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.
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Yeah IDK

I woke up shocked that it’s possible to have this much anxiety with my life as free as it is. Legit confused, and angry at myself for having anxiety when I have nothing that can give me anxiety.

And what’s sillier is that it took me until now, four pm, to write it out and chuckle to myself. Remember how I don’t have a job? And my dog is getting stranger and stranger with all the transition and new people; her erratic behavior has me on edge. And I have no income. And I am starting a creative project that I am fighting embarrassment of –

I didn’t really process how much of myself I critique through some Hypothetical Other who thinks I’m an idiot.

I went to a baby shower for a friend from undergrad today. She has always been excessively kind and wonderful and warm to me, and yet I spent a full hour trying to settle my breathing, talking to myself as I showered, found clothes that were nowhere near feminine or nice enough to fit in, and gathered the gift. I ended up 20 minutes late, which made absolutely no difference for the event but had me clenching my teeth on the way in regardless.

Today’s reminder from the universe that I Am Okay was going to the coffee shop a mile from auntie’s for a cold brew before the drive to Traverse City and seeing another friend from undergrad behind the counter. She remembered me by name and we chatted about life and artistic endeavors and she radiated a warmth and safety I desperately needed in that moment (thanks, girl!)

I am expecting my 30s to be easier. This first two months has felt like someone picked me up by my feet and hasn’t turned me right side up yet. I am being stubborn as fuck about finding work: I’m Not Even Looking. I’m both paralyzed by the fact that I have no income AND heels in the ground determined to not do something just because it’s there, just because it’s reasonable. I am at some mental crossroads that right now is a mix between a dust storm and a hurricane.

Caroline, the fuck you doing?

Okay

I have been in the states for two full days, and I feel whole.

On the long way home, on two or three hours of sleep, convinced I had a mild fever and a cough reminiscent of my old chronic bronchitis, I called Sally. She said, "Caroline, are you okay?" "I'm sick." "Yes, but are you okay? Your voice sounds strained…" and I burst into tears, they poured off and on through the entire next flight, journaling page after page.

The flight attendant on my second flight, who's name I don't know: I ordered a vodka ginger ale and held up my card.

I got you girl, he smiled

I burst into tears again. A minute later I heard a man's voice behind me asking if there were cough drops available, not for him, for me. It wasn't a nice kind of question.

I have a little bit of money and a lot of energy. Having no job, no home, no strings except the most beautiful dog who takes me running and curls into me at night – I expected it to be more scary than this, but no. There are so many people to take care of me.

First Katie, picking me up from the airport and putting me into bed, surrounding me with dogs, driving 15 minutes out of the way so I can have an egg mcmuffin at midnight, going to our favorite diner in the morning.

In a fit of financial terror, and because I know I want to move far and pack lightly (again), I sold my library on Facebook. In 12 hours I made a sizeable lump and felt my heart warm with the loves I get to distribute my favorite possessions to. I posted a whole ton of shit on Poshmark; I put my furniture on Facebook. This is real.

Then Em, my heart swelling being in her presence. The creative energy palpable. I came here yesterday and already have such a sadness to go. Her most perfect house, her calm kindness, her excited crafts, her plans on plans. In her home my dog and I are safe and loved. In her home I can have no job, can paint and paint, can study Spanish for two hours in the morning, can go for a three-and-a-half-mile run around the park nearby.

I am savoring, savoring. I am so blessed. I am so loved.

There is magic coming. I am inspired and energetic and for the first time in so long I'm Not Tired. Last night I felt like a child on Christmas Eve, down to sleep by 11:15 but a racing mind under after three: I journaled, I read, I brainstormed, I redownloaded duolingo.

I have goals and ideas and energy.
Something is going to happen.

(PS Logistics: started Celexa more regularly again, started a face routine to get rid of the acne I acquired in Mexico, am extremely serious about moving to Mexico City. Yes.)

A year ago

…I had just bought a car. The “dealership”, or what I think of as Trailor On The Side of The Highway With A Dirt Patch Full of Deceitful Cars, lied on some of the paperwork so they made more money and I paid less taxes. My experiences there made me angry that I had both a boyfriend and a father within an hour’s driving distance and neither helped. (Edit: this isn’t fair, I called my dad each time I went to that “dealership”, he found the car on Craigslist, and he coached me through the falsified paperwork situation. He just never came with me for the actual buying part.) My experiences after made me livid that I didn’t know how to check out a used car despite having my license for a decade (I’m talking obvious things like: can you pop the hood? Do all the lights work? Is the gas cap functional? All things I learned in the first three days.) I also learned that I cannot use the excuse of being a woman, being a daughter, being the youngest, or being inexperienced to justify not Doing Shit on My Own. Although this experience still leaves me feeling sick, it also makes me feel empowered. 

…Blue joined my life. She was terrified of everything, but lovely. My landlord didn’t know I had her until six weeks later. While I was smoking a cigarette with Blue on a leash in the courtyard, she showed a different space in the same building to a friend of mine. I said “well, I guess I owe you some extra money, now” and she said, “it’s okay, your credit is high enough that I’m not worried.” I smiled, but I consistently consider the privilege and institution that gave me good credit, and the ability to avoid pet fees stated in my lease, and feel enraged. This same landlord told me that in her unofficial research of land lording for the past two or four decades, she’s learned that people with similar credit scores stay in relationships longer. And that people with email addresses that are just their names have higher credit. Good thing I abandoned “dullsparkles416@yahoo.com” somewhere around middle school. 

…I had just had my first, of many, reckoning with ending an abusive (still cringe writing that) relationship. This is about the date that my computer went missing, a few days after I flitted around my apartment and lined up all his things in the hallway. This is when I began to live at KPs for fear of what I would do alone, or what he would do if I was home. This is before he came to my apartment in another girl’s Jeep with a bottle of wine and a single rose, trying to offer me her shoes as gifts he “found”. He left, with the gifts, screaming “FUCK” and blowing his horn. This is before my work computer went missing and I filed a police report with his name. This is before I ripped my door knob out of my own door, on the inside, trying to get past him on New Years Day, four months later. This is before Blue trembled when she saw him, doing everything possible to always be between us, standing as straight as she could while shaking. This is before I had calls and Facebook exchanges with multiple women, comparing stories. This was the start of when I lost the ability to eat, gained chronic shaking, lost 15 pounds and two sizes, gained a deep deep need for my closest friends, and lost my grip on reality for the second time in my life, the first being my first year in the classroom. 

…I had already decided to quit my job just didn’t know when, and knew, but was fighting the knowledge, that I needed to leave Arkansas. I couldn’t bear to be in my apartment anymore, I couldn’t do my work with integrity, I was frequently sobbing in my bathroom, and I felt that everything I did, said, and touched was a solid affront to myself. My decision to leave in this more solid way began with a desire to run away from things but later, with advice from a therapist and from friends, grew into running toward something(s). 

…I was beginning to shift into the position I’m in now. I was facing the hardest days I have ever faced. I knew, but absolutely didn’t believe, that it would get better. 

It got better.