Impulse; pulse

Finding is losing something else.
I think about, perhaps even mourn,
what I lost to find this.

–Richard Brattigan

Maybe I came back here simply to learn how to leave a place. With the exception of Ecuador, where I always knew my time was limited, I’ve often been so ready to rush ahead toward what’s next that I end up abandoning my present for mere ideas of the future. I remember my first night in my college dormitory: total panic, a flood of tears, wild fantasies of moving home to live with my parents and commute to the university in Buffalo. I’d spent the previous two years so excited for college that I’d failed to consider what I was leaving–not only West Falls, nor my house, but also my childhood. Living with mom and dad and my sisters, seeing my best friends five or six days per week, the comfort of my family, of being cared for. It all snowballed that night as I lay wrapped in my flannel sheets printed with stars and I wanted so badly to undo it all, to go back. It horrified me that I could not. I ended up being OK–but that experience never left me, even though it seems I’ve repeated it several times since.

Last year, I was miserable in Rochester; I wanted to leave but had no idea where to go. I also loved my job, and so I vowed to stay one more year and see if I could make it work, knowing that at the very least, I’d have school. I was also aware of my tendency to run. I wanted to be sure, before I left, that I wasn’t running from anything, or that my misery was not due to something I was doing that would surely follow me anywhere I went.

Fast forward to today. I wouldn’t say I’m miserable, but the thought of living out my life here makes me feel a bit sick. I have a few good friends, a job I love, pretty streets I amble along, and cafes I adore. Do I have any strong impulses on where to go next? No. But I am still leaving.

And I have to be honest: I’m kind of terrified. My life here isn’t awful. I like Rochester. I have friends and a great job and killer health insurance. But it doesn’t feel right, and I spend way too much time alone despite my efforts to be more social (and I am a girl who loves her alone time). Basically: my life here just isn’t working. It’s not a pulverized mess, but it’s a rather hobbled machine I’ve tried to fix and, recently, I’ve come to terms with the possibility that perhaps there’s just no fixing it. There are only new machines.

But… What if I don’t make any new friends? What if I’m just as lonely there as I am here? What if I don’t get a job? What if I run out of money? Or what if I do get a job and I hate it and miss my kids here too much?  What if I realize this was all a horrible mistake?

As far as I am concerned, ‘what if’ is never a good reason to not to do something, especially if it is the only reason. For all the things I love about this city, there are just as many things (if not more) that frustrate me. But there is no time for that anymore–in the time I do have left, I am focusing on the things that I know I will miss:

My favorite coffee shop, my favorite streets that are so very dense with trees and old architecture, my favorite park. Driving at sunset. Walking around at sunset. The sandpipers at night. The lake. Mornings on my fire escape. The sound of traffic on the 490 in the distance. My favorite spot to dance salsa. My friends. My students and their smiles and laughter and the adorable things they say (I’m quite certain I’ll never teach sweeter kids).

It makes it harder, for sure, to imagine leaving when I think of all of my favorites. I am reminded of my final weeks in Ecuador; how heavy my heart was, how impossible the future felt against the reality of my departure. Luckily this time around, the future does not feel impossible, only unknown.

I’m still not sure where I am going; I am looking for work in a few cities. It bothered me for a while, that I had no strong impulses to go anywhere, but then I thought: maybe I’m done with impulses, for now. I’ve lived most of my life according to impulses I felt and trusted. But maybe it’s time to learn to trust something deeper, smaller, and quieter than an impulse. Maybe it’s time to learn to face the unknown, truly, to accept uncertainty and find the beauty in it, and to trust that everything will work out even though I know so very little about what that will look like.

At the very least–this whole process of leaving has helped me clean up my attitude, and my act. I’ve always had way too many dreams and way too many ideals and I’ve never been able to “choose”. But I’m finally figuring out what I really need, what I want to do with my life, and how I want to do it. I’m also learning to leave gracefully, and slowly, to look around me, and not just ahead. And in the larger landscape of my life–Rochester, in the end, has given me a lot. Not just a series of traumatic experiences (as I like to remember it on my bad days), but so much more: I think about all that I have learned from my students over the past five years, all the gifts they gave me, the jewels they revealed! I think about all that I took away from my yoga teacher training, even though it was really difficult for a while. I think about all that I learned about myself, and love, from my last relationship. I think about the wonderful people I met. I think about how much I’ve learned spending so much time by myself… and I know that even though it’s been a difficult five years, I’m endlessly grateful for everything I’ll drive away with when I leave.

The last thing I’ll say is this:

Wherever I go, it won’t be home. At least not for a while. It won’t have my favorite coffee shops, nor my favorite streets, and it might look and feel totally different. I won’t walk into a school filled with faces and languages from all over the world, I won’t hear the voices I’ve come to love. Nobody will know me, and everything will feel foreign and strange. But, eventually, if I stick it out, if I work hard and do what feels right and good, then perhaps I’ll find a whole new set of favorites, perhaps other voices I love will be waiting for me at school, and perhaps everything will start to feel comfortable and maybe even like a new home. Nothing will be the same, and nothing and no one can be replaced, but I’ll still be OK. How lucky I am to have experienced all these things and people that make leaving so painful! But little is gained without also agreeing to loss, and this right now, leaving so much behind, this is just going to be the saddest part.

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