There was no parking on the good side. I was pretty certain there wouldn’t be. By the time Zoe picked me up and whisked me away from the cesspool that is LAX, by the time we drove back to my tiny bungalow, by the time we sat parked in the driveway chatting and catching up – me recounting stories from the long weekend spent getting reacquainted with my childhood home of Anchorage, Alaska – and by the time I’d deposited my bags inside the dark, quiet one bedroom, it was past eight-thirty. Well after most of my neighbors would have returned from work and claimed all of the good street spots.
I drove around for a few minutes anyway, vainly hoping I’d get lucky, but there was nothing to be found. Not for many blocks, and not on any of the streets that I deemed ‘safe.’ Ah, the beauty of L.A., with its sketchy neighborhoods rubbing elbows with the swanky ones. Just a block or so south of my Beverly Hills-adjacent Orthodox Jewish hood and a girl could run into trouble in the form of pawn shops and liquor stores and the questionable characters who hovered outside of them. No thanks.
So I gave up and returned home, setting an alarm on my phone as a reminder to move my car early the next morning for street cleaning. I scanned my apartment with weary eyes, suddenly feeling colder than I had during the nearly two-hour walk I’d taken with my sister Marion around Anchorage’s Westchester Lagoon, blanketed as it was in snow and ice. I surveyed the fridge – empty – and leafed through a stack of mail containing mostly bills and credit card applications, and mercifully, one honest to goodness greeting card filled with holiday cheer in the form of metallic gold Christmas tree confetti, a card that peeked out from the pile of useless papers like a tiny beacon of hope.
I eyed my suitcase with dread, not wanting to settle in, not ready to unpack. Should I open my computer and catch up on work email? Oh please, not yet. With no good options, I picked up the phone and ordered takeout from the Indian restaurant down the street. As I buttoned my coat and slung a scarf around my neck on the way out to grab dinner, I consoled myself with the thought that in just one week, I’d be getting on a plane again, away from here. Away from this place that had once held so much promise – a new life, a fresh start, a home all my own – but a place that, though it was filled up with all my stuff, had somehow managed to grow foreign, distant, and sterile.
These days, I like myself better when I’m away. There’s an energy that comes from toting my carry-on through the terminal, from rushing to meet my gate, from airport coffeehouses and bars and bookstores, from arrivals and departures. From checking in. And yes, from checking out. I like the pulse of travel, the pace of it. The sights and smells of different places fill me, inspire me. As long as I keep moving, I’m OK. It’s when I stop, when I settle, when I find myself in this place where I no longer know what to do with myself, that I start thinking about the big, ‘what am I doing with my life?’ question, and things suddenly become much more difficult.
I’m adrift. I don’t like where I am, but I don’t know where to go. I know that my current residence, the overpriced one bedroom bungalow at the corner of sketch and swank, is no longer right for me. Strange that when it came into my life just ten months ago, it was exactly what I needed: a quiet place with a sun-warmed patio that wrapped me up like a cozy blanket and sheltered me through a terrible life transition. But now, no amount of cleaning or decorating or incense-burning will change the fact that I’ve outgrown it. And so, with two months left on my lease, I find myself asking, ‘What now?’
I crave home like you wouldn’t believe. A safe place with a soft pillow to rest my head. A cushy, overstuffed sofa to collapse into at the end of a long, satisfying day. A secure, off-street parking spot (never more attractive than now). And yes, someone to share it with, to laugh with, to tell me in a voice that I’ll actually believe, that everything is going to be OK.
I guess I’ve landed on it. It’s not so much the place I’m looking for, as it is the way I’ll feel – the life I’ll live – inside of that place. Home is where the heart is, right? For me, that’s an eye roll-inducing cliché that’s also, irritatingly, true. Home is where the heart is. The problem is, ever since my heart was broken, I no longer know how to find it.
So for now, I’m living a life of not settling in. I’m making plans for the short-term. I’m thinking big but skimping on specifics. And every time it all becomes too much, I get the hell out of town. I’m sure I can’t keep doing this forever. But for right now, it makes sense. For right now, ‘away’ is simply the best place I can think of to be.
Until next time, friends.