Just over a year ago, I was living in Arkansas, and I was lost.
It was a gorgeous Ozark fall, and I was staring down my 38th year, single, not a boyfriend in sight. I had just gone through an amiable but incredibly emotional breakup with my job, leaving a place to which I’d given 8 wonderful/frustrating years of my life. I’d visited every coffee shop in the region as I doggedly put out resumes and discovered that head hunters, just like most professions, have their good ones and bad ones. Three guess which type I’d dealt with. My only real job lead was one that my finely-tuned rejection instincts told me I was not going to get, and beyond that, the pipeline was dry.
And for the first (well, maybe the 2nd or 10th) time in the whole experience, I was starting to freak out a little. All the positive, pretty photos of sweaty iced chais on Instagram couldn’t make up for the fact that I was drifting.
The days were getting shorter, the mornings cooler, and the holidays nearer. Holidays while single are hard enough…holidays while single and jobless…well…yeah, let’s not go there. I mean, it’s not like I could rely on my husband and kids to keep me in iced chais and takeout. It was getting real, y’all.
I was beginning to wonder if I’d fooled myself into thinking I would be ok. Was it possible that I’d have to fall back on my years of food preparation for my next job? I had been a waitress, but not a very good one. I used to work in a video store, but those don’t exist anymore. I love my parents, but moving back in with them would be so, well, Millennial. I’m Gen X. We’re supposed to be grown up and in control of all this stuff.
I was scared, y’all. Officially.
Then, in the space of a few weeks, it all changed. A friend forwarded a job, and for the first time, I asked myself “Could I live in Boston?” Could I go back to looooong winters? And really, at the heart of it – could I, small town New England girl, make it in the “big city”?
Turns out, I could.
Fast forward to now, and here I am, in Boston. It’s a glorious New England fall. I am still single, and there’s no boyfriend in sight. I’m now facing down my 39th birthday. My job is both wonderful and frustrating. Really, nothing has changed.
But I am absolutely in love with my life. I have become one of those people who looks around at everything I see, smiles smugly, and puts it up on social media with a “look how great my life is!” hashtag.
My apartment is a place I want to hole up in, with it’s friendly light, cozy feel, and beautiful beat-up hardwood floors. My kitchen has become a place I enjoy, to the point where the other night, I skipped a concert because I just wanted to be alone in my kitchen, cooking myself something good. Trust me, that it not normal Jodi behavior. I have a pond and a Harvard-funded-and-maintained Arboretum in my backyard. Last weekend, I picked up homemade bread, poop bags, and an ice cream cone…all while walking my dog on a crispy fall day.
A few days ago, I ran 20 minutes along the Charles River, an icon in my memory – I still laugh in delight when I think it’s now a place I can call my own. Fenway Park is my neighborhood baseball park. I can take the train to the ocean. I recently ran a (nearly) 5K at GILLETTE STADIUM, you know, that place where Tom Brady hangs out, and then went to a cranberry festival where I had donut holes with, you guessed it, cranberries in them. Nom. Tomorrow, I will go to the Head of the Charles. I mean, seriously. Who gets to DO stuff like that? People who live in Boston, I guess.
Beyond the doing is the being, and I can’t explain it at all, but I fit in here. Maybe it’s the flat shoes (we walk everywhere), the minimal makeup, or simply that there are more brunettes up here. It could be the politics, or the the fact that Boston is one of the most innovative and interesting cities in the world. It might simply be being surrounded by New England sports fans. Maybe it’s the fact that I can explore my city as a single girl with her dog, and not feel like an anomaly. I don’t know. But it feels good to fit in.
When I lived in Arkansas, many of my friends couldn’t say enough about how much they loved their lives, and I sometimes found it irritating. Now that I find myself doing the same thing, it’s easy to understand the need to proclaim it. It’s their home, and they love being there. That is awesome.
Yet as hard as I tried, I couldn’t make Fayetteville feel like home. I wanted to. It’s a wonderful place, full of wonderful people, and I really, really wanted to belong there. But without a job to anchor me, I got lost.
I have been waiting for the Boston bloom to come off the rose. After all, everyone knows that the rebound relationship after a break up is often fragile. Perhaps my second winter of unending cold will kill the romance? We’ll have to wait and see, but…
A few days ago, as I walked through my Arboretum in the chill, seeing my breath for the first time this season, I found myself looking forward to tramping through those woods in the snow, watching Sadie bite the white stuff and leap around in frenzied delight. I ordered a down comforter and winter boots last week. Then, of course, we had 70 degree temps, but whatever. I am ready.
Though it’s Boston, and I get lost on the crazy streets all the time, I know exactly where I am, and I think I might be found.
6 thoughts on “When the place fits”
A lovely post Jodi! We miss you in the ‘ville but happy for you in Boston.
I miss you all, too, Allyson, despite how much I love it here. I have always wished I could take all the good people I meet with me as I move from place to place. Hope you are doing well and enjoying the lovely fall in NWA!
This is a fantastic post! I’m so so so happy to read this and equally happy to share the same feelings of finding your place. As much as I loved NW Arkansas, as much as I loved the people there, as much as I loved the organization I worked for – it just did not ever fall into the “feels like home” category. During my time in Arkansas, I also lost my “feels like home” feel that I had in Texas. I almost got that back on a visit with a friend. I stood in a park I had spent many days at in HS, watched her daughters swing while her brother cracked the same jokes I had heard time after time… and it almost felt like home again. So much so that I almost accepted a position back in Dallas to recapture that home. I’m so very glad I didn’t. Right about the same time, this crazy place called Portland came calling. I took a chance on it. We’re still renting. We’re still finding the right neighborhoods, the wrong neighborhoods, the hipster bars we don’t belong in and the earthy crunchy bars we don’t quite fit into… but I’m loving it. It feels comforting. I feel good here. It hasn’t worn off and I can’t imagine it will for a while. I’m so glad we both took a leap of faith and found new spaces to explore and call home. Hopefully I can come to Boston for a visit and you can show off your new space.
Erin – I love this. I love that you feel the same way about Portland. I was so ENVIOUS of you when you took off on your adventure to get there – just knowing it would be a great fit. I’m so GLAD for you and Rocky and can’t wait to come see your new city sometime. And you are welcome here anytime.
This brought on a really happy cry. Love you and love that YOU love your life in Boston. So, so happy for you!
xoxo, my friend. Miss ya! Like I told Lydia – I miss you all every day even while being delighted to be here. Wish I could pick you all up and move you here – but I don’t think your gorgeous house would fit in my little backyard, and I’d want to bring that here, too. 🙂