Friday, January 11, 2013

I'm Scared

It's crazy how you spend hours and days and months and years wanting something, and then when you are about to get it... you freeze.

I didn't want to be in Fresno. I'm sure that's not news to anyone reading this. I haven't hidden my distaste for the place. Part of my all-too-evident disgust stems from feeling trapped. It's like I'm suffocating. I have lived here for most of my life; the city really is big, but it feels so, so small. I can't go to the grocery store without running into 5 people I know. I can't work out at the gym without having back to back conversations with former coworkers, current coworkers, exes, friends, ex-friends, my boss, my brothers, my pastor, my neighbor. Every Thursday at the restaurant where I work is like going to a damn high school reunion (my 10 year is coming up. The answer is no.); strangers approach me routinely because I look just like my mother, who they went to high school with, at a high school just a few miles from where I live now. I once sat next to a girl on a plane, a girl who was from Fresno, and while we didn't know each other, of course we had 5 mutual friends on Facebook. I've worked 5 jobs here since high school, and every single one of them has been located on Cedar Avenue. That's weird but probably not in the same way.

My family is here, many dear friends are here, and it's harder to hate the place where most of your memories are planted, where so much of your life has happened, whether you were ready for it or not. But I certainly made an effort to hate it. There are memories everywhere I look. And whether I like it or not, I've put down roots here. I would start sentences like this "If I ever EVER were to have to live in Fresno, I'd live in _______ neighborhood or on _________ street"... but just saying those words made me want to crawl out of my skin, or weep, or both. It's hard to articulate why, exactly, except to say that I don't feel I belong in this place. That's strange because in some ways, I belong here more than anywhere else. My family? They've been here since the founding of the city. They've literally built much of it. And roots are roots; I spent four years despising those roots and half-heartedly plotting my escape, and with each year that passed, I held my breath, trying to live without living. Afraid of anything permanent, I turned down legitimate job offers. I grew more listless, depressed, and desperate, as though I was being forced to build my case against the place, or stay forever. I was afraid of staying, I was afraid of leaving. I wasn't allowed to like anything or anyone here, because if I did, I would end up settling, paralyzed by indecision and uncertainty. That's the great thing about depression; you can sit and feel the stillness and the silence moving over you, like rising water in a bathtub, and for a moment (moments can last hours, months, years) you think that the world has stopped moving. What a relief it is to find that it hasn't stopped. But at the same time, what a tragedy.

You might think that I'm going to transition into a change in perspective, where I want to stay and where I regret all the things I said about my hometown. But that isn't the case. Well, I do think that Fresno is exactly what some people need. I can recognize that, because I've loved places that other people hate, or are indifferent to. Case in point: my friend lived in an amazing apartment in central Los Angeles with a stellar view of the city skyline, and when I visited I fell all over myself wishing I lived there. All I could say was "Don't you just LOVE this?!" and all she could say was "Meh." She wanted to move to the Bay Area! Needless to say, I'm almost as indifferent to the Bay Area as I am to Fresno. And so it goes with cities. Fresno is not my city. But at the same time, in an irrevocable way, Fresno is my city.

There will undoubtedly be things I have taken for granted about this place, things that I won't realize until I no longer have them at my disposal, relationships and familiarity that take time and years to develop. My high school graduating class sang the song "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" from the show "Cheers"... because at my high school, everybody knows your name. And your business. Which is easy to hate, until you're surrounded by people who are indifferent to you. Now that I know I'm leaving, I'm free to like things about my hometown. And now all I can think of is how much I'll miss what I've grown to take for granted in the 19 years since I moved here in the 4th grade. I'm so scared to move to a place where no one knows me. I'm scared to be 5 hours away from my mom. I'm scared to leave the job I've had for 3 1/2 years, with the coworkers I like and a job I can do without anxiety, because I've been there long enough to gain leverage and security. I'm scared. I'm scared to pack my room and move my things out, because I know I'm not coming back. I'm scared to write the words "I'm not coming back" although I've said those words with unmatched conviction, with vitriol, with frantic protestation, since I was 18 years old.

I never fully settled back into my room at my parents place after I moved home from school in 2009. It was my way of saying "this isn't permanent" although I don't know who I was trying to convince. Myself, probably. And now I'm struggling to pack. What a mess I am! Is this paralysis? What am I doing? I don't know. But I don't know if that's a reason to stop moving. It stopped me for a while, or I thought it did. But the truth is, nothing stops moving, even when you think you have. My grandmother told me once, "It's easier for God to steer a moving ship than for Him to blow it out of the harbor." So here I am, a moving ship.