I guess I’ve been toying with the idea of spontaneously moving to the west coast for quite some time now. I also spent hours and hours writing out detailed plans for how I could do it the “right way.” I was nervous to leave my career, my apartment, my friends, and my family. Also known as my comfort zone. I had been on my own for a long time, so it wasn’t that I thought I would be homesick. I just could never seem to find the perfect time to make that move. Or that’s what I told myself, anyway. Really, the only thing holding me back was the fear of the unknown.
Then one day, with no warning, it was like a switch went off inside me. I can’t pinpoint exactly what changed or why. It was a normal day just like any other. Things weren’t great, but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t tackled before. I can’t explain what happened, all I know is that something changed and I did not have the option to ignore it anymore. The morning it happened, I woke up with an overwhelming feeling of dread. It was anxiety, but for once it had a name. It’s name was my life.
I decided that regardless, I was not going to work that day. I texted my manager and upon realizing that sleep was no longer an option for me, I headed outside for a cigarette. I sat there smoking on the porch outside my duplex apartment in Southeast Michigan, trying to make sense of what was happening inside me. I had an overwhelming urge to do the craziest thing I could do. Leave. Every bone in my body was telling me to go. Not tomorrow, not next month. Now.
I wondered if I would miss it, this place I had somehow begun to call “home.” The truth is, it wasn’t my home. Even though I had lived there for two years, Michigan was never my home. I had always known that. But Ohio was never really my home either. When I looked back on everything leading up until that moment, all I could see were places and ideas that belonged to other people. No one forced me create this life, I had done it all on my own. I had made every decision based on what I thought I was “supposed” to do, so as not to disappoint anyone. I realized I had dedicated my entire life to the happiness of other people, at the expense of my own.
As the weight of my existence began to plant my feet even deeper into the midwest soil, something awakened inside me. It was that “something” that got my ass out of my seat on the porch and into my apartment. I pulled my suitcase out from under my bed and started packing. I didn’t pack much, just some clothes, a couple of blankets, a pillow, my laptop, iPad, phone charger, a small box full of memories, and my two kittens, Rally and Cali.
I packed all of those items, along with my feline companions and their necessities, into my 2009 Ford Focus at 10:00 in the morning on a Thursday. I put “Los Angeles, California” into my GPS and just started driving. I did all of this without really having any idea what I was doing or what the outcome would be. It was as if some unknown force put the car in drive and refused to let me have control until there were at least 300 miles between me and that seat on my porch.
Ultimately, no matter how powerless I felt that morning, there was no one driving that car but me. It was a part of me I was unfamiliar with, because up until that point, I had ignored it completely. It was always there, whispering in my ear about all of the things I wanted that the world may not understand. So I would ask the world for its’ two cents and each time it answered, I’d bury that voice inside of me a little bit deeper. Until finally, there was no way to make a distinction between them and me. I had no identity in a world full of people who were continuously telling me who to be.
That morning, the very core of my being was awakened. She dug her way out of the ground and found a way right into my blood stream. After 25 years of being dismissed as frivolous and absurd, she would keep quiet no more. And so for the first time, I let her take the wheel. I stopped caring about how other people would feel, or what other people would think. All the love in the world would never make me feel at home in a skin that wasn’t mine.
So I drove. We drove, me and this version of myself who had finally come to life. Both of us crying, together and alone at the same time. And then all of a sudden, the road came back into focus and the storm inside of me began to clear. And just like that, I was whole. I was more scared than I’d ever been, yes. I was fully aware that at any moment, things could go very wrong. I had no plan, no safety net, and no guarantees. Just the open road and a million possibilities, both good and bad. But it was all mine. No matter the outcome, no one else could take the blame for this adventure. Or the credit.