Reading my favorite blog this morning, Penelope Trunk, I saw that she had re-posted an entire article by The Friendly Anarchist. I loved it. It was entitled: How to Make Life More Interesting. It basically said that most people do not want interesting lives, they want normality. Which, I tend to understand. I want normality in my life too, I just feel like my normality is sort of different.
For me, I know that I am not going to be happy owning a house in the town I grew up in, having a kid with someone I went to high school with, and watching football every Sunday. This is not saying that I don’t think anyone should be doing that, far from it. Having kids IS a very interesting and high stress experience, so my saying that I don’t want kids shouldn’t lead anyone to believe I don’t want them because I want something “more interesting.” Nope, I want something more normal.
It’s been a struggle for me for the last year, trust me on this. It was a little over a year ago that I started this blog, thinking I would be able to blog daily and feel productive. And while I was working in London, that was completely true. I had a very structured day and it was easy to see where writing fit in, at least this sort of writing. And then I began traveling. And I had no idea how long that would be for.
I started off on a train to Brussels. I wandered through gardens and side streets and saw Alice in Wonderland in the cinema. I moved right along to Koln and Wiesbaden, and then to Vienna and Budapest and Brasov and Bansko and so many other beautiful little towns in between, until I got to my final destination of Oia, on the island of Santorini. And then back to London and back to Edinburgh and then finally, back to New York. Which was normal, so normal. To sit in my parents house and suddenly have everything familiar, it was relaxing. But it was as though my body had made a strange sort of adjustment during my travels. Where what is “normal”, “relaxing”, and “easy”, made me feel stressful.
A friend, who shall remain nameless because I find this advice distasteful, but true, said something to me when I was still living in London.
“Come home. Settle down. Get a job. Or else, the longer you stay out there in the world, the more impossible it will be to ever sit down.”
I hated him when he said it, because it was frustrating to me how he had suddenly changed. He had always been just as big of an adventurer as I have been, if not more. He joined the navy, he traveled the world, but he gave up a post in Italy so he could settle down in a seaside town just bordering being southern. And he’s happy with that. He’s happy with going to school and having barbecues and taking cute pictures with his girlfriend and their friends. And in some ways I envy that, that ability to have made the shift.
I left New York and moved to LA, only about a month ago. I liked the sun, but I disliked having a car. I wasn’t used to it. And LA is a city of cars. I rented a car to drive to job interviews, to parties with friends, to go hiking along the beautiful canyons. I was spending about 6 hours a day in a car. It made me want to cry. No, it actually made me cry. For me, going from Edinburgh, a place where you can walk from one end of the city (Leith) to the other end (Murrayfield) in about an hour, to a place where it takes an hour just to drive from my house to where my friends lived, was impossible. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I struggled with my experiences of London to understand why public transport was so abysmal. I was wracked with the pain of having lost something and trying to replace it with what I felt to be an inferior product.
And this is not to disparage LA. My amazing friend Nils came from London to move to LA about two weeks ago. I picked him up from the airport and his unabashed enthusiasm about the city, from the moment we got in the car, was magical. Perhaps that was the problem: when I was picked up, it was by a snarky former boyfriend who took me on the 405 the whole way and then dropped me off to a couch where I was staying with another friend. With a welcome “LA survival kit” for my friend tucked in the backseat, I took Nils down Sunset Blvd to where we picked up his rental car and then I brought him to an amazing Mexican restaurant where the ceiling hangs low like a cave. We were joined by my friend Zach and then we drove off to Echo Park, where Nils had a room of his own, over looking the Hollywood sign. In every way, I feel, the universe was conspiring to make him feel at home in LA. And he’s adjusted so well.
As for me? I changed my mind again. I packed up my belongings in my rental car and took the 1 up the coast. I saw Big Sur, I camped in the redwoods, I ate cherry pie in a log cabin, and I took long baths in hotel rooms. (I always feel more at home in a hotel room). And then, I turned up in Portland.
I suppose maybe I work best in a cold, rainy, grey city with good public transportation and coffee galore. Because I feel pretty content here. I live with two guys I went to college with and their two kittens. We drink beer and make soup and go out and do things. I am optimistic that this is going to be a good city and that I fit in nicely. And I am hoping, beyond hope, that all the scribbles I have made in journals these last 8 months can become something more solid, more permanent. After all, I am still a writer, still a creator…but I think I am looking for the sweet normal of disruption and confusion. I like the push and the shove and the mess it makes everywhere. But I am hoping to maybe stop moving so much.
As I rearranged and decorated my new bedroom today, I made a note to make a conscious change. Whereas I almost always hang up a map or foreign postcards on my wall, instead, today, I refrained from this act and placed an Oregon travel guide beside my bed. At least if I get wanderlust, I can maybe just stay in state.