I stare straight ahead, settling my hardened gaze on the stenciled “7.” Then reach for my coffee mug. The mug I just remembered I left on the side table by the door.
The low din of welding equipment from the open-air, fenced auto shops begins to rise through the alley corridor, and I watch a shop mechanic push a battered, paint-splattered cart back and forth between piles of rusted metal.
As if sensing the morning melancholy creeping over me, Linkin Park’s “The Messenger” fills the quiet car with its haunting lyrics.
When you feel you’re alone
Cut off from this cruel world…
My breathing increases, then slows. And I start feeling overwhelmed, over my head — completely ill-equipped to figure out how to transition from a life doing something I never really loved to something I enjoy — maybe even love — but don’t know how to do yet.
Your instinct’s telling you to run…
But while my fingers dance atop the gearshift, I know that reverse is not an escape. It’s a convenient, comfortable trap.
Listen to your heart
Those angel voices
They’ll sing to you
They’ll be your guide…
Settling is something I grew accustomed to doing, and for all the wrong reasons. I was happy enough — on the weekends. I was fulfilled at work — when I spent the whole day on Apartment Therapy and in Starbucks. I felt like I was making a difference — away from work, when I volunteered at the LGBT Center of Raleigh.
And, thinking back, I realize that what I’m feeling isn’t just newbie pre-workday jitters — it’s homesickness. Neither for the political climate, nor the Bubbas. Just little reminders of what made us both feel at home in North Carolina.
Starting over is so absurdly romanticized — so much so people think any stride toward the future will involve some serendipitous meeting with a stranger, and a life transformed. What they don’t always think of is the exhaustion, heartache, and weariness that comes with really, truly starting over.
But with substantial effort comes substantial gain. And as I work to recreate myself as a coworker, manager, and animal advocate, I have to remind myself that all of those queasy, uneasy feelings are part of the ride — part of the transformation.
And soon enough, I’ll look back on this and smile. Because I know that we’ll have made ourselves happy.
Andy calls while I’m sitting outside eating lunch.
We talk. Fret. Worry about things we have to get done.
But then the wind blows a bit and rustles the three palms towering overhead. I look up, feel the warmth of the sun, look around the courtyard, and think. Just think.
Then realize how foolish and selfish it is of me to obsess about such things — as I sit in a courtyard I never would have envisioned. As someone I never would have known walks out of a building I never knew existed, eating a cookie I made. And smiling at me.
I think how bizarrely interconnected we become, and how — through jokes and laughs and small gains — our ties become stronger, united.
Bound together in a very familiar, yet very alien way.
That is very much welcomed.