Where I was from

Flourish Vol. 37

Oregon last summer, but also my mood board for listening to folklore

If you’d told me 6 months ago that this summer I’d be moving back in with my parents, in my little ol’ nothing hometown, just a couple months shy of turning 27, I probably would’ve berated you for your stupidity, or died of embarrassment. Or both! Probably both.

It was something my mom had suggested long before the pandemic started, way back in the fall when I expressed that I was probably, definitely done with LA. But I’d dismissed it outright then. And again in the spring, when it became clear that this pandemic wasn’t going anywhere, and likely to only get worse.

It made sense; I’d been looking for an out from Los Angeles, my office wasn’t due to open for months, there was nothing tying me here, and a major financial gain if I left. But my ego resisted. What would people think? Perhaps, most likely, that I was just another one of the millions of people to lose their jobs during this pandemic. But, alternatively, maybe that I’d been fired in some horribly dramatic way, or had run out of money, or just couldn’t hack it here. Besides, when I was at my lowest, I always took comfort in the idea of living in Los Angeles, in my dream apartment. At least I had that.

Even though an estimated 2.9 million adults moved in with family in the first three month so the pandemic, the idea of moving home threatened to be too much of a blow to my ego, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that way.

“I was very resistant to that, just because of the idea that’s been ingrained in so many young Millennials that moving home with your parents is a step back,” she told me. “It’s the ideal to be self-sufficient and live on your own, have your own place, have a successful job.”

-The New Boomerang Kids Could Change American Views of Living at Home

When all I was sure of was leaving LA, I’d scouted a few options for my next hometown, and fell into an instant, easy kind of love with Denver. But as I stared down the months of uncertainty ahead, I realized that what I wanted even more than a change of scenery was comfort and security, and all of that was waiting for me at the home I grew up in. This is certainly not what I’d imagined for myself at 26, but then the truth is that when I left my childhood home I couldn’t even conceive of being 26.

I have my reservations, of course, but mostly I'm excited to go back to my roots, to have the emotional and physical safety net I've missed for so many years away from my family. To leave, for a while, the constant panic about what to do should I get sick or hurt, who to call for a ride from the airport, or when I need to move.

I had shied away from dependence on my family my entire life. My constant need for freedom and autonomy is what made my teen years hell, my fights with my mother near-constant. But now, nearly 10 years after I left home for the last time, the whole world is different. I have experienced milestones, joy, heartache, and loss (not to mention years of therapy) that have reframed my view of the world. I have achieved so much of what I could only dream of from my childhood bedroom; being the first in my family to graduate from college, getting a great job, falling in love, meeting lifelong friends, finding financial independence, traveling the world. I am not failing, or falling backwards. There are no far-flung places to traverse right now. There are no dreams I need to be chasing a million miles from everyone I know. And I've realized dependence on people who are not family comes with its own pitfalls, too.

I’m fortunate enough to still have my job; I could stay in Los Angeles. I could ride this thing out indefinitely. But I fell out of love with this city a while ago, and the toll that isolation has taken on my mental health is undeniable. I refuse to burn through my life’s savings to stay somewhere that is no longer growing with me, or enabling me to grow. Most of all though, my soul has been aching for my family, and a house with a yard, with room to walk and breathe and lay on the front lawn after a few gummies and contemplate the stars in the night sky and the vastness of the universe. I want a small town with a main street, most of the people I would’ve gone out of my way to avoid long since gone, a vineyard down the road, summer rainstorms. I want seasons, the birch trees in our yard changing colors in the fall, warm meals, my parents' dogs, afternoons with my grandparents. Making up for all the years I can't get back.

The idea of moving home once filled me with shame, convinced it would be one interminable "FOMO" experience; all of my friends having fun and the entire world moving on without me, 26 and single, sleeping in my childhood bedroom. But the world isn't going anywhere, especially not now. And now is the time to re-draw the blueprints of the world we thought we knew. I want to deconstruct and pivot and save for a life after this, beyond this, whatever that might be. But now is a time for comfort and safety, for walking the sidewalks in my childhood suburb, for rediscovering who I was before the world swallowed me whole. For finding solid ground beneath my feet. For reclaiming my hometown and my home state, where I was from, as Joan Didion once said of California. For plotting where I'm heading next, for the life that comes after getting everything you ever wanted. Because what I want now is radically different than the life I wanted at 23, or 19, but perhaps not so different from what I wanted and believed so deeply at 16, my head filled with the golden dreams that brought me to California in the first place.

I never could have guessed that 2020 would yield a Taylor Swift album produced by a member of The National, or that this would be the exact emotional landscape I was yearning for at this point in time, but the lyrics and melodies have been running through my head for days. My Tears Ricochet wasn’t even written by Aaron Dessner, but my god “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace” is a National lyric if I’ve ever heard one. My other favorites are Mirrorball (that bridge is transcendent,) Invisible String (which makes even my jaded heart soften to the idea of being in love again,) and Seven, which already has me dreaming of buying an antique piano when I get home, staring longingly out the window as I play.

I’ve been getting unexpectedly emotional about a lot of things lately; Parks and Rec reruns, donating my old college clothes, and most recently, this past week’s episode of This American Life, “How To Be Alone.” It made me infinitely grateful to have the opportunity to go home to my mom, and both of my grandparents, when so many don’t have that option. Writer Danielle Evans talks about losing her mom, who she says would’ve personally come and collected her from New York, where she’s spent the entire pandemic alone out of fear of getting her dad sick.

"What I've been feeling acutely is the particular absence of the only person in the world who would've refused to leave me alone, even when I absolutely wanted to be."

She touches upon the life choices that led her to being alone during the pandemic, forgoing a family of her own for a life of travel and involvement in her community, of being resolute in one’s decisions while also being reminded that life doesn’t let you take every fork in the road: “It is possible to feel stuck with your choices even without wishing you made any differently. "

Speaking of This American Life, I will now never be able to listen to it without picturing the first episode of this season of High Maintenance. It’s on par with Insecure in its ability to absolutely wreck me emotionally, making me laugh out loud and then cry hard, ugly tears within a matter of scenes.

Also emotional: all of the things I’ve been feeling lately about my current and future professional life, so perfectly encapsulated in this piece by Maris Kreizman.

“In the present moment, in a time when the pandemic has caused so much uncertainty about the future of so many industries, professional ambition begins to feel like misplaced energy, as helpful to achieving success as chronic anxiety.

…Among the enormous changes that must be made, my dreams are, rightly, trivial. And yet they are still my dreams.”

-Where Did My Ambition Go?

I will definitely be “randonauting” when I get back to my hometown (pray for me please.) // The conspiracy singularity has arrived (pray for us all.) // “Almost every aspect of our lives has come grinding and screeching to a halt in lockdown, leaving many of us questioning who we are, what we’re doing, and what kind of world we want to be doing it in.” - Psychedelic Suburbia: why people are taking magic mushrooms during the lockdown // How does it feel to make a cop show in 2020? and “Andy Samberg is happy to be the butt of the joke,” as a shot and chaser here (also how Andy Samberg 41? And the Palm Springs in Palm Springs was actually LA??) //

Anyway, that’s it for now. Wish me luck as I attempt to pack the rest of my life into boxes, and part with the life I’m leaving here. Onto the next.