4/100: Baltimore Permanency

Note: This is crossposted as a members-only post on Medium; if you have a membership there plz dear lord read it there and give a clap or two because it makes a sizable difference in My Little Universe.

This morning I woke up at 7:30am to rain. I gave each dog a smoosh: one on left by my feet (mine), and one on my right by my shoulder (not mine), and hoisted myself out of bed. Very strangely, and contrary to my sloth-like mid-afternoon wake up time, I felt grateful to be up at a “normal time” with something to do.

Roxy (Not Mine Dog) got picked up by her mama, I washed my face, and I put on a hat to face the rainy drive to Butcher’s Hill / Middle East (yes, there is a neighborhood in Baltimore named Middle East, apparently). I was a bit relieved and grateful to see that although this house was renovated in 2014 and looked lovely from the craigslist ad, that it’s still, as my new roommate (FORESHADOWING, THAT WAS FORESHADOWING) said, “In the hood.” Sigh. We’re white women.

So, I arrived, and slowly peeked my way around the house, with New Roommate as the guide. Big dining room with craft supplies on a big table and her bike tucked against a wall (You can put your bike in here, too. We can make this a place for bikes, I guess.) I picked up the cat she adopted two days ago and prompty accidentally threw him back on the ground. While she doesn’t have a name for him yet, we began consistently calling him Bartleby through the tour. I strongly prefer the abbreviated Bartle. (Heeey, Bartle! Hey Bart Bart!) He’s orange and little and has enough claws to keep my dog in line, should they not get along.

Dining room, living room, wide fancy kitchen. Cement fancy ass patio and a standing washer dryer. Down hella steep stairs to a low basement that I Do Not Have To Live In (physical relief in writing that – BUT I DID LOVE MY TIME IN THE BASEMENT, I AM #GRATEFUL), and then steep upstairs to get to My New Beautiful Room.

Dark hardwood floors, three long windows with shades *and* blinds, a real closet without mold growing on the floor, and a fabulously high ceiling. The room overlooks the street, and at 9am had perfect natural light. Yes, universe, Yes Thank God.

She showed me *my* bathroom (mine, only mine, No One Else Will Use It), with a bathtub and her room with carpet and an overstuffed closet. I giggled looking at all her shit because I am very doubtful I could fill my half-the-size closet even if I tried. Each time I move to a new state I get rid of another ten bags of shit, sans shoes. I have a disproportionate and inappropriate amount of shoes because I Just Love Them. Because when everything in my closet makes me feel like tweedle dee, my shoes fit fine.

So. Awkardly, in the hall between two bedrooms, with Probably Bartleby lounging with little cat snores on the little rug between us, we informally determined that I Will Move In.

THAT I WILL HAVE A HOME IN BALTIMORE THAT I AM SIGNING A LEASE THAT THIS IS REAL OH MY GOD

I am moderately nervous because a) it’s a 12-month lease which I originally had no intention of signing and b) it’s $500-a-month-plus-utilities which would be horrifically reasonable at any other point in my life aside from my first year of teaching but right now feels like a stretch and c) I literally spent 20 minutes with this girl before determining I can absolutely spend a year in a confined space with her.

I am, in addition to that, and largely overwhelming that, intensely grateful for this bedroom in this home with this woman who is working on her fourth degree despite being probably five years younger than me. I finally move out of the Mold Mildew Basement (which I am so grateful for!!!); I finally unpack the trunk of my car that has been packed since May; I get My Own Space for the first time since May; I am about to live blocks away from a huge park to both run and bring my pup to; I am about to live a 1.5 mile bike ride from Bowling Alley Work Time. I am so grateful. I am so grateful. I am so grateful.

Much love. Much, much love.

3/100: bleh

I woke up at 2pm today. Rolled myself out of bed and to the dog park that is Not Worth the 20 min drive. All Blue did was come extremely close to scaling the fence in an attempt to eat a squirrel.

Came home, showered. Felt sluggy and hazy and gross, but happy that Steady Tinder was in my kitchen when I opened the door (it was planned, he was invited, it was lovely not creepy). Steady Tinder who doesn’t know I call him that and who may or may not read this 🤷🏻‍♀️

We walked to an adorable marketplace for dinner, where I ate a Korean bowl of straight up deliciousness and he showed me the delight that is a sushi burrito. Holding hands makes me calm. You’re so nuzzley, he said. Basically.

He sat with me and the pups and we drew pictures, listened to jams, I felt lazy. Working service is going to be hard. It’s a struggle because on one hand you want to be social and fun and to unwind after being on your feet all day, and the place gives you a free drink each shift. On the other hand, I hate Hate the sluggy (or any) kind of hangover. Even after just two drinks and 10 hours of sleep, it leaves me with no confidence and a needy kind of helplessness. I want Steady Tinder and anyone else in reach to take care of me. I don’t want to move.

One month in Baltimore is approaching. Tomorrow I’m looking at an apartment. Pray to the universe it’s as perfect as I imagine, and that I move soon soon. I’ve been here long enough to want to Be Here. I want to unpack. I want to settle in.

100 Days, Blog Style

Hey Fam,

I have recently started a 100 days project on my side-insta (@okay_everything) that is a commitment to sketch one page / 10 minutes a day in the beautiful moleskine Rickki sent me just before I left Denver (I think? Maybe I was in Phoenix?) As I attempt to plot out a productive way to live my life, here I am committing the same thing to this blog.

PUBLIC DECLARATION, HERE: 100 DAYS OF WORDPRESS CAROLINE HEADSPACE TRANSLATED

Listen, I like Baltimore enough to say I Love It. This city is a good fit. I keep repeating, this is a good fit for me. It is extremely counterintuitive and at times mildly painful to say that when I am still without health insurance, without a place that I have chosen, pay rent for, or unpacked a suitcase from (okay, that’s extreme, I unpacked on suitcase this week!). I am feeling very stuck on the word without right now. It is a feeling that comes suddenly and that I am not used to. (privilege! entitlement! ease!) Hey, Caroline, time to work for something in a dramatically different way than you are used to!

Today I write as an official Hostess / Server at an “upscale” bowling alley where literally everyone on staff plays fantasy football together. Haaaay, oddballchild! I like that I got hired, that they immediately gave me 29 hours my second week there, and that I am now in the know about the gloriousness that is A Shift Drink aka free cocktail with every shift aka Healthy Habits For All!

In that, though, there is still a knot of oh my god what would my mother say. It took 30 years to do something I solidly think my mother with criticize (granted, she wouldn’t have loved me being a teacher but at least it had insurance).

Yesterday I bought $40 worth of copy paper from a church near Patterson Park. $40 feels like a pretty massive investment now-a-days, but y’all it’s a Shit Ton of Paper. I did something that might qualify as a mistake in that I invested in the resource prior to birthing the idea of exactly how to use the resource, but I feel mostly really good about my choice to fill my entire backseat with a rainbow of 8.5″ x 11″ bliss. The goal now is to have a new home to unload it in before the sun bleaches the value out of all of it.

THIS IS A RAMBLE. DAY ONE OF 100 DAYS IS STRAIGHT UP HELLA RAMBLE.

Alright. About to start day 1 of 100 days of exercise, so bye. Sending love.

 

Pronoia

I subscribed to a 30 Day writing prompt daily email whatever the fuck thing, and topic #7 was pronoia. I’d never heard of it, but since reading about it I can’t get it out of my head. According to the first google image search with an astral background and cool italic font, pronoia is (n) the belief that the universe is conspiring in your favor.

I love the concept of The Universe. What comforting words, what a vast thing, what a perfect weighted blanket. The universe. The air you breathe, the steps you walk up to get to your car, your dog’s chew toy, your sidewalk, your best friend. The whole universe is here, with it’s vibrating tiny particles, cheering for me and screaming for me to get the win. For me, that looks like my mom balled up on the Soccer Zone bleachers in Novi, bouncing her feet and screaming, Kick the ball, Caroline, kick the ball!!!!

So that’s how my life feels lately.

My earlier affirmations that Terror in Transition is Normal were helpful and strong and Right. I think that part is over for a second, here. Now I am caught up in this weird swirly sparkly bliss of Honeymooning In Baltimore. It feels like the whole world is hugging me.

I wanted to make another list – or I feel compelled to write another list; my Baltimore experience feels like a series of lists: the things that make me feel horrified, the things that make me feel like a failure, the things that light me up inside, the ways my dog reacts to different people and environments, the humans I’ve met on the street and what they’ve said to me, the tinder experiences, the lists of jobs I’ve applied to, haven’t heard from, have interviews for. A life in lists.

You can just imagine those things instead.

This morning I drove to an interview for a full time, benefits included, cashier job at a shwanky local grocery store in a part of town that a tinder told me he used to go to because the college there recruited Playboy Bunnies from campus. As I got ready to leave, I had a moment of semi-disgust while lint rolling all the dog hair off the skirt I’ve been wearing basically every day for two weeks: why am I putting in effort and looking professional for a grocery store job? I felt defeated, ridiculous. I have a masters degree! I used to make money!

Then two things evolved from that:

  1. Oh, you’re Too Good for a grocery store, are you???? with one hundred question marks. A moment of humility. I would like to say that I value all work, that it is the human that makes the human rather than the title or the achievement or the paper on the wall or where you drive to make money every day or the amount of money listed on the check but clearly that is a fantasy that still has many, many holes. I was tearing into myself, and boosting my pride, thinking I’m too good for a grocery store without naming that I felt Too Good For the Grocery Store. But guess what? I don’t have a job, and I am at the mercy of the Grocery Store and it’s HR rep, Lorrie. The Grocery Store Is Too Good For ME.
  2. Actually you kind of really want to do this. I wandered the aisles, bought a muffin and a coffee, for 10 minutes before my interview. I realized that I haven’t a fucking clue how to make a pastry, how to cut cheese or meat, how to work at a grocery store. I like the oxford striped button down uniforms and denim dad hats that are store uniform. I like the calm, that it feels like D&W in Kalamazoo. But mostly I like that it’s a potential full time job with benefits and an environment that doesn’t appear hostile in any way.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reminding myself that I Am Allowed To Do This. That This is a thing that is valid and okay and good. It’s not just FINE to seek to work at a grocery store, it can be happy and healthy and calm and good for life and a choice and Watch Me Continue To Validate My Decisions.

I have another interview, this time at a bar / bowling alley, on Thursday. it’s been kind of fun to send out emails to craigslist email addresses that say things like “despite having Absolutely No Experience Whatsoever…” and grinning to myself. This is my risk right now. This is my life right now. The universe is conspiring. Every day the sidewalk reaches up to meet me, the hotel gives me an extra hour on the clock, the woman on the street stops to talk to me and give me a hug, the man on the street holds my dog while I hop inside the shop for a minute, my sister arrives, a new friend texts support…

And as I prep to head out to my fourth-to-last day of work at the Irish hotel in Annapolis, I share this Gaelic blessing with you:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may [the universe / God] hold you in the palm of [its / His] hand.

One Week in Baltimore

Perpetually in the asking. Teetering between existing and loving and breathing in the absolute overhaul feeling of change, OR re-building, block by block, the life I used to have, but instead here, in Baltimore. Writing this, I can feel my core firm and my heels prepare to dig in the ground. I Do Not Want To ReCreate My Old Life. I want to keep floating; I want to keep allowing myself to Be in the new me Being In Baltimore. I know this; I have been doing it incrementally; it makes me so so Uncomfortable.

I have a hart time applying to jobs in Baltimore. Multiple applications I begin, and abruptly x out of the browser when it comes to Employment History. I am tired of writing about Denver Public Schools, Arkansas Teacher Corps, Teach For America; My Other Lives. I do not want to continue that, but I don’t know where else to Go.

There is nothing else to write. Maybe:

“Hotel banquets for 2 weeks, Annapolis MD”

“Tiny poetry books, sold 7”

“Okay at talking to people most of the time, I think”

I like saying yeah I’m used to moving across the country and acting like None of Anything is Ever a Big Deal. I like casual. I like Being Different because I guess that’s the most universal thing most humans like, Being Different. What is that book or quote or something about people wanting to be anything but ordinary? How horrible Ordinary is? I am trying to not be Ordinary, and in doing so am embodying the epitome of the Human Condition. So pat on the back for me!

I think about how Right Now is a strangely difficult time: I am tentative living in someone else’s place; I have very little above zero amount of money; I don’t have any insurance; I am banking on the graces of karma and the universe that nothing Horrible is about to happen; everyone I know here I have known for one week or less.

Sometimes, this Right Now makes my skin crawl: I take literally two hours to mentally get myself out of the house; I can’t fathom picking up a book for the sheer mental weight of it; I am scared to open windows and doors; I wake up at 1:30pm somewhat regularly; I cannot get myself to sleep before 6 or 7 in the morning; I smoke enough cigarettes for my body to rebel in chronic coughing (current life, that is, which is an arguably excellent way to Quit smoking, again).

AND YET, AND YET, MY FRIENDS: Sometimes, this Right Now can be self-affirming Baby Steps toward what this embarrassingly inspiring quick read (borne of this Medium post) sent to me by a God-Given Friend Delivered By The Universe calls your MUST. Musts are the stark contrasts to Shoulds, and lately I have found solace categorizing my behavior by the two:

  • SHOULD: have a job with consistent, regular hours, that is good for the world, that pays at LEAST $45k (which obviously means it’s salaried), that includes insurance and some kind of grown people clothes
  • MUST: take a job that requires next to no brain power but gets you out of bed and into the universe, requires you to do things like pick up dirty plates and roll silverware, that pays $12/hr and changes your shifts daily, that is a 45 minute commute and surrounds you with people you would otherwise never speak to
  • SHOULD: live in a “safe” block, neighborhood, city, that is full of people like you namely white middle class young professionals who are athletic and maybe with babies and monogamous relationships, where you have a place to park your car and a park you walk to and maybe a farmer’s market, and *obviously* you have your own space, room, kitchen, windows, keys…
  • MUST: rely on the kindness of a high school friend and his Karmic renting of two places simultaneously, use His Keys, His Bed, His Desk, His Kitchen, His Drawer, His Closet, His Floor; pay nothing and make mental notes of How In God’s Name you will ever repay him; become friends with 30 something entrepreneurs who are equally far from children and monogamy and feel strangely Not Weird about it
  • SHOULD: schedule and block days to be productive times; use the color coded web-based calendar system you relied on for six years to be Organized and Intentional with your time and resources and existence, Plan Everything, set benchmarks and goals for number of jobs applied to, neighborhoods to live in, museums to visit, people to have drinks with; generally micromanage all of your minutes to be highly productive and Prove You Have Worth (Quantitative and Qualitative)
  • MUST: sometimes sleep until 1:30, sometimes apply for jobs, sometimes abandon job applications; schedule next to nothing; attend social events on whims, attend tinder dates when provoked; allow days to pass without pre-planning or recording any of it; feel Mostly Fine staring at the wall, eating the exact same sandwich 8 days in a row, and having a breakfast of popsicles

I honestly don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, working toward, walking toward, waiting for. There are major elements of Daily Basis Terror, and also major elements of All Life Is Not Like The Last Seven Years. I am trying to not get stuck in excuses or paralysis, but also not pile boulders on my shoulders and act like they’re worthy accessories.

Two things that are staying with me right now in This Baltimore life are texts:

  1. From long time high school bestie / newish twin mom / DC thank God close to me friend: I’m sure [you’re having a hard time] because you aren’t throwing yourself into work! So what else can you throw yourself into
    (Because, you know, it IS an option to ‘throw myself into’ things other than work. The kind of obvious but revolutionary comment that sticks.)
  2. From tinder date turned daily check in friend, after I told him I am quitting smoking again because a) it made me so sick I can hardly sleep and b) I want to be better at soccer: I’m glad you know what you want. 🙂
    Because it’s laughable and at first I had a physical aversion to the comment (WHAT? NO I DO NOT KNOW WHAT I WANT! THAT’S THE PROBLEM!) but after three seconds I realized he’s right: I want to quit smoking, and I want to be decent at soccer. And those are Real Things that I can want, and that are just as meaningful, though different, from wanting to be The Best Teacher or a High Paying Job.

The Universe

I live in a basement. The walls where I sleep are bright green and the room itself is Alex’s – it’s a foundation of Alex with a layer of Caroline over most things. While he mostly lives in DC I mostly live here without living here. There’s a desk that’s his with a stack of my art. There’s a dresser that’s his that he cleared one drawer of to be mine. There’s a closet that has his shoes and the bottom and his hats at the top and my suitcases stacked in the right side of the middle.

I am close to crying at some point most days. Using Most Days as if it means something when I’ve been here Four Days.

I recently wrote about being terrified. I am. It’s real. And just as much so, just like I did my first months (my first year, really) in Dumas – it is terrifying but It Is Right.

I am terrified most of the time most every day, and yet validation comes in a constant stream. I don’t want to list this but I have to:

  • I went running yesterday after being on the verge of tears for Too Long and after sleeping most of the day. I had to clear my head and running tends to be the way to do that. I accidentally ran to the Baltimore Museum of Art, which happens to be across the street from a rather large lush green green park, the first one I’ve seen here.
  • While running, on my third day in this city, I hear my name screamed out a car window. Seriously. I look, mid stride, and see a dude hanging out an SUV waving who I recognize as someone I emailed from a Craigslist ad who happens to know Alex and is a soon-to-be-friend I haven’t met irl yet. Is this even real life?
  • A teacher become friend who’s wedding I attended in Little Rock lives in Annapolis and got me a job at the hotel she works at; a job that I began working st literally my second day in the city. I’ve always wanted experience in service, and there I get to play bartender, server, dishwasher and whatever else I want and no one minds.
  • I was invited to a happy hour then album release at which I was introduced to what felt like half the City because the few people I know (namely, Alex and anyone he introduces me to) knows literally have the city. At least.
  • After work tonight, getting back to Baltimore at 12:30, I’m invited to a perfect housewarming party that’s wrapping up. I walk in and immediately am told I’ve been waited for, I’ve been “hyped”, and people are excited to meet me.
  • I am immediately invited to play soccer on a pick up league, the singular team sport I love with a group that gives Zero Fucks about skill. THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE AND I START PLAYING TOMORROW.

I could continue and I just can’t, because although I am consumed by terror half the time, all other times I am swollen with belonging and love and welcomeness and validation.

Finally, today I arrive back to this room with my perfect happy dog and a warmth from the housewarming, and there is an amazon package on Alex’s desk. Day four and I have mail (this is a landmark of comfort for me – mail) and it is a book from a woman I’ve met twice and instantly felt a commonality with, but would never expect a gift from. Inside is the book The Crossroads of Should and Must and that’s it. I’ve had it. I am done.

I can be terrified and alone and depressed and anxious for eternity, but no matter what I do, The Universe will be here. And right now the universe is in all caps screaming at me EVERYTHING IS OKAY. YOU HAVE DONE THE RIGHT THING FOR YOU.

Upheaval

At half past midnight I parked my car. I turtled my neck against the window, this old city surrounding me. Baltimore. Before I knew what was happening, I placed my forehead against the backs of my hands, took a huge breath, and began sobbing.

The entire eight-and-a-half hour ride felt so normal. A car full of shit, Blue’s head bobbing in her new dog bed in the back seat. I have crossed the country in so many ways: Phoenix to Denver, Denver to Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo to New York… but this wasn’t, isn’t, the same aimless territory, the same return to floating.

I’m staying here. At least for a little while? And I arrived off the freeway and with each block felt heavier, heavier.

The last two weeks I felt a non-feeling about Baltimore itself. I was excited to Move. I was grateful for Alex. I was already missing Sally. But I somehow did not prepare, did not know I needed to prepare, for the arrival.

I talked to myself through the sobs, You are going to like Baltimore. Alex and everyone is going to take care of you. You are excited about this! It’s going to be fine. You’re going to be happy here. – but it was the kind of thing that affirmations seemed to make worse.

I am Terrified.

To be in Baltimore is to have made some kind of decision. It is to be at the mercy of kindness given by another person I feel I am not returning. It is anxiety that my dog will be so unhappy, that I will be so unhappy, that this city will just be a place that wraps me in the same numb neutral blank brokenness: where am I going. what am I doing. why am I here.

I cried and cried despite knowing I was being waited for. The brownstones felt like familiar Brooklyn, the city felt like familiar belonging. I was made to be in concrete. My body, though, couldn’t contain Fear.

I am trying to remember to think about Today and Tomorrow. I am trying to set small goals and celebrate achieving them. I am trying to make room for creativity. I am trying to sit in gratitude without being overwhelmed by it’s reminder of what I am not currently able to return.

It is hard, right now. I will admit, (surprise), it is hard.

Today was productive and celebratory and a testament to what my old boss incessantly told me I do: I hit the ground running. I toured the neighborhood with Alex, went to two interviews, a meeting, ran with Blue, bought groceries (if you know me you know I Hate With All My Heart grocery shopping), put my things into Alex’s room, even scheduled a tinder for Sunday. Inside of this hides a terror that I remember existing inside of me when I moved to Dumas.

It wasn’t there when I went to Little Rock, or Denver, when my work was cut out for me and the world was shining and I felt like I knew what I was doing. But the move to Sherwood, the move to Dumas, this Baltimore day: I remember, now, the unease that comes even when I feel so confident in my decision.

I truly, truly don’t know what I’m doing here. People keep asking what direction I want to head in and I just want to cry. Don’t you know that is the essential question? Don’t you know if I knew I would be going there? I am trying to be Here. I am trying to be Now. I am trying to be the version of myself people tell me I am.

A Tribute to Angels

My mother’s parting words, words during trying times, words on a long drive, words basically always, included Pray to the angels.

Recently, a friend I met in Cuidad de Mexico, after I told him about an act of kindness, said Definitely good to have those angels out there.

After each leg of traveling this summer I felt an immense surge of You Are Amazing for the people that have raised me, housed me, loved me, fed me. This post, loosely inspired by Hannah’s list of people met while traveling, is A Tribute to Angels (names included, please let me know if you’d like me to leave you anonymous!)

  • Martin, Rosa, & Lesley – for allowing me to be the fourth on a best friend backpacking extravaganza, despite only one of you knowing me for ONE DAY prior to the trip. I learned so much from you
  • Andrea, Emilio, & Kevin – for completely taking care of me when I arrived in Honduras with no plan and no contacts what so ever. Those 24 hours will be a reminder of the kindness of strangers for the rest of my life.
  • Aunnika, Gili, Orlando, & Eva – for showing me what it means to travel alone and yet in the company of such wonderful friends. Also THAT WATERFALL THO
  • Jarrod – because spending an afternoon in the ocean at La Tortuga reminded me how to play and your incessant whining made me laugh (just kidding that burger took fucking forever), and because you taught me singlet, tinnie, to sink, and a slew of other Australian slang I will do my best to remember.
  • Susy, Gil, & Byron – TEQUILA TIMEEEEEEEEEE!! Teaching. Me to dance, speaking English wen you could have excluded me, and your instant acceptance. Pan y mantequilla solamente! Also Susy prepare to be absolute BFFs when I get to Mexico City ugh I love y’all
  • Nami – for being a big sister to all of us. For your honesty, your vulnerability, and having all the necessities the moment we arrived in Mexico.
  • Kyle – for making ex-pat life feel realistic, letting me do my best to “pet” hairless Humo, and giving my running life a jumpstart, and hope that non-9-to-5 is Real
  • Katie – WIFE I CANT YOU NEED AN ENTIRE POST I JUST CANT
  • Kelly, Mike, Amanda & Kris – for loving my dog and treating her like she’s your own, and KM especially for dealing w my constant in and out all summer
  • Em/Cookie – your creativity and love wrapped me like a warm blanket when I felt so lost and anxious. Our reconnection gave me permission to Be Artsy in a way I haven’t been in so so long. Your hospitality was all encompassing and calming and beyond perfect. Also dog love always
  • Everyone who bought my books – because you funded my ability to get back to Michigan, and lightened the load in my car without me having separation anxiety for the texts I love most
  • Sally – because you do everything for me that my mom would, but distinctly Sally and with a love so strong it’s tangible. You, too, deserve a whole book of gratitude
  • Alexis – seriously, ten years. Never mind letting me accidentally drive away with your metal ruler & xacto, with a less-shedding dog after your AMAZING VACUUM, you are so genuine. Going to mass, crafting, letting eat an entire pizza with not that much shame… thank you
  • Sho, Em, Abbie & Aven – BUT THAT DINNER WAS PERFECT oh god the absolute example of #girlpower and poetry and not even real it’s so picturesque days. I want to live in that forever
  • Michelle – you radiate acceptance and openness, and your hospitality in Detroit kicked me into making a concrete decision about geography. I’m genuinely so so sad to miss out on sharing a city with you FOR NOW, but feel that much closer and more confident knowing we’ll be more in touch now
  • Sue & Meg – your love means everything. Being with you made me feel so close to my mom, and so validated in my decisions, and so ready to embrace a me I haven’t met yet. That meal will stand out for years and years of such a distinct feeling of safety and validation
  • Cait, Mare & Babies – i don’t need to put you here because I’m moving basically next door and you’re about to be a staple in blog posts. BABIES
  • Alex – who knows if you know that you’ve made an appearance for the last two blog posts because you’ve made such a deep immediate impact on my life plan, let alone the last 15ish years, you are The Literal Reason I am coming to Baltimore and I hope you’re as confident in me after two weeks of me crashing as you are now 😁😁
  • PKM – I know you hate written messages so muchas gracias for sharing your home with me
  • Chris & Regina – visiting after a year felt a little more like walking into the living room in Novi when we all happened to be in town: calm, natural, so normal. I am so so SO looking forward to being in close proximity for the first time… ever?
  • Clarice– talking with you w and inspires me always. You are such a unique and important friend, and our shared experiences and stories of travel are shaping my outlook on the world and my life as a whole. I am insanely excited for our next trip
  • Lucas – you are Cousin Supreme and I’m mostly pissed I can’t hang out in your garage, or your tv room, or at a soccer game with you for a while. Thank you for making me feel welcome and same
  • Crystal – our relationship has so much history, so much power, and so much separation. I am so so grateful to reconnect as adults and cousins in a way that feels real again. I don’t want any more gap years Ever Again!!!
  • Nancy – for sharing insights about both parents, about family, about love. For letting my pup in your home and reminding me of the roots and the ground I carry everywhere. For laughter and frozen yogurt and a Dearborn neighborhood walking tour
  • Cindy & Marcy – my night in Novi was A Dream!!! I had no idea I needed it so badly, your motherly support lifts a burden I didn’t realize I was carrying, and your stories remind me of a strength and creativity I had forgotten I have. I am so so grateful to share you with the women I call my oldest closest friends and sisters
  • Jason, Kaitlin, Kate, Aimee & Zain – there is a power in revisiting friends that popped out with all of our visits. Thank you for feeding me, asking about my life, reminding me of the endless and timeless support I have, and for being so kind

I am nervous I’ve left someone out, as it was a long and adventurous summer. Know that I love you. Know that your kindness warms me and reminds me of all I am grateful for. I do not wish to write like a Hallmark card anymore so in more traditional CaroSpeak THAT IS IT FOR RIGHT NOW GOOD GOD I LOVE YOU BLESS THIS SUMMER AMEN

Validation

I am having a hard time answering questions. From family and friends they give me a tight chest, wider eyes, an extreme desire to duck under a table. From strangers I deflect, deflect, deflect and instead do the asking.

I have been thinking about how much I’d like to go to therapy. Better than therapy: life coaching. In my head, that’s one place I could go and answer questions, and pose some, and mostly feel okay about freely sobbing.

My emotions lately are in a constant flux. I get an interview for a less-than-$15-an-hour job and I am elated. I have value! I am doing something for myself! I don’t hear back from a job I don’t even want but feel like I am qualified for and I am sunk. Who will they hire instead? Will they hire anyone? Are they even seeing my application?

I spend time with people I love and it feels so strange to be so Present. I don’t have a constant flow of urgent texts, emails, and calls from randos I’m dating or teachers in panic or supervisors needing something done. I’m noticing Michigan in a way I haven’t done in years. I’m seeing people who remember me as a person I haven’t acknowledged in so long.

The world feels foreign in its familiarity. I got so comfortable talking about the children I love so much, so used to the same chains of educational bullshit malfunctions in endless circulation: a teacher with chronically low expectations, an administration that struggles with consistency and budgets, curriculum that’s unresponsive, pay that is utterly ridiculous…

And now I am in a new new place. I wake up when I want to. I stay up until 3am writing in my journal. I look at people without the already built up defensiveness that You Don’t Have A Clue About This Life, and instead I am now looking with a wide openness: what can you teach me about the self I used to be?

These are the lessons I am learning. When a high school best friend’s mama reminds me of the duet poem we spoke to a high school auditorium: I remember when we practiced holding hands in sync with our eyes straight ahead over and over. Her mom reminded me the title, Natalie/Alicia, and my gratitude became a fountain. This life I have lived.

My cousin in Kalamazoo, he stopped on his way to a carpentry job 45 minutes away to say goodbye. Smoking his last Red of the pack, he said, Its my last one, but you can have a puff. In my pajamas he shared his cigarette with me, and when I handed it back for the last time he laughed to himself, said You’re just like your mom. My heart swelled with the remembering, fondly, of her imperfections. I’m not proud of my sporadic relationship with cigarettes, but I can’t erase that my family is full of us, that growing up my mom was perpetually sneaking cigarettes from everyone, the same way I do now.

Today I had a perfect winding walk with an Arkansas friend, who put words to rooted feelings:

You have to spend time unlearning…

It is hard to break the mindset that everything that’s not education is Less Than

I spent the night with two women, more mothers, who loved my dog and made me food in a warm crowded kitchen. Who told me stories and showed me pictures. Who are artists themselves, and have me in a place with my big toe jutting out, away from the Career Scheduled Box-Driven life I’ve been living. They say I jumped right into it from undergrad, they say this isn’t a path everyone takes. Cindy says, It make take a while to establish yourself as a writer, but you can do it.

My heart all a flutter just typing that onto my phone: A Writer, A Writer. I’ve been reading more Baldwin, with love, and holding it close. My favorite is a bit that Marc E Bassy samples in his song, Only the Poets (which I listen to incessantly), and I leave you with it:

It would seem to me that the artist’s struggle for his integrity must be considered as a kind of metaphor for the struggle, which is universal and daily, of all human beings on the face of this globe to get to become human beings. It is not your fault, it is not my fault, that I write. And I never would come before you in the position of a complainant for doing something that I must do… The poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets.

Humble

When my mother died, I remember being baffled by the most pronounced emotion I felt: Gratitude. My heart was always swollen with the things other people were doing for me. Not inflated like a balloon, but swollen like wounded knee. The body swells to prevent further injury, according to google, and that’s how I felt. Had I not been wrapped in thick love, I would have shriveled in the outside air.

That’s how I feel now, unemployed and feeling … (helpless? hopeless? future-less? impossible? overwhelmed? lost? anxious? depressed?) last night, for the first time in two months, I sat down with the journal that I write in daily and I consciously thought Caroline, How Do You Feel?

I can say anxious and depressed in a moment, because it’s a given. When you cry without warning and wake up with nausea, it’s just a thing you have. Situational, yes. Tolerable, yes. And also: totally normal. It’s normal to feel this when you have walked away from the highest paying job you’ve ever had, walked away from best friends and being comfortable and having a clearly marked path to walk on.

But what else? I realized that in confronting the I Have Anxiety Thing from the past year, I wrapped myself up in claiming that identity, and forgot a bit about what else I am.

I went to dinner last night with a friend I haven’t seen in years (which has been a trend of the past few weeks), who kept asking me, “If you had unlimited money, if you could do anything, what would you do? What do you love?”

I refused to answer him.

Something in me seized. I don’t know or trust him enough to open completely. I don’t have the confidence in myself to claim the things I love (art, dialogue about race, writing, building relationships, teaching). I don’t want to answer these self-help questions over a table at Olive Garden in such a flippant way when it is the exact question that has been Crushing Me For Months-Years.

I’ve spent the last full month in other people’s homes. I have eaten their food, held their babies, crafted beside them, felt their love wrap around all parts of me: in the clothes I borrow, in the yards I let my dog run in, in the drinks we share. I have been (in less dramatic words?) at the mercy of those who love me.

It is terrifying to ask for help, and utterly overwhelming to receive it.

The last post I wrote, I “knew” I was moving to Detroit. This changed when I went to dinner with a high school friend (yep, another one I haven’t seen in years). We sat with Korean tacos in a market in DC. He is calm and deliberate when he speaks. He makes eye contact and has an vibe of energy and seriousness and genuine concern all the time. As we sat, he looked at me, he asked,

“Are you doing okay?”

Externally, I glanced at my taco in my hand. I played with my hat or my teenage-boy-hair. I took breaths and smiled.

Internally, my organs set on fire. I felt pin pricks in all of my extremities, wondered where the exits were both literally and figuratively, and did everything possible to contain the scream and onslaught of violent tears that immediately throbbed behind my eyes. Are you serious, friend? You really going to ask that right now? 

I said something like, “No. I mean no but of course yes. I’m okay.”

In that conversation, which honesty just typing it out has me wiping my eyes in a Kalamazoo coffee shop, he worked out details of what I can do in Baltimore. He offered his room (I’ll tell my roommates you’re my cousin and you’re going through a divorce. I don’t think we can have dogs but whatever I’ll say I’m dog sitting…), promised to make a call the following day to a friend who just bought a house and needs a roommate, and started calculating cost of living, thinking of jobs…

He asked about my support network in Detroit, and compared it to my support network in Baltimore and surrounding cities. In more of the so-sincere-I-am-extremely-uncomfortable style of talking he said, I want someone to look out for you, and I will make sure you’re okay. I’ll get you set up. I want you to know you’ll be supported.

Real talk, my friends, just typing that God Damn Italicized Sentence I had to stare at the ceiling, take my glasses off, wipe my eyes four times, change the song on spotify, and come back to finish it.

This experience, this joblessness+, is Humbling.

I pretend, and act on the pretending, that I am independent as fuck. I move from state to state on a whim. I pay for international trips and take my dog to the vet. I get my teeth cleaned. I grieve for my mother as alone as possible. I go on tinder date after bumble date after man from the bar date and I don’t fret when we never speak again. I am used to this.

This experience, these weeks stretched into months, has me in a place of complete vulnerability. My footing isn’t just lost, I am in a current in a river I don’t know the name of, with my head hardly above water. Each time I reach my hand up, though, someone pulls me clear out, gives me clothes and food and a pep talk, and convinces me I am who I think I am, this is just, you know, part of life.

PS: I started posting on medium, if you use, keep track here.