People still ask me if I’m going to move back to New York. It annoyed me for a while, but I’m beginning to think of it as a more interesting question than I’d assumed. All my favorite questions are the ones that lead to even more questions, and this one makes me curious about the person who asks. It makes me want to ask them questions. I wonder what assumptions they’ve made, if any, about my reasons for moving in the first place. I wonder how they might think of a place like Indianapolis versus a place like Brooklyn. I wonder what they really want to know, or what they’re really asking me. We ask each other a lot of questions that have nothing to do with being curious about each other. It helped me to realize most people are just trying to validate their assumptions.
This coming weekend will mark one year since Kelly and I packed up our one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, along with the best dog in the world, and drove a rented SUV into the heart of Indy. We’d only just decided to make the move in late August and were on the road mere months later. It happened so fast, and so many of our friends and family members simply didn’t believe we were coming until we arrived. Our people are not naturally pessimistic, buy I’d wanted to move back for a long time, and we’d had a number of false starts. Kel and I didn’t blame them for being hesitant to get excited, and in fact, the lack of excitement tempered a lot of the pressure. While it can be wonderful, it’s not always easy meaning something to people.
We came back to our home state and settled into a temporary home (the softest landing possible) for almost a year, before finding a place of our own and moving in this past September. It’s such a cute little house, in a cool neighborhood, with good neighbors. Before the chilly October mornings, when I was still smoking cigarettes, I would hop onto our porch swing, coffee in hand, just watching the street and sky. I’d be overcome with how imperfect it all was, but beautiful nonetheless, and I would feel happy. I would feel like I finally made the home I wanted.
I still feel that way even as my veil of depression slowly lifts, and I rejoin the land of the mostly living. I’m feeling a little more clarity about the experience, and realizing this was probably the best decision for my mental health in my current season of life- both professionally and personally. It feels strange to write this, but this last tangle with myself was the easiest depression I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong, I felt terrible the whole time. For almost a month, if not longer, I felt myself slipping into a fragile and dark emotional place, and that shit sucked. But...it didn’t suck as much as it used to suck.
For the first time, in the midst of my depression, I could find and hold onto the will to ask for help AND make room for myself to rest. I didn’t always shower, or eat, or get anything done. Trust me I’m very VERY behind on every project and goal I have for myself at the moment. But I did communicate with the people around me about what I needed, even if it was just rescheduling meetings. For the first time in a long time, there was a sense of comfort waiting behind the darkness because I was home again, and I felt courage to acknowledge these fragile days with a more gentle approach. It’s different when you have the space, community, and resources to do so. I went into my office, and closed the door so I could sit and breathe. I took baths. I didn’t force myself to push past the darkness toward the dregs of whatever light might be left for me at the end. I let the darkness have her space. And I let the light know it might take a minute, but I’d be there later. I trusted she’d wait for me.
Did that make any sense? I hope so because I don’t feel motivated to go back and change anything about it. I knew what I meant. I know what I mean. That’s enough. I’m always going to be talking to myself, writing to myself, and making decisions I refuse to clarify. Refusing to clarify leads to some of the best questions. Just the kind I like. My strongest and most fragile days will follow me no matter where I go, but in this house, in this city, I’ve remembered how to ask myself my own right questions. I’m more curious about myself, and you, and all of us. I’m so glad I came back here, and grateful for the space I’ve been given to go into, and emerge from, the dark.
Is there somewhere you can go to be alone with yourself to ask your own right question? Where is it? How do you get there? And if you don’t have some place in real life, can you imagine it? What does it look/feel/smell like?
Speaking as someone born in Indiana, and lived there from age 11-22, I think why SOME people ask is because they saw you as someone who "escaped", and then came back - and they don't understand why you'd come back. They think to themselves "man if I ever left here, I'd never come back" or "New York is so much more exciting than Indy, how can you be happy here" or something along those lines. But you're right, it's all assumptions, and it reveals a lot more about the asker than the person being asked.
On to your question... where can I be alone with myself? The exact location isn't super important - familiar, comfortable; could be soaking in the bathtub or walking around a park or just the overstuffed chair in the living room. The important part is space to BE alone and think. I think best "out loud" - either literally out loud or writing things out. It helps me clarify. It helps me ramble and then see what the REAL story is, what I'm really worried or upset or anxious about. Alone, glass of water, cup of coffee, maybe some bourbon - then I can sort my head out.
“We ask each other a lot of questions that have nothing to do with being curious about each other.” Omg THIS. Questions as a veil for judgement. Questions to whittle us down into something easily consumable that can be neatly categorized so they don’t have to actually get to know us.
I love that you refuse to clarify. It reminded me of a Black Autistic mother I follow @fidgets.and.fries who wrote a beautiful article about why she refuses to answer the question, what is Autism? It rang very similar to what you said. https://www.instagram.com/p/CVjlVyoM1Zn/?utm_medium=copy_link
I moved back home to my parents house 3 years ago to give myself the space to just be after years of capitalistic, ego-driven existence that left me broken inside. It has allowed me to get to know who I am outside those oppressive systems and my internalization of them. I found I actually like myself, who knew. And although it’s still scary, I’m finding ways to express the real me even if no one fully understands. I understand, and that’s all that matters.
That and the escape into worlds of anime is where I can leave my head and access my heart. To listen to the child version of me who still needs a lot of care and love who no one listened to, not even me, for so long. She has a lot of grief and pain, but she also has so much love, and feeling it all makes me feel more human.