Here we go.
Until this moment, the mere idea of needing to add words to this corner of the internet has made me instantly feel a bit nauseous. Avoidance tactics activated. Oh look, Netflix.
What am I supposed to say?
So much has changed since the last time I checked in here. I changed jobs and changed cities/states with less than a week’s notice. I changed where I was living…twice…in the span of a month. I’ve killed five cockroaches. The “you haven’t written a blog post in a while” thought has been kind of pushed to the back of my mind. It’s been one more to-do that has been drowned out in the ocean of lists and appointments and deadlines.
Moving is a whirlwind. The idea is super romantic. Ooh, she packed up her things and drove down to a new state, a new city, with her very own apartment for the very first time. It sounds adventurous. And to be fair, I think it is. Points for that, gal. But there is this entire side of moving that caught me off guard.
With the exception of college, (and everyone knows that’s not quite the same), I have never lived on my own. So this is exciting, right?
Yes! I would say to anyone who asked. I’ve been talking about this, daydreaming about this, for so long, it’s wonderful to finally be here.
But you don’t realize, not when you’ve made all your packing lists and shopping lists and grocery lists, that this is one gigantic celebration of everything you don’t know yet.
• I didn’t know how hard it would be to drive away from my home without knowing the next time I would be back.
• I didn’t know how much I would regret not making much eye contact with people as I said goodbye to them. (Because goodbyes are hard and awkward and awful, but that’s no excuse to not look at the people you’re leaving.)
• I didn’t know that I had already seen some people for the last time before I moved, but hadn’t known that at the time.
• I didn’t know how much time would just evaporate off the calendar as I tried to get things done.
• I didn’t know how to fix the ice maker in the fridge so I called maintenance, and now I don’t know if it’s weird to ask maintenance to come back a second time now that I’ve confirmed for a month that the first attempt truly didn’t fix it.
• I didn’t know that lemon multi-surface cleaning spray won’t kill roaches.
• I didn’t know how challenging it is to update your license, update your insurance, and register your car within 30 days of arriving while working longer business hours.
• I have put aluminum foil on my grocery list 4 times in a row and forgotten it every single time.
• I didn’t know that once I started living alone my ears would develop super-sonic hearing, and for the first two weeks the AC would wake me up every night at 2am as it kicked back on because the sound was unfamiliar.
• I didn’t know that when you live alone, cereal boxes aren’t mysteriously empty the day after you buy them thanks to hungry siblings. And as a result, I have accidentally bought enough cereal to last me the next three years.
• I knew I would miss my family, but I didn’t know that I would miss the presence of the family golden retriever so much.
• I didn’t remember how loud the thunderstorms were here.
• I didn’t know that no matter how many afternoons I spent arranging and rearranging my pantry or washing my towels it wouldn’t expel the “I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing” feeling.
• I didn’t know how long finding a church would take.
• I didn’t know squash was so easy to cook.
• I didn’t know that sometimes you go swimming and get water in your ear and you can’t hear out of it for two weeks, and well, there’s not a lot you can do about it.
• I didn’t know that I might want to have some light bulbs for those cute lamps I picked out.
Maybe other people knew many of these things, but somehow they caught me by surprise. It’s almost a game now. You have to make it a game. You have to laugh and embrace all these things you don’t know, or the increasing number of times you say the words will make you want to rip your hair out. Not knowing, and learning through the not-knowing, is messy work. It pricks at my pride.
This gigantic celebration? I would tell my past (three months ago) self, Girl, it’s going to last months. You have to learn to roll with it, or all the curveballs will start to bruise you.
It doesn’t seem like they would, because most of them are such tiny things. But they stack up eventually and I start thinking these things:
Am I doing this wrong?
Is there something that everyone has figured out that I have somehow missed?
I’ve crossed oceans, for years, and lived on the other side of the world. Is it embarrassing or ridiculous that moving just three hours south is really, really hard?
People do this all the time. This is an incredibly normal, essential part of life. I don’t want to admit that I don’t know what I’m doing.
Am I failing if I admit that this is hard?
Part of me still thinks that admitting that it’s hard is saying that I don’t want to be here. Or maybe it’s saying that I’m not as tough as I was appearing to be. Or maybe it’s saying I just don’t have a lot of it together. And I desperately want to come across as happy to be here and tough and organized and, well, having it all together.
But it is hard. It’s hard to go from “I’m at home and in-between jobs right now” to “I’m leaving in five days” after a 15-minute phone call while you’re standing in the mall outside Old Navy. There’s so much rushing and driving back and forth and “LOVEYOUBYE” that you burst into tears the moment you’re alone. But you don’t want to appear sad, because you’re supposed to be excited. And you are. But it’s a lot because it feels sudden. There was no prep time. No gentle countdown of “3 weeks left” and “one week left”. Just…oh. Now.
It’s also hard to be new in town in the midst of a pandemic. I find meeting people at this age hard in general, but the pandemic is icing on the cake. Many churches aren’t meeting in-person. Work is all remote. A huge shoutout to the friends and family who have answered my “I-haven’t-seen-another-human’s-face-in-three-days” texts on a Thursday night with an instant video call.
I am 100% introverted, friends. But that just means my phone charger is in a room by itself (blog coming about this soon). While that phone has battery life it still wants to spend time laughing and singing and spending time with other humans just like everyone else.
It’s also hard when additional life speed bumps (and, well, oceans) get added onto these transitions. I recently surrendered to the devastating fact that I won’t be able to go to my best friend’s wedding later this month (thanks Rona), and that means I won’t see her or my other best friend who is going to be there, and I really miss them. My youngest sister is starting High School and I’m not there to see it. Another sister has gone away to college and I’m not there for that part either.
People smile with berry colored lipstick and ask with kind eyes:
Are you getting settled in?
I don’t know how to answer them. I locked myself in a laundry complex a couple weeks ago and it took me a solid 300 seconds of hitting the “Exit” button over and over to realize that I needed to hold the button down for the door to open again. I waved at the security camera on the way out. Whoever reviews that tape is going to cry with laughter at the panic that grew exponentially over those 5 minutes. You’re welcome.
I have called the apartment office not once, but twice, simply about postal related questions.
I don’t know where the closest bookstore is or the phone number of the closest pizza place (which my bank account is probably very grateful for).
I haven’t unpacked my pajamas, and honestly I’m not in a rush to because somewhere in the back of my mind I feel like this is very temporary still. Like I’ve moved into a hotel that I’m staying in for a while. And “a while” is substantial, but not indefinite. My suitcase is still easily accessible, even though there’s no reason for it.
I haven’t hung any photos either for the same reason. I have several beautiful frames holding faces of my favorite humans sitting propped up against the living room wall.
Is it weird that this feels temporary still? Is it supposed to feel this way?
I keep asking these questions over and over. So many of them start with “Am I supposed to…” or “What should I be doing…” like there is a rule book with all of these scenarios that was mailed to every 20-something except me. And every person I run into is asking me for a progress report. And I have yet to deviate from my cheery “It’s going great!!!” reply because I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about a wonderful opportunity.
I recently read in a blog post from Lore Ferguson Wilbert this line:
“I thought the virtuous Christian life was to bear it, the full weight of all of it, to pretend to not need anything or anyone but Christ, and to do it with faith and a smile and words of God’s goodness on my lips.”
Yes, that. Relatable. God is good, so so good. But this is also hard. And the two are not mutually exclusive. I’m trying to remember that concept. That it’s okay to carry heavy things and admit their heaviness to other people, and that doing so doesn’t necessarily come across as untrusting or complaining. I’m hopefully neither. But He has invited me into this life-narrative as an active participant, which means that some things get difficult. And maybe there’s a beautiful thing to be learned in practicing the daily swapping of burdens with God. Some things feel like celebration, and some things feel like grief. And our relationship grows deeper when I’m not afraid to be honest about the latter.
God has shown up when I really, really needed Him to. Things with the apartment lined up miraculously when all the dates and numbers said they wouldn’t, among time after time of extravagant favor.
But He has also tangibly shown up in the kindness of other people.
I’m so grateful for the people who have helped me.
Who have answered the random questions I have texted at strange hours of the day about what-was-that-recipe and loose windows and how-in-the-world-does-this-internet-thingy-work. Who have sat on my living room floor and put together several pieces of furniture. Who have brought me cute little baskets and boxes of veggies and leftover soup and zip-lock bags full of K-Cups.
Someone got me a non-stick baking sheet and my eyes teared up. That’s how grateful I am that one of the 400 browser tabs in my brain was taken care of and closed before I had even addressed it.
I’m so grateful for the people who have wanted to get frozen yogurt, or chimichangas and margaritas, or hang out in the pool for an afternoon in this Hotlanta heat. Spontaneous texts that say, “Hey! We’re trying this new place for dinner tonight, wanna join?” make me smile so big I think my face will break.
People have driven hours, and stood in lines, and shown up at my door with Target bags and groceries, and invited me over to watch TV, and I’ve learned that it is okay to let them. These tiny but huge things that have made this process so much easier.
Kindness is world-shaking in the gentlest ways. It says, “I see you. And I’m not looking down on you for what you haven’t figured out yet. Let me make the burden lighter.” And it is a force to be reckoned with that has combatted the chaos the last two months have felt like.
So if you’re one of these people, I thank you, thank you, thank you.
Maybe, definitely, there is so much I can learn from these months. And not the kind of learning that gets added to my to-do list to read through in my spare moments between working and sleeping. The kind of learning that happens by watching those who know more than me, and not assigning myself another character flaw for not magically knowing already.
In a final note to self, or maybe for you, if you’re in transition like me, I would say:
Pay attention to flurry of extra activity you are creating for yourself. There’s been a lot of movement. Don’t underestimate the power of sitting down, and sitting still, when your schedule allows it. You might’ve been shoved into motion, but you’re the one keeping your foot on the gas in times you don’t necessarily have to. What you have to face when you slow down enough to process might not be fun. It might tumble out of you into a Word doc at 8:43pm and make you feel overwhelmed and grateful and confused and tired. But there is good in it. Someone else might have felt this way too. And so far the things that have helped you the most are the reminders from others that you aren’t alone. So sit down and scribble it out. Offer it up like a Thank You note to those who have been kind. And then offer it up like an acknowledgement to everything that’s been hard. Write “Moving is hard. It’s okay.” at the top, and address it to yourself.
Remember, it’s a gigantic celebration. Let’s rejoin the party.