If I ever left this town
I’d never settle down
I’d just be wanderin’ around
If I ever left this town
– Miranda Lambert
When I moved out here – to California – I didn’t really have any expectations.
I couldn’t answer anyone’s questions about a job or a long-term plan. I kept everything light – totally carefree. I’d flick my hand and say, “Oh, maybe I’ll get myself a lemonade stand or become a princess at Disneyland.” You know, no B. I talked as if I were moving across town or just switching departments at work.
I focused a lot on the trip. The long trip across the country I had planned for the girls. I wanted to make the trip good for Joan and Kaley. I wanted them to enjoy our trip together as much as I had enjoyed mine with Kristen.
So, I rambled on about the Peabody ducks, and J.F.K., and the Grand Canyon, and Mariah Carey.
I did a lot of deflecting.
And then, we were here.
The girls went back home. Kristen had to work. And I was here.
Looking back, during those first couple of months, I was just seeking solace. I wanted so much to have a quiet place to collect my thoughts and reboot. I needed to put myself back together. I needed to repair my broken pieces. I wanted to lick my wounds – sort’ve wallow quietly in a corner for a bit. At the time, I wanted to keep everything, and everyone, and every place I had ever known at a distance.
California provided all of those things.
Kristen worked a lot and stayed very busy on the weekends. We did stuff together when we could but I spent a fair amount of time alone. It was nice. For the first time in my adult life, I was actually checked-out.
Every minute of every weekend wasn’t scheduled. I didn’t feel responsible for entire groups of people. There were no obligations to visit this friend or that family member. I could breathe. I could finally catch my breath. I could relax.
I needed that. I needed to remove myself from the hustle. I needed a detox – to rehabilitate from my old life before I could start fresh on a new one.
You have to consider, I had just ended a 10-year relationship. That’s 10 years of rituals, and habits, and traditions, and patterns – gone. It’s daunting. It’s difficult. It’s confusing. It’s frustrating. It’s like being right-handed and trying to write with your left. It’s like living in the same house for 10 years, but then you decide to move. It takes a bit to retrain your brain. It takes time for you to get into the hang of things again. It takes a while before you can drive past that old neighborhood without hesitating and continuing on to your new home.
That’s what I needed. I needed a place to retrain my brain. I needed a place to create my own rituals, and habits, and traditions, and patterns. I needed a place that made the task of “getting back into the hang of things” less daunting, and difficult, and confusing. I needed a new home.
California provided the place.
So, for the first few months, I spent my time undoing.
I wasn’t around to host our annual holiday parties. I didn’t go back East for Thanksgiving. I faced Christmas alone. And although people say, “Assuming makes an ass out of u and me,” I risked it and assumed I was also uninvited to Jamaica for the family vacation… his family vacation… the vacation I had helped plan earlier in the year.
Mentally, I went around unchecking all of the boxes I had once subscribed to and clicked “Submit.”
It sounds easy enough but it was hard. It’s hard watching people you love move through life without you, or from afar, rather. It’s hard seeing pictures posted of friends carrying on the traditions you implemented. It’s hard forcing a decades worth of memories to the back of your mind. It’s hard adjusting to a new life.
I started this journey on July 6, 2015.
Since that day, I have spent approximately 86 hours in my hometown. I have only made one trip back to North Carolina. I have never returned to that sweet little house on Redwood Court. But most importantly, I have not once looked back.
On Tuesday, July 12, I officially celebrated my 1-year anniversary living in San Diego.
Back then, I didn’t really have any expectations.
I was just a girl. A girl with a broken heart searching for reprieve. I craved a new outlook and a clean slate. I wanted distance, and space, and time, and stillness. I needed faith. I needed hope. I needed love.
When people in San Diego asked what brought me out West, my response was, “I had nothing better to do. Just wanted an adventure!”
This year has been the best year of my life.
Looking back, I could have moved out here and became anyone I wanted. I could have made up an entirely different story. I could have ignored the problematic pieces of my personality. I could have buried those parts of me somewhere deep down in the depths of my soul. I could have lied. I could have pretended certain stories from my past were just that – stories. Make-believe. Someone else’s scars. I could have changed everything about who I am and no one would have been the wiser.
But I didn’t.
I chose to be me.
Actually, I chose to be the best version of myself.
I chose to be painfully, embarassingly honest and transparent. I chose to deal with any residual issues from the last few years head-on. I chose to fix the pieces of me I never really liked. I chose to work through things, be positive, celebrate my wins, and focus on things that truly matter. I chose to have faith and to be hopeful.
I chose to love myself.
One thing that always irked me was something Tyler said in a text message just a couple weeks before I left. He wrote (word-for-word), “I’ve wanted to tell you goodbye ever since I heard you was leaving. It makes me sad that you think you have to go to the other side of the world to become the firefly chasing person you once was. I understand though, our small town was never the place you belonged. You’ve always wanted to move away. I hope you find peace and happiness and most of all YOURSELF. That person is still there and can do anything she puts her pretty mind to do. I hurt everyday for the way things became. Best of luck… Smile you’re still in my heart.”
At first glance, many people would think he was being sweet and very kind. But I know him better. This was his way of, once again, placing all the blame on me. Sending me off thinking there was something wrong with me – that I needed to fix me. Obviously, I needed to find myself because I was the one who didn’t belong.
I responded back with, “You’re right. I don’t have to move to the other side of the country. But let’s be honest here, you know exactly why I’m leaving. And for the record, it is not myself I’m looking for. I know her. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have balls enough to do this.”
California had little to do with my “transformation.”
I didn’t find myself here.
I haven’t had any sort of revelation or significant self-realization. I didn’t find Jesus. I’m not “better,” or “fixed,” or “cured.” I am not different.
I am every bit of the same woman I always was.
I’ve just spent the last year digging myself out of a really deep, really dark hole.
And California, well, it just sounded like a really nice place to pick up a shovel.
Growing up, becoming an adult, taking on more responsibility, and wanting to build a future with my boyfriend didn’t mean I had become any less fun. I wasn’t 17 anymore. He wasn’t 21. We were 26 and 30-years-old. We had been together nearly 10 years. We owned homes a mile apart and we worked together. It was time to make more mature decisions about where our relationship was going.
Getting caught up in the wrong relationship, with the wrong person, at the wrong time didn’t mean I had to pack up my shit and skip town. I could have managed in North Carolina. It would have been a terribly slow and miserable process but I would have managed. He would have tried to work his way back into my life but I would have managed.
Being depressed, or anxious, or hurt, or resentful, or unhappy does not mean I had lost myself. I stumbled. I took a left turn. I got stopped at a red light. I stalled.
But I got myself back on track.
And as long as you can find your way back home, that’s all that matters.
Never let any individual look at you and say, “I hope you find yourself.”
Because, typically, they are the ones asking for directions.