West by Northeast

When you fly out of the Pittsburgh International Airport, the plane sweeps over the surrounding countryside, offering postcard-worthy views of the rolling hills and farms—all idyllic green pastures and fallow fields.

Leaving it seems wrong.

When I graduated from college, I only had eyes for Colorado. With no plan beyond working at a climbing shop and being part of the community that so appealed to me, I made idle promises to my parents that after my "gap year,” I'd go to grad school.

That never happened. I fell into event planning and then into PR. A couple stints of copywriting for ad agencies bring us to the present, where I successfully play the role of the disoriented thirty-something.

I've made escapism a lifelong habit. I’ve always sidestepped confrontation, opting for my imagination over anything potentially hurtful. I think it’s because of this that now, five years after moving to Utah, 10 years after moving out West, I’m looking around and asking, “What the hell am I doing?”

It’s not that I don’t want to be here, it’s just that I feel like here just happened and suddenly I’m looking around and wondering how. I’d say I’ve fallen off course, but I’m beginning to realize that until now, I’ve never really had much interest in a course.

Of course, that twirling mindset has allowed me to do some amazing things, and for a long time, my faith in the universe ensured that things would just work out—and they did.

Now, though—possibly because I was just home in Pennsylvania for a week—I’m looking around and realizing that most of the people I know seem to have identified and stuck to their plans. My best friend from childhood—a sweet and kind woman I just adore—married the fellow who took her to the 9th grade Christmas dance. They dated throughout high school and college; he proposed on the day they graduated from Penn State. Married with two adorable little girls, they live in the town where we grew up, just a couple miles from their childhood homes. It’s what they always wanted, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

I just don’t understand them. Or maybe I envy them. I imagine their lives as idyllic and peaceful as those picture-perfect farms outside the plane window. I tell myself that they aren’t tormented by the sense of not being enough, doing enough, seeing enough. They don’t wonder what else is out there, because everything they need is right there.

I know I’m romanticizing, but that’s what I do. Especially this time of year, when a dash of cinnamon in a cup of milky tea is enough make me imagine an entire life for myself in, say, Keene Valley or Burlington. Wool sweaters, wellies, wood floors, old stone houses.

In the fall, I gravitate toward the known and the comfortable, just as in the spring I want open oceans and new territory. Maybe that’s why I migrated West after my June graduation from college, and why it feels wrong to leave Pennsylvania in the fall…maybe I do have a course, albeit a subtle one, and I’m just not paying enough attention to it.


Lauren said...

I love reading your posts...we are so alike in so many ways. I feel exactly the same way you do about old friends who don't seem to "get" that longing for new experiences and places. I am always looking for my next adventure, sometimes at the expense of my mental health. *Sigh.*

Paige Jennifer said...

(le sigh) Great post. There's something to be said for not being so consumed with where you're going and instead appreciating where you are, in the moment.

Ooh, and since I'm here rambling about your elegant prose, I think you should submit something to Indie Ink (www.indieink.org).

Michelle said...

Great post...I also feel this way in the fall. Fall and winter are definitely a time for introspection and curling into the familiar.

Pinkcorker said...

That's exactly where I'm at in my life. Not sure what the solution is, but 'here I am', and 'what is next'? Thanks for the post!