We have lived in this new city for twenty days. It’s been a sweet kind of purgatory, not unlike a long vacation except that the plane taking us home is constantly delayed and there are no rental cars available or bus lines or trains that go that way and even the cat has taken to laying under the covers of our bed to just wait this thing out. We are enjoying ourselves immensely. Less so when we remind ourselves that this is real, we are living real life here. It does wane in those moments but we ignore it and remember that we have things to do, like hike the mountains and go honky tonkin’ and drink too much at the bar down the street. Those things won’t do themselves.
That said, when I stumble out of dreaming and remember that I do in fact live here now and this is in fact my life, I realize there are a few things I have discovered. Things I have learned about myself while living in a new city for twenty days are as follows:
- I have never lived in a city before. Obviously, this is not something to learn, but something that I didn’t really think about as important until it totally and completely was. I have never lived in a city before. This is not a big city by any means, but a city none the less. And I have never lived in a city before.
- I am both good and bad at making new friends. It has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with the state of my mind and whether or not I am tired.
- I have a fine sense of direction. Getting lost is an opportunity; Google Maps is the enemy. And it’s easy to spend a day wandering around a neighborhood when there’s nowhere to be and no one to wait on you.
- There’s no one to wait on you. If you have no job, there’s nowhere to be. It’s both freeing and terrifying. Best to make yourself a schedule. Best to pretend your presence is expected.
- This is not my culture. Texas is Texas is Texas. I am Texas. And I am living in Tennessee.
- It’s easy to forget the things you were into when the things you were into are no longer present. Did I really like craft beer that much? Am I really more of a cocktail person? What about these clothes? Have I always dressed like this? Or am I wearing these boots because people wear boots here and I am a person who is here? Where is the jazz? Do I care? Am I really that easily swayed? I spoke to a friend a while back when we first were thinking of moving. He said moving is hard, not because you have to learn a new place, but because you have to learn a new you. Without the place to prop you up and the people to know you, who the hell are you anyway? The answer has yet to reveal itself.
- In waking up each day in this new place, we are waiting out the unknown. It’s like playing the blinking game. Which will falter first — the city or us? We have confidence in our abilities but the unknown having its unknowable nature leaves us wondering. Perhaps today someone will call for an interview or our night out will yield a new friendship. Maybe someone will ask us for directions and we will know exactly what to tell them. Maybe today is the day I hold that damn handstand or even just do the exercise I told myself I would do once I got here. Or, perhaps it will be as simple enough as driving to the post office or the grocery store with the brain on auto-pilot, the hands making the turns while the mind wonders about something insignificant, such as how the humidity affects the color of the sunset and the thickness of our hair.
Twenty days in the city has been just that — twenty days in the city. Something exciting usually happens at least once on each of the days, if we know how to look for it. And tomorrow will be more of the same. More unknowns to wait out, to stare down without blinking, with our arms crossed over our chests and our mouths shut because whoever talks first loses. After all, we are in active negotiations.