This past weekend, I began purging. It started when I was cleaning the bathroom in anticipation of my mother coming to stay here and watch the Pugger while I’m in NYC. I had allergy medicine that expired in 2016, shampoo bottles half empty tucked into corners, and multi-vitamins that had never been opened (and yet were still expired). Many of these things came with me when I moved from Dorchester to Lincoln, after my divorce and the terrible roommate experience of 2014.
It was time to expunge.
After the bathroom, I moved onto my desk and documents, throwing everything I hadn’t touched in six months out or shredding it. Who really needs eight different micro-USB chargers?! Why did I have three doorstops when I only ever need one at a time?! How many stuffed toys does Pugger really need?!
After an hour going through my desk and accumulating a small, tidy pile of financial documents I needed to keep in the safe, I opened that up and found my early journals in there. I forgot I keep the earliest journals in there. Spanning the few months in 1999 before I moved to San Francisco, California until a few weeks before I moved to Denver, Colorado in 2002, they chronicle a most tumultuous time in my life. The oldest journal is stained with some sort of liquid, and the words can be difficult to make out at times.
I stopped cleaning and chucking and shredding and sat down in the middle of the mess, crossed my legs, and read from the first year until the last. Just three years, from twenty to twenty-three. Let me tell you, I forgot how sad and torn I was at that time. I forgot I had thought about suicide so often. I forgot how wrong I had been about the people around me. I forgot how hesitant I was to move to Denver. I forgot how entirely lonely and terrified I felt during those years. I forgot how much drugs I consumed or how much I drank, to the point of obliteration and a DUI. I was one fucked up kid during these years.
Again, the bear that I write about here on this blog has always lived inside of me. I can see that in my journal entries from twenty years ago. She had been restless since coming back from San Francisco. The time spent on the ranch in Linden, right after San Francisco, had temporarily cleared my head. But now that I was back home in Southeastern Connecticut, she roared to life. I knew I had to move. I knew the mountains called. I knew that I could not be who I was in my hometown. I knew, in my core, that my life did not lay in the daily monotony of southeastern Connecticut.
Yet, entry after entry shows that I was afraid of leaving a financially secure existence. I was working two jobs (a dog kennel and a residential advisor for people with mental problems), I was saving money, I had a trajectory of a career path. I had GOOD THINGS™ happening for me. Why would I give that up, each entry posited, for a life I was unsure of? For a life that may be harder and worse than the one I was currently living?
I knew I’d be dead if I stayed though. I’d either blow through too much coke or drive into a wall inebriated as all hell. I had already had one friend die from a heroin overdose, and that was a significant enough warning for me. I figured that I would move and if things didn’t work out, I’d move back and take the same path as my deceased friend. But, I was going to give myself a chance; a chance to be happy, a chance to be relatively sober, a chance to be a different person than the one I was known as. From the moment the train I was on a few years earlier stopped en route to San Francisco in Denver, I knew that my next life was in the Mile High City.
And so, five days after turning twenty-four, I arrived in Denver. The first few years were hard, getting my shit together, moving forward, embracing my mid- and late-twenties. I stopped trying to escape from my life by drinking and drugging it away. Life became remarkably better. Since my move out west, life has only gotten better every year. Even during a disastrous marriage and the—thankfully amicable—divorce, life has been on an upswing. It is like the population graphs that show an explosion in the number of people born each year.
This life wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t given myself permission to go against what everyone thought was best for me. Those that know all of you still don’t know everything about you. They don’t have the full picture. They don’t know what it’s like to have your soul scream for the mountains. They don’t know what it’s like to feel such hatred for yourself that death is more welcome than another day on this earth.
Looking back through those journals, I wish I had listened to myself sooner. This is a trait I seem to still possess. The bear is rising in me, has been for months, and I still ponder the stupidity of a move when so much is going well for me here. Is a non-committal unhappiness justification enough to uproot one’s life? Is this an inevitable result of a divorced, childless, single lady of the Gen-X generation? Is this just who I am; the feeling that I will always be restless? In twenty years, will I look back on the journals that I write now and wish I had listened to myself sooner?
Do I listen to the bear?