There is something super appealing about picking your life up and plunking it back down in a new location. This new location will be devoid of any memories, or perhaps will only have memories attached to weekends away, or a fondly remembered vacation with family or boozy adventures with friends or a partner.
This new location will be far removed from any traumas, and you imagine the first shower you take in your new apartment (which will, of course, have wood floors and be close to public transit) will wash away all the residual shame and hurt you feel from said trauma. There will be no one to run into at the coffee shop to remind you of your past, and you’ll be free to build a new you — a better you, perhaps, or maybe just a different you.
This is what you imagine, and it’s what you attempt, a few different times in your twenties, first to Portland, Oregon, which didn’t work out so well for a multitude of reasons and then to Brooklyn, New York. You pack up your things, and you sign a lease, and you fill your car with gas, and you say your goodbyes.
You drive across the country, a trip that you think marks the move and the transition better than any plane ride ever could. The symbolic gesture alone feels like revival, and you’re standing up a little straighter each morning. You take photos of your dog in rivers and in campgrounds, and you eat more fast food in one week than you have in the past three years combined. And Starbucks, so much Starbucks.
You nod your head resolutely each time you get behind the wheel, thinking of what awaits you in your new city — the possibilities that await you, the new life you’re hoping you’ll have the energy to take advantage of, now that you’ve left your past in the literal rear view mirror.
Then, you get to your new apartment, and it’s completely empty. Though this was exactly the blank slate you were looking for, something tugs at you; the emptiness feels bigger than the apartment, and you can’t change your perspective quite enough in this moment to see what you wanted to see. This particular emptiness is something that can only be felt when your problems are still the same but your support system is now far, far away. Geography doesn’t change things, not nearly as much as you’d think it would.
And on top of it all, the shower in your new place sputters, and the water is only lukewarm. The old feelings and traumas are still there, and something new is sitting on top of them — the realization that you cannot outrun yourself. The realization that there is no way to deal with things without actually dealing with them, and that deal with them now, you must. And you begin to revive yourself, slowly.
You begin to open up, to tell your friends and your partner, and your sweet parents — now thousands of miles away — about the things you’ve been running from and how they’ve now caught up with you. How the residue of eating disorders and awful ex-boyfriends has found you here in New York even though you didn’t provide a forwarding address — did your problems hire a private detective?
You begin to tell them how you have felt stifled and panicked for some time, which is partially why you wanted to move — you thought that it might be a shortcut to figuring your shit out, but you’re now realizing that you really took the long way. You begin, also, to get real with yourself about what it’s going to take to heal, no matter where you are.
As a part of this process, you allow yourself to eat what you want because it feels good to let your body crave and taste and eat. You try not to judge these desires, or the effects they have on your body — you learn what it means to actually feel nourished.
You begin to talk to strangers on the internet about your anxiety and you begin to write about your history with depression, and it makes you feel less alone, and though it’s not like you want anyone else to go through what you’re feeling, it’s also nice to know you’re not the only one. You cry in the shower because it’s downright refreshing and your hot water has finally been fixed. You begin to search for a therapist, and you begin to confront your imposter syndrome head on and feel like you might be good at your job, and you tell yourself finally that you might be worthy of friendship and of being loved, and that the love you offer is worth accepting.
Finally, you start to feel glad that your problems caught up with you, exactly where you are because maybe this is exactly the right place and time to deal with them — maybe it’s good to catch up with yourself after all.