I have written several posts about moving and could never put any of them up. They were mostly emotion dumps and didn’t make for very good reading, though it felt good to write them. This one started as a few paragraphs I was going to turn into an essay that I was going to try and submit. But then things took a turn and I realized it was now a different thing entirely. The move happened right when it did and everything that’s happened around it is part of it so why avoid the issue? Anyway. It has been a tough move. It has been tougher than I expected. I am getting by but I am not happy. I hope it will get better. And here are some thoughts.
As I get within 20 miles of my destination, my stomach starts to tighten. It isn’t the butterflies of excitement or the churn of anxiety, it’s something inbetween. It’s a feeling I will get to know well in the coming days. I am driving to my new apartment, a place I have never seen in a town I have never visited. The weekend I spent on my leisurely drive from New England to the South, complete with a full day of DC sightseeing, is about to come to an end. The hours I spent alone in the car, drinking a giant soda and listening to an audiobook, have been the most peaceful ones I’ve had in weeks. I am about to leave the bubble of my Civic and return to the work of moving.
From the moment I arrive things start to go wrong and they do not stop. Nothing big enough to declare the move a disaster, but sufficient to make not one thing easy or simple.The bathroom mirror has fallen off its moorings. The alarm starts beeping and won’t stop. My work equipment arrives but the monitor has no power cord and I can’t use any of it for a week. Graham starts his new year-round school only to start a 3-week break two days later. My new coffeemaker is missing a part, without it the coffee is weak and hardly drinkable. All of these and so many more little things add up and add up until it feels like the entire universe is hostile to me. Or perhaps not the universe or fate or anything that abstract, but maybe this place.
I have lived in the South before. I was looking forward to coming back. But something feels off. Have 6 years in New England turned me brittle and bitter? I am skeptical and suspicious of my newly suburban environment. I am used to roads that are too narrow and too crowded, tightly packed buildings and stores with aisles where two people can’t pass each other. Here everything is wide and comfortable and welcoming and I meet it all with distrust.
There is another thing I cannot help but notice. There are Trump signs everywhere. I have lived in red states for much of my life. It isn’t new and yet it feels different than it used to. I have been pondering my first tattoo for years, but now I feel the need to get one soon and make sure it’s highly visible. For the first time in my life I’m pondering piercing my nose. It feels necessary to make it obvious that I am not what they think I am. In Boston everyone was trying so hard to be unique that it didn’t seem worth it to try. Now I feel like I must try as hard as I can, I must go big, I must not be subtle.
The thing I feel mostly is that I am not home. But that’s beside the point because I’m never home. I have moved and moved and moved. I do not have an answer to the question, “Where are you from?” and I pretty much never have. I do not really know what it is to have a home. Which makes me wonder if it’s something more specific than that. Boston was not home, but it was a place where I felt welcome.
Feeling unwelcome is something I’ve known for a long time. I grew up being told I was different and that people hated us. But they also said that we were special and chosen and that’s just what happens when you’re God’s chosen people. I didn’t mind the rude questions, the jokes, the ignorant assumptions about what I believed and what it meant about me as a person. I was openly, proudly, happily Mormon even though I was in a very small minority. I spent a few strange years in the majority, at least outwardly. I felt like I wasn’t the person they all thought I was. It was easy to be there but it was not comfortable.
When I left Mormonism I was unwelcome again, this time from the group that had always held me as one of them.
I went out on my own, settling in heavily red Southern states, doing legal work for those in dire need. I didn’t fit in, but most of the time I didn’t care. This was normal. This was life.
Before now, the most unwelcome I ever felt was when I moved to New England, a place where I expected to be greeted with open arms. Here I was, an overeducated atheist queer liberal, where else would I be able to be so fully myself? But Massachusetts has its own kind of friendship, one that is hard won, one that must be fought for. I spent 6 years there and gradually the hard outer shell cracked open and I found myself not embraced exactly, but for the first time I was in a place where a majority of people were a lot like me. I could say quite openly that I was a queer person and an atheist without worrying about the consequences.
Maybe it’s this whiplash, this return to the world of unwelcome after feeling confident and seen. Maybe I let my guard down and I don’t know how to raise my defenses back up again quite yet. But today my country has told me that I am unwelcome here and so are many others. This time I do not want to crack them open and get past their defenses. This time I do not care if they ever accept me. This time I feel like I must be utterly myself, blatantly myself, conspicuously myself at all times.
Now I am asking myself what that looks like. What does it look like when I do not worry about blending in, but instead figure out how to stand out in a way that feels true. It won’t be a quick or easy answer, but today I know I need to start. There is a long road ahead and I need to do this one thing.