Here’s a truth: you never, ever, ever know how you’re going to feel.
You can try to predict it, weigh the variables and try as hard as you can to make them constants before the fact. To spite you, they never will be. What you imagine — those images you conjure before you ever get to a place or a situation — never happens. Instead, a reel of different images unspools and you quickly discard whatever you had anticipated. If you thought a job would make you happy, it more than likely won’t. If you think a person will care, you will be somehow ashamed to see they don’t. If you think you’ll be gardening and swimming and painting, you could just as well be watching stupid sitcoms under a blanket, not laughing, wondering where you are and why.
The inverse is also true. You can find unexpected joy in something you thought you’d hate, an unexpected affinity in someone you’d brushed off initially, and find yourself cutting vegetables and opening the door to let in a breeze when you expected to be eating greasy fries alone in your car.
A few years ago I realized something interesting — that two weeks from whatever time it was, I would most assuredly be worried about something different both emotionally and intellectually. I would be preoccupied with a different social scenario, feelings of warmth would grow or fade, my life would be completely fine or on the edge of some unforeseeable precipice. And the next week, always something different.
I can only describe Colorado as odd. It’s the first place I’ve been that hasn’t felt, in some way, meant for me. Chicago gave me a university; DC gave me an internship. Colorado has given me a minimum wage job. I like my coworkers, and my surroundings, but I check people out, bag their books, look at my frighteningly tiny paycheck, and wonder what I’m doing and where I am. Did I get lost? Why did this seem so correct so many months ago?
My sister is here, and that is a source of comfort. In some ways, though, it feels like her place. I expected somehow to fit here; instead, I still feel like I’m tapping on the glass. My instincts are similarly weird: get close to almost no one, avoid the crowds. I come home, make some dinner, D. and I have a beer and watch some episodes of Arrested Development, and that feels correct and good. In the morning, I feel like myself when I drink coffee and read the New York Times.
I imagine so much. Right now I imagine that if I could find a career, some organization that would be willing to pay me enough to buy a Happy Hour cocktail on Friday nights without cringing, enough to think about the future as something beyond next week, things would fall into place. When that happens, it’ll be a new set of surprising, wrong expectations and small moments of joy. But you have to keep moving toward something.
Winter of 2010 it was alonement and impending graduation; summer was the Frenchman and career rejection; autumn was the abusive cafe and relationship collapses; 2011 has brought engagement and a renewed fear of stalling. It’s always something different, somewhere different. I know I won’t stay here long, like I know I’ll just keep moving every year no matter where I go. And then — I don’t know anything. Because you never, ever, ever know how you’re going to feel.
Some things will probably keep me feeling like myself, though. Coffee. The New York Times. Arrested Development. Cooking while listening to music. Writing.
This continuous movement… it serves to teach you, I guess.