Notes to Self
wrong turns + wide paths
This weekend, I’m up in Mendocino county with my roommates. It’s Eleanor’s birthday weekend, and we’re all reflecting on the past year.
This time last year, I had COVID for the first time. But more relevantly, I had also just recently turned in an application for a grad school in Paris. And then, I proceeded to ignore the fact that I might move and made no plans either way. I was waiting till I heard back in early June, I told everyone and myself, and until then I was doing nothing and deciding nothing about it.
Later, mid-April, I got an email while at work - an alert that there was an update on my application. I wasn’t expecting an answer so soon, so I freaked out, and refused to look at it until I got home and could have my roommates my by side. While freaking out at my desk, I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote two lists:
If I don’t get in:
celebrate and dance ?
laugh and sigh
cuddle + hugs
If I do get in:
dance and celebrate!
I found these lists recently, stuffed in my desk drawer, and laughed at myself. I threw them out - I didn’t need them any more.
I did not get an answer that day, and not knowing for a little while longer was a relief. I did not want to face myself yet, to listen to what the anxiety was really all about. I proceeded to move through the next few months as if nothing had or was going to happen, waiting for the shoe to drop. And the proverbial shoe did drop, again earlier than expected, this time while I was aboard my flight home from New York City. I did not get in. I did cry, and sigh, and journal furiously, and return home to hugs and cuddles. I made another two list, while on the plane: “Now that I’m not leaving SF” and “Summer plans to make.”
This weekend, I’m up in Mendocino county with my roommates. The fog is hanging low amid the trees, the field are green and dotted with cows, sheep, and vines. The roads are wide, windy and slow. It’s Eleanor’s birthday weekend, and we’re all reflecting on the past year. I’m reflecting on these lists I wrote myself then again now because, a year later, I find myself in the exact same and yet also entirely different position. I just started a new list: “SF Bucket List!!!”
If last year, I turned in my application to a school in Paris I knew little about for a degree I cared little for at the last minute on February 28th, this year, on February 27th, I got into grad school at USF, a school I know very well, in a city I know by heart, for a degree I am very excited about. I got a voicemail while at work this time, a congratulations on my acceptance to the MFA program. I did not panic this time, I wrote no lists, I didn’t need to. Not because this decision implied no move, but because this decision was the right in all the ways the other one would have been wrong. I knew my roommates would dance and celebrate when I told them the news once I got home, to-do list item or not. And they did, and they yelled and we hugged and they popped the champagne and they made the news all that much better.
And then, later that week, I got in Sarah Lawrence College, a school I know lots of good things about in a city far away for a fiction program I’m really excited about. And I danced and celebrated, and ran down the hall to scream the news, and made some phone calls, and danced and celebrated some more. And I have spent the week since seriously entertaining the question of leaving San Francisco, in a way I hadn't allowed myself to do this time last year, in way I wasn't ready to this time last year. I bought a flight to New York, just for a visit, for starters, but I’m starting to consider what a move could look like.
And now, I have cried. I had not cried about this news and what it could mean until today. I don't want to rush to say I’ve decided to leave and move because I haven’t, but now I know that I can and that I just very well might, and today, that is enough to cry over. I have spent the day with the girls who will be the hardest goodbyes, talking about the fact that I might be saying goodbye soon. The girls who have made room for me to make this next move. The girls who have given me permission to arrive to this decision. The girls who know what my decision is before I have finalized it, who are naming it for me before I can name it for myself. The girls who I can’t imagine moving away from, and yet. I thought I hadn't cried about this news this time around because I was no longer anxious and knew it was right, but I’m realizing the tears are a required part of the process. That old list of mine was correct, and I have now checked everything off it.
I’m not here to preach to the choir, but I am here to say how good it feels to allow yourself to listen to yourself, to find your way. To make sense of the wrong turns and then use them to redirect onto the right path. To have the people by your side who stand by you when you make those wrong turns, but help you redirect onto the right path, and then encourage you to keep going, even if it means taking a different road, even if it means walking on alone, into the unknown.
But these paths of ours are wide, and they will reconnect.