and internships, supervisors and coworkers have often commented on how I was really good about asking questions. I can't find a concise way to ask people to TELL ME EVERYTHING I DON'T KNOW YET.
If my job were routine, settling in and settling down might be easier. But I picked a job – journalism – where every day is different. Sometimes I'm so busy I can't focus because of all the things I'm supposed to be doing and sometimes I'm so NOT busy I can't focus on all the things I'm supposed to be trying to find to do later.
Upheaval comes weekly. On Monday at 2 p.m. The crack of dawn on Thursday. Wednesday at noon. It just comes.
My mom said it was the ebb and flow, feast and famine. The analogy works - maybe too well. There is too much. Too little. Rarely the "just right, just right, just right" that lets work life shift to autopilot so I can figure out the rest of life.
The rest of life. Which is grocery shopping and the laundromat and discovering you can just TAKE those priority mailing boxes from the post office because the cost of buying one is included with shipping. Like figuring out where to go locally if you need your bike repaired. Or if you want to try on a pair of winter boots. Or you need a kitchen scale. Or you have a weekend and time to kill and you want to SEE SOMETHING ANYTHING AT ALL.
Like figuring out how and where to volunteer if you are good at writing and talking to one person at once but you would also be down to do physical labor if it meant being helpful as long as no one makes you hold babies or pray for anyone.
Like finding a place to get takeout sometimes because getting takeout is fun. Like getting to know the towns within 20 miles well enough that you can go bowling or biking or hiking or to the pool or thrifting or whatever it is people do. Like just figuring out how to be a person whose life isn't all about school or all about work but is some kind of balance between gainful employment and grateful existence.
Except I moved during a pandemic. And normal life is a popped balloon. Or a broken rubber band. Try and find it. It whisked itself away somewhere. Normal life is on a short hiatus and I don’t even know what it looked like before it left. I’m trying to make do. But I don’t know how? It’s hard to say "let's put a pause on some things for a few months or a year or a year and a few months" when you've never started those things to begin with.
Moving out was supposed to be stretching my wings and new experiences and new freedom.
Instead I've curled up and hunkered down. I moved out in time for everything to be new for everyone, not just me. To be buffeted by the things I don't know and to be trying to adapt to the world's "new normal" without knowing what the old normal was like in the first place.
I’m not sure when I’m supposed to feel like I know how to exist 200 miles from my squad. I’m prepared for it to take a little longer but I'd like to know how long I have to wait. When is this supposed to feel real? Really real. Like, we’re living in Iowa real and we pay our own rent and utilities real, we cook our own food because eating out is fun but not THAT fun real, like this is not a drill or a temporary thing.
I never want to stop saying “I'm going home” in reference to my parents' house but calling two places home makes me feel like a stretched rubber band. I orbit between two points of familiarity. The houses on both ends feel safe now, but the space between them is anxious and sometimes unsettling.
I moved out and my job is not the problem and where I live is not the problem and the distance from home is not the problem and even the pandemic is not entirely the problem, but all these things at once is much, much more than I was prepared for.
Maybe what I'm trying to say is I have these big, big feelings. Probably you do too.