2015 Year in Review

me-at-abiqua

Photo courtesy of Sam Matthews.

I ended it in a better state than I started it.

January: Told friends and family I was going to move to Portland, likely in the summer if not sooner. Started my intro level roller derby practices in Oak Park.

February: Started my Feminine Comique intro to stand-up comedy class. Took a sexual harasser to court. Hosted a fun Galentines Day brunch with 20+ women I like being around. Adele and I found out our apartment was being sold, so I had to find a new plan of where to live between April and July.

March: Did my stand-up class’s final show. Told my company I was moving and asked to keep my job remotely. Started the Addison Recorded podcast with Gina, a six-week project. Turned 29. Got rid of most of my belongings in preparation for the Portland move. Set a move date for July.

April: Started a video project in which I took two-second video clips of my last 100 days of living in Chicago. Visited Portland during the rainy season to make sure I wanted to live there, AND saw the Rose City Rollers play for the first time. Concluded the podcast. Started a personal email newsletter. Moved in with Christina and John, bookending my time in Chicago in the house where I began those five years.

May: Started an ASL class with Christina, who was interested in learning. Saw my first USARS bout. My brother visited Chicago for a work conference, and then came back with his whole family a couple weeks later. Did a radio interview with WGN about Shine Theory. Saw Jenny Lewis play. Went home to Ohio for Memorial Day.

June: I got to officially announce that my company was letting me keep my job, six weeks before my move date. Did two live lit shows. Threw myself literally five going away parties. Saw Best Coast play. Gave away and sold more of my stuff.

July: Spent most of 4th of July weekend with Stef, who was planning a move to Boston just weeks after my Portland move. Put most of my new remaining belongings on an Amtrak shipment with the help of the Beans. Went to a music festival with Liz. Picked my dad up from O’Hare and drove west for 2,400 miles. Bought a couch.

August: Made new friends at a coworking space. Wrote a bunch of my book. Started writing for The Billfold. Got an essay accepted for a print anthology. Hung out with Brianne in both Oregon and Washington. Saw Jenny Lewis play twice in one weekend. Went hiking a lot with Betsy, Christina, and Kiernan. Drove to Olympia to see Paul.

September: Saw Horse Feathers play with Sam. Went to Wreckers orientation so I could start skating for Portland. Wrote more of my book and had work published more frequently on HelloGiggles. Hosted the first of many girls nights with my new Portland lady friends.

October: Went to Chicago. Went to Salt Lake City. Went to Ohio. Attended three weddings in 10 days. Jeanne came up from San Francisco to stay with me for a week. On a plane between SLC and PDX, wrote an essay about the summer I worked as a hotel housekeeper. Laura came out to celebrate Halloween the Portland way.

November: Went to the Bookmark Ball with Sam. Attended a memoir writing workshop at Wordstock. Wrote a huge chunk of my book. Took a slightly-impromptu trip to Seattle to attend an investigative reporting seminar. Crashed with Evan, Blue Star donuts in hand. Got to interview the Gilmore Guys. Got walking pneumonia but didn’t figure it out for a while. Ran a Turkey Trot, kind of. Had Thanksgiving with Yeng.

December: Went to Chicago. Went to Boston. Went to Ohio. Went back to Boston. Got to interview Ann Friedman. Hung out with Eileen, Margaret, and Liz in New Bedford. Saw Death Cab for Cutie. Bought everyone on my Christmas list a book. Spent New Year’s with Stef.

Welcome to Portland

blue-kitchen

I didn’t even paint that wall that shade of blue.

I live in Portland now! It is mostly lovely, despite the fact that I moved in at the start of a heat wave and I have been sick for nearly a week. Major props to my dad, for putting up with a very grumpy passenger (and driver) for 2,000+ miles. We had a great trip together full of stops we dragged the other to unwillingly, but also stops we agreed were awesome (the Badlands) or overrated (Mount Rushmore – come at me).

There’s a lot to say about our road trip, and I am working on that essay this week for a different site. But for now I am just happy to be here and mostly settled. I live in Northwest Portland, in the alphabet district, and near NW 23rd, a fun shopping and restaurants thoroughfair. I am a mere three blocks from a Trader Joe’s, where I have been twice, mostly to buy orange juice and popsicles since absolutely no food sounds or feels good right now. When I was there the first time, I heard a boy – maybe 9 or 10 – ­­absolutely screaming at his mom for her to buy him sushi for lunch and I thought, I am not on planet Earth anymore. A lot of the packaging of items I am used to buying there is different here than in Chicago, too – there’s less of it. I’ve been careful to bring my reusable bag for fear of side eye, although I can say tons of people still use the paper ones provided. That’s good for me, because what else am I going to collect my recycling in?

I am already noticing lots of Chicago and Portland differences, in simple stuff like walking down the street. I got used to ignoring people in Chicago after being broken of what Christina used to generously call my “Ohio Nice.” Here, people make eye contact and smile, so I’ll have to train myself all over again.

Cars defer to cyclists and pedestrians in a way that my dad could not help but notice. I’d experienced that back in October during my first visit, when I toured the whole week by bike. At one point when my dad was driving my car, a woman and her young son started to cross the street. When in Rome, my dad must have thought, and halted the car to a sudden stop partially in the crosswalk. He waved his hand in what he meant as a kind, “after you!” gesture, but, since done out of practice, may have been mistaken as an annoyed “wtf” motion. They timidly crossed, and I was proud of my dad.

After he left, I explored a little on my own, when I felt up for it. I went to Coffee Time, at Johnson and NW 23rd, and the owner was friendly right off the bat. I told her I’d just moved, and she gave me a couple restaurant recommendations. She had gorgeous blonde dreadlocks which I admired with a swell of envy. I wanted dreads so bad when I was in college but did you know that if you decide you don’t want them anymore you have to shave your head?

I saw her again today, and she remembered me. I’m not sure she’ll recognize me next time without my glasses and my too-sick-to-bother top knot of hair.

Despite feeling terrible, I made voyages to both Target and IKEA to start my new apartment. There is such a joy in picking out your own things. I’ve done that before, but never for an entire place – just for my room, or a bathroom. Now, I can pick things I want and put them wherever I feel like. I bought one of those ridiculous white gauze canopies you hang over your bed because I always want one. They are wildly impractical, but I don’t care.

“I hung up a curtain rod,” I texted Stefanie. “I’m gonna make it after all.”

My stuff got here via Amtrak without a hitch, and at a lower cost than expected. The guy who helped me get my stuff brushed me off when I asked where I should go to pay my storage fee. Amtrak is amazing, and if you ever need to move your stuff across the country, I recommend it fully. All my boxes were accounted for and in great shape. The same can’t be said for one of my USPS boxes which, unless I am much mistaken, is now full of shattered drinking glasses. It was packed really securely, too.

Dad was still here, as was his visiting Salem, Oregon cousin Jenny, when I found a desk I liked at a yard sale. The man selling it offered to let us borrow his push cart if I bought it, so I did. Dad pushed that desk six blocks, mostly uphill, and moved it into my apartment. I steered from the front, and Jenny supervised – Dad did the hard part. Parents always get stuck with the hard parts, don’t they?

One other thing we did when Jenny was here was go to Powell’s. Dad wanted to see if any of his book were on the shelves there, but Jenny beat him to it. She went to the front information desk and made a big deal over him, just like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

“He’s a famous author,” she drawled, as Dad ran away in humiliation. “Once we find him, he’ll be happy to sign any and all copies of his books you have for sale.”

It turned out they did have his most recent book, and Jenny got the manager to slap “Autographed” stickers on all the copies he begrudgingly signed. It was hilarious and I regret nothing. It served him right for Friday morning when, 200 miles from Portland, he let me believe he was serious about doubling back to Walla Walla, where he’d accidentally left his hat.

We have such fun, he and I.

I am glad he drove across the country with me. I am glad I am here, and I am even glad I am sick now and not the week before I left Chicago. Here, I at least don’t yet know what I’m missing.

Dwindling Baggage

This is what will be going in my car (giraffe not included)

This is what will be going in my car (giraffe not included)

It’s July! I hope you had a great Fourth of July weekend. I know I did, since it was full of time with friends, eating and drinking too much, and checking things off my to-do-before-moving list. That list is getting mercifully shorter, and a big item got checked off today: My nine Home Depot boxes are on a train headed to Portland right now, thanks to Alex and Becky. They packed up the boxes in their much-bigger vehicle and I followed them in my car to Union Station.

There, Amtrak weighed my boxes which, as I wrote before, had to come in under 500 pounds total. Mine collectively weighed 229 pounds, confirming my suspicion that I have zero concept of weight. I had at least weighed what I believed to be the heaviest one of them, by standing on Christina’s scale while holding it. It didn’t weigh even 45 pounds, and I knew almost all the others were lighter. I just didn’t realize how MUCH lighter. Provided I’d had another willing friend with a vehicle, I could have moved a LOT more stuff than I did.

The process of getting the nine boxes to the belly of Union Station was strange, but it wasn’t the logistical nightmare I’d been picturing. I worried I’d be wandering aimlessly around Union Station’s lovely atrium, staggering under the weight a single box in my arms. We went nowhere near the atrium — I’d called the week before and was told there is a loading dock. Once you clear a security check, complete with bomb-sniffing dog and armed cop, you’re directed to exactly where you need to go, where Amtrak employees help you carry your stuff. It was a lot more organized than I had expected, although the second I was assured my boxes were good to go, a million new worries immediately formed for me to chew on instead.

“I’ve just given myself a 12-day stomach ache,” I told Becky, watching the men load my belongings onto a large hand truck.

Now I can spend every moment between today and July 18 worrying that my stuff has not arrived/is in shambles/is lost and gone forever.

But hey, at least it was cheap. The total cost was $138.10, and then I opted for the $15 insurance add-on. If it doesn’t work out, maybe the insurance will allow me to replace whatever is lost or damaged.

Seven flat-rate shipping boxes (mostly books)

Seven flat-rate shipping boxes (mostly books)

On Tuesday before roller derby practice, I will be mailing my USPS boxes to myself from the post office by work. It kills me now, realizing I could have included those boxes in my Amtrak shipment, but maybe the cost would have been comparable since those boxes in particular are so heavy on their own. Once those seven USPS boxes are out of the way, all I’ll have left is what’s going in/on top of my car and what I’ll be leaving for a Salvation Army pick-up appointment.

This weekend was perfect weather, and I got to do a lot of things I wanted to do. I went to a cookout in Bridgeport to see friends and was surprised when I found myself choking up. When you start crying while hugging your friend’s mom, whom you’ve only met twice, you might just be entering a tough time. Chicagoans be warned. I was obnoxiously happy for about 90 percent of this three-day weekend, and hit with surprise pangs of sadness or realization for the other 10. This percentage wasn’t helped by how I felt when I found my mom’s glasses tucked away in a box — I’d completely forgotten I even had them, and the forgetting made me sad.

I almost can’t believe I won’t live here anymore a week from tomorrow.

I tried not to make many July plans, like I wrote earlier, but the next few days are filling up all the same. Outside of that I’m just letting myself do whatever I feel like in any given moment and not letting myself feel bad about my choices. For my last derby practice Tuesday, Becca volunteered to meet me in Lombard and get video of me skating, something I’ve wanted this whole time. I’ve been wondering about my form for the last seven months, and also I am very vain.

I said a lot of goodbyes this weekend and so many more are forthcoming. I hate that part. I can’t let myself believe anymore that I’ll see most people again in the next seven days. It was easier to think that when it was two weeks, or two months.

It makes me glad I got my farewell parties out of the way before it really was time to say goodbye.

Chicago to Portland: The Logistics Of Moving Across the Country

Map showing the Amtrak Empire Builder route from Chicago to Portland.

I’ll be envious of my stuff’s train ride (image via).

Once you decide to move across the country, the next thing you need to decide is what all is coming along with you. It pretty much comes down to one big question: Will you get a U-Haul, or won’t you? Of course, there are a lot of options in between, and so I went with a combination of plans:

  • Purging stuff (do not underestimate this one!) (~65%)
  • Mailing flat-rate USPS shipping boxes (~10%)
  • Using Amtrak shipping (~15%)
  • Packing the rest in my Cavalier with me and my dad (remaining ~10%)

Did you know you can use Amtrak to ship up to 500 pounds of your stuff from Chicago to Portland for less than $300? The catch is getting an array of boxes to Union Station, but we’ll get to that.

Purging:

I’d done purges before, but the one I did this spring was a doozy. I held a yard sale in April (pissing off my building’s stick-in-the-mud condo association, even though I had the permit the city of Chicago requires). I got rid of most of my smaller furniture there — end tables, ottomans — and lots of clothing. I sold some larger, individual pieces on Craigslist, like my desk and my bed frame. I gave people back the stuff of theirs I’d borrowed (mostly — I still have some of your books, friends). Christina and John volunteered to give my couch a home. I made a Salvation Army pick-up appointment for the very last of the large furniture items, and some random bags of donations. The Salvation Army dudes took the bags, but refused to take the furniture because it was not in good enough condition to be displayed in a showroom. I thought fast and bribed them to take the items to my condo’s alley (further pissing off said condo association).

USPS Shipping:

But before that, one of the first things I did to prepare for my move to Christina’s back in April was to go through the books and other heavy (but small) stuff that survived the initial purge and pack them up in USPS flat-rate shipping boxes. The large ones are 12″ x 12″ x 5.6″ and cost $17.50 to ship, no matter what they weigh. That means, you can mail yourself a bunch of heavy stuff in 10 boxes for $175. That said, I might put these on my Amtrak shipment, depending on the total weight of the stuff I own NOT currently in USPS boxes.

Amtrak Shipping:

Now, back to Amtrak: 500 pounds is the maximum amount of weight they’ll allow for one shipment. I’m hoping to come in under that, but if I don’t, I’ll just mail some of those heavy-ass USPS boxes to my new apartment the week before I leave Chicago. The full 500 pounds would cost a person $274. That’s a steal, but as I mentioned, it means getting up to 500 pounds of boxes to Union Station in downtown Chicago. I either need a real good friend with a car to tag along with me in mine, or I need to shell out $128 + tip to use Dolly, which bills itself as “the Uber of moving.” I am fine with hiring a Dolly, but my big concern is, what happens if Amtrak refuses to take something? Will that Dolly fee double if they have to go back to my house with some boxes?

Amtrak doesn’t require you make an appointment to drop off your stuff, but I have no idea where in Union Station you’re supposed to carry it all. I’m setting aside Sunday, July 5 as a tentative Amtrak drop-off date. I don’t leave Chicago until the 13th, so that means I’ve got some wiggle room in case Amtrak can’t take something I need shipped. It will also mean my stuff will beat me to Portland — lucky for me, Amtrak will hold onto boxes for $3 per box, per day.

Packing the Car:

If Amtrak and/or the USPS boxes’ travel plans work out by Friday, July 5, that will mean I’ll have that last week to play some Cavalier Tetris. However, if my shipping plans go well, it also means I won’t have much to put in the car. (We’ll see how true or untrue this ends up being.) In any event, I’ll be buying this giant duffle bag I can strap to the top of my car — it’s got a capacity of 15 cubic feet, and is 44″ in length x 36″in width, and between 14-19″ in height. In there, I’ll be putting all my framed artwork and posters, plus cramming in whatever clothes I’ll keep with me for at least two weeks (July 6-July 20). Inside the car itself, I’ll keep my Kitchenaid stand mixer, record player and records, and my skates — all particularly precious cargo, trust me. Hopefully all this stuff fits, with enough room for my dad to be able to roll both front seats back. He’s a tall dude and I’m a short lady who doesn’t think about that stuff.

And finally, friends Matt and Carie were sympathetic to my cause and offered to give me their old car’s bike rack. I need to pick it up and test it out, so I know Scout will be secure as we head across several states. (I couldn’t part with my lovely bike.)

So, there you have it — best laid plans, right? Good thing Dad reminded me he’ll need room for HIS suitcase, or else every inch inside the car would have already been accounted for.

Transient

image via

image via

I have moved 14 times since 2007. My life has been dotted with weekends in all seasons, of paying friends and family in pizza and beer as they carted all of my things between points A and B. I haven’t lived anywhere for more than 18 months since I was a teenager.

Sometimes these moves were for good things, like new jobs and new cities and new boyfriends. Sometimes they were for bad things, like breakups. Mostly breakups.

The story of my Chicago

I told my dad I was quitting my job and moving to Chicago five years ago, while I was serving jury duty in Franklin County. It was March, just a couple weeks before my 24th birthday, and I was on a COTA bus going home after another day of not being put on a jury. I’d had time to think. Weeks earlier I had left my college boyfriend of five years after months of us growing apart. I loathed my job and had found the distance from it imposed by jury duty to be a strange relief. The idea of picking up and starting over elsewhere was intoxicating, and from the moment the idea planted itself in my mind, it dominated my thoughts.

My dad, on the other end of the line, was not thrilled, and gave me a list of reasons why my plan was flawed. He called back the next day and sighed.

“Do it anyway,” he said. “Now is the time.”

I saved up for six months. On October 25, I packed my Cavalier with two weeks’ worth of clothes and moved in with a relative in the suburbs of Chicago. Days later, I met Christina, my first Chicago friend and shortly after, my roommate and closest confident.

Give it time

I was lucky to have Christina, but I was incredibly homesick. This was something I had not anticipated — not because I don’t love my family, but simply because I had believed Chicago wouldn’t feel all that far away. I’d been so excited to live in a new place and I was ashamed for feeling afraid and maybe a little remorseful.

My dad, to his credit, didn’t tell me I’d made a mistake or tell me to come home. Instead he said, give it time.

I loved Chicago from the start, but I also expected a lot from it. Before I even arrived I had felt like there, finally, my life could begin — as if I’d been treading water just waiting up until that point. I wanted to right what I then saw as wrongs from my time spent in Columbus.

I fell in love my first summer in Chicago; I got my heart busted three years later. I spent the majority of my Chicago time making another person a large part of my identity and it backfired once he was gone.

Even though I knew it wasn’t fair to Chicago, I did hold it somewhat in contempt. It didn’t help that days after my ex-boyfriend moved out of our apartment, my car was vandalized. It didn’t help that I endured more incidents of street harassment and intimidation in the year I was without him than I had in my entire life previously. It didn’t help that I had 95 percent believed I’d met the person I was going to marry and while 5 percent of me knew I was wrong all along, it was still a harsh reality to face in the end.

A growing year

I made myself busy. I got a great job. I found a better apartment. I spent Saturday nights on girl friends’ couches and became a better friend. I called my dad more. I mailed care packages to my nieces. I wrote with relish and abandon. I cut my hair, I did standup, I took up roller derby.

I learned to forgive — not just other people in my life, but myself.

I took myself on a vacation. I spent several days in Portland by myself, where I met strangers and made them my friends. I rode a borrowed bike everywhere and stayed out late by myself, unafraid. I ate brunch on bar stools and struck up conversations with those beside me with ease.  I like who I am in Chicago, but I liked who Portland made me even more.

I came home to Chicago and found a parking ticket on my car’s windshield.

A plan for Portland

I thought about Portland for weeks. What was coming was inevitable, I think, but I still knew it was ill-advised. I’d written and said many times over that I’d never move to out of state again, especially not without a job. But I was suddenly beginning to feel like doing the hard stuff all over again really was the best thing for me. I could do it better, I would tell myself going to sleep.

I have gotten to know myself well in the last 15 months on my own in Chicago. But the more I’ve listened to myself, the more I have come to understand that my time in Chicago is coming to a close. It isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s just time.

Two days before Christmas, I made the decision to move in the fall — it would be capping off five years in Chicago, and I’d have until October to save money and apply for work. By February, I’d already moved the timeframe up twice.

When my lease ends this spring, I’ll be moving back to Christina’s, while I continue to save up and wait for July to arrive. I’ll have part of one more Chicago summer, and I won’t be in love with anyone this time. I will love only places.

Today, I told my boss. In mid-July, I will move for the 16th time with a U-Haul trailer hitched to my poor Cavalier. I will see the Badlands and I will take my time. I will give in to my own stubborn will again. I will move westward for miles and miles.

I can’t wait to see where I land.

Leaving The Ghosts

Goodbye, possibly water-damaged kitchen

Goodbye, possibly water-damaged kitchen

I will be moving soon.

I’m sorry to leave here, but I’m also kind of not – I’ve been getting weirder and weirder the longer I’ve been living alone, and drunk on the freedom of knowing no one will see how messy I can let my apartment get before intervening, or how much humidity I can stand without installing the window unit A.C. Kevin left because I don’t want the electric bill to go up. I’m moving to a place where there’s central air, and where the back gate has a lock. Where there’s in-unit laundry (!) so I don’t have to worry about being assaulted in the unprotected laundry room in my building’s basement. Where there’s another person living, who will presumably call the cops if someone breaks in while I’m sleeping.

I’ve been worried about myself for a while, but even more so in recent weeks, since that cyclist grabbed me. I might have been able to get past it by now — written it off as a one-time bizarre fluke — except that I saw him again a week later outside my building. I stared at him and he stared right back: He was on his bike on the sidewalk again, the idiot. I’d been looking for guys of his build and stature ever since it happened, so I might not have thought anything of it except that he HID FROM ME. He saw me staring at him, and I swear he recognized me. He darted left into the first alley he could, looking over his shoulder at me as he did. I stood there stupidly, staring at the spot where he’d disappeared.

A few seconds later he poked his head around the corner of the building behind which he hid, checking to see if I was still there — and I was. “Hey!” I shouted, and moved toward him. He sped up the alley toward Lawrence and I watched him go. He was on a bright orange bike. He has black hair shaped in a bowl cut — shorter underneath, but not shaved. I wish I’d thought to take his picture, or as a friend pointed out, at least pretend to, to scare him.

Did he recognize me from the news? Did he see which car I got out of? I ran up the stairs to my apartment and burst into tears. I remain startled by how much his presence has unnerved me, both times. I wish I didn’t care at all. My blood chilled when, days later, I read a description of an attempted rape in Logan Square: mid-20s, black hair in a bowl cut.

That’s when I started locking all the windows, and dead-bolting the doors. I was lucky the first couple of nights after I saw him the second time; I stayed with Jaimi that night, since we had a race the next morning, and a couple friends came to visit me that weekend. When they were gone and I was alone again, I bolted the back door shut. I forgot about it the next morning and ended up locking myself out of my own apartment. I had to call my landlord to ask him to let me in, since neither Kevin nor I ever got around to telling him he’d failed to give us keys to our own unit’s front door two years ago. But that’s a whole other story.

I am not so sorry to leave this place we lived in together for so long, I tell myself. I’m not sorry to be leaving a place where the kitchen ceiling leaked for months before the landlord finally hired a roofer. I’m not sorry to leave the memories of the fights Kevin and I had late at night, and I’m going to have to eventually be okay with leaving the memories of the good stuff, too. I’m willing to leave the good along with the bad if it means getting out of this place and leaving it all for good.

I found a young couple to take the apartment. They were willing to sublet, but my landlord offered to start them on a whole new lease – better for everyone, really. Who knows why he wasn’t willing to let me go month-to-month if staying on a May-to-April lease timeframe wasn’t so important to him?

I’d been worried for weeks that my landlord was trying to screw me over, but it turns out he was just being lazy. He never responded to my letter stating my intent to sublet, which I’d asked him to acknowledge in writing, so I went about finding a tenant anyway since I couldn’t wait any longer. I’d asked him back before I signed my third lease, without Kevin this time, if I could go month-to-month or have someone live with me for the summer to help pay the rent, but he’d refused on both points. He didn’t give me any other options, so I re-signed knowing I’d either have to cut back on spending for the next year or buy myself some time right then, only to break the lease later. Once things settled down at work, I decided to move before it got cold, and harder to find a place.

I found a woman in Albany Park whose roommate had had to leave Chicago for a job in another state. She and I got along well when we met. Her apartment is gorgeous, and she owns two cats. She works with animals, she is a runner, and she has a good sense of humor. I’m optimistic, and even if six months from now we don’t get along as well as I hope we will, I’ll have my own bathroom attached to my room so I will have my own space, at least.

I do hope we work well together, though. I’ve been spoiled by wonderful roommates my whole life and I’d really like for that streak to continue.

I got nearly 100 emails asking about my current place. I showed it to a parade of strangers, all asking about the water pressure and the obvious kitchen-ceiling leak, and marveling at what a steal the place was.

A steal. It IS a steal, when there’s two of you. Don’t tell me how cheap and wonderful the apartment I have to give up because I can’t afford it is. I’m aware.

I liked the couple I met, one of few couples who inquired. Everyone else was alone, and probably made way more money than me. I’m glad the couple was highly motivated and the first to apply, right there on the spot. Even my landlord couldn’t find any reason to not move forward when they made it so easy on him.

I didn’t want to tell them that it’s haunted by a break-up. I hope they won’t mind that I’ll leaving a few ghosts behind.

I’ve said it before, but I’m saying it again: I will never live with a boyfriend again unless I’m sure I have a future with him, and that I want that future. Starting over post-live-in breakup for the second time has taken a toll on me and I am just so, so done.

I’m hoping having a roommate will force me to be a little more social because as it’s been lately, I get home from work, eat dinner, watch Netflix, and go to bed early most nights. I love my job, but it makes me keep earlier hours. With commuting, I’m pulling 11-hour days. I’m still making the most of my weekends, thanks to people like Stef, Becca, Jaimi, Becky, Brianne, and others, who continue to ask me to do things and get me out of my house. If it wasn’t for them, I might have slipped off everyone’s radars and gotten used to staying in even more than I do, and I never want that to be the case. I’m lucky to have them as friends, especially now in Sarah’s absence.

I really have been meaning to post something positive here, but I’m always, always more inspired to write when I’m feeling like this instead. Right now it’s literally dark and stormy outside, a bleak Monday night, and all I wanted to do was write about how sorry I feel for myself.

There are wonderful things in my life right now too, I swear.

Things I Have To Do That I Can’t Even Think About Right Now: A List

  1. Someday face my landlord after sending him that letter saying I’m subletting my apartment for the last nine months of my 12-month lease
  2. Find a subtenant willing to take on a nine-month sublease
  3. Pack up or toss two-and-a-half years of accumulated belongings, minus the things my now ex-boyfriend bought and took with him, which include but are not limited to: the pasta strainer; the ladle; knives of any kind other than butter; all the batteries for the smoke detectors; and the record player
  4. Save up hundreds of dollars for a move, date TBD, but most likely July 31
  5. Drop hundreds more dollars on a security deposit and first month’s rent at a new place, location TDB, hopefully in/near Lincoln Square and not in Schaumburg/Hell
  6. Make nice with a stranger who will be my new roommate, after not having a roommate whom I wasn’t also dating for the last two-and-a-half years
  7. Convince stranger/roommate to let me get a cat
  8. Accept my new identity as a 28-year-old cat lady

And this is how I will assimilate to my new life. Just think of all the money I’ll save on utilities and also on dating! I’ll be free to spend it all on cat litter and half of a Comcast bill that’s somehow $90 even though it’s for internet-only. It’s gonna be the best. Let the apartment search begin.

Half of my problems are solved

I know it’s soon, but I’ve met someone, you guys — and she’s fantastic. (Aaand that’s how you get record blog hits for the month of October. That, and picking up your mess of a life for all the world to see, moving it to unfamiliar territory and promptly whining about how hard it is).

Last night, after my now standard six-to-eight hour shift of bumming Starbucks wifi and job hunting, I met up with a woman who’d replied to me via Craigslist about a room in her home she’s renting. She asked that we meet up somewhere in public before I see the place, and I agreed. She gave me an address for a bar called Tuman’s and we met up around 4:30. I can’t tell you why, but I liked her right away. She figured out within minutes that, a, I had only been in town for a few days, b, I was unemployed but stupidly optimistic, and c, had no clue where I was.

She was very easy to talk to. She has a glowing sense of humor, admittedly sardonic at times, and full of wit. And when she asked why I decided to move to Chicago, I hesitated, but ended up telling her about breaking up with Brandon and basically going against everything I thought I knew about my life. It turns out she is going through kind of a rough time right now too, so we could really relate to each other on that level. Before long, we were talking about growing up in small towns, getting out of said small towns, our oldest friends, music, even our dead parents.

She told me she had been reluctant to email me back about the place because I am a few years younger than she is. “But it’s weird, even though you’re 24, you don’t annoy me at all,” she said. I thanked her. I told her even if I didn’t end up living at her house, I was really glad I met her.

We ended up talking for three hours last night, and we are meeting up again tonight. I get to see the house (and Roscoe Village, yay!) and meet her other roommate and some of her friends. It turns out she knows a couple people in both TV/film and public relations, which is random and awesome.

We really hit it off, and she ended up offering me the vacant spot. I think I’ll be moving there soon, which is a crazy relief and something I am really pumped about. I have an appointment Saturday morning to see a house with that middle-aged couple, but I am thinking about canceling. If I already know I want to live elsewhere, it’s probably a waste of their time.

Tomorrow night, I am going to an OSU bar with Liz, a mutual friend of Eileen and me. She lives and works in Evanston, but she told me about this bar months ago. I must be just homesick enough that this sounds like a great idea. I guess enough people have migrated from Columbus to here, and you can go there on game days and it’s just like Lane Avenue. This is ironic on many levels, since I never once went to Lane Avenue on game day when I lived blocks away, and now here I am acting like an OSU bar is some kind of home away from home. It should be fun, though.

Anyway, I’ve got agonizing job applications to fill out. But things is looking up.

It’s not you, it’s me

Dear Columbus,

We have to talk. Don’t get me wrong, the last three years have been great. We’ve shared some good times and some even better food. That’s right, I’m looking at you, Northstar Cafe! Anyway. The thing is, I think I should be seeing other cities. There’s somewhere else: Chicago. Now I know what you’re thinking — so maybe it’s the third biggest city in the country instead of #16, but trust me, it’s not stuck up about it. It’s cool. Really cool. Freezing, actually.

You’re going to be fine without me; there will be other unemployed journalism majors! Lots of them, probably. You’ll find someone else to explore Clintonville and the Short North, and try out all the OSU campus pizza places. I’ll never forget all the times we had together, or the baked goods from Mozart’s. And tomorrow morning before I leave you, I’m stopping at Spinelli’s on my way out the door.

I’m not sure how much I’ll miss OSU game days. I’m sure you understand. And if it’s any consolation, I am told Chicago has zero good college teams.

I still love you like a mid-sized city in the midwest. And don’t worry, we’ll always have Surly Girl. Hugs,

-Meryl

No good at goodbyes

This week I’m saying goodbye to people I love in Caldwell and Columbus, and it’s not been easy. I pretty much got to see most of the people I’d hoped, and this past week was amazing. I’m a little scared, but I’m also feeling really supported and lifted up by all the people I’ve been lucky enough to know during my life so far in Ohio.

I suspect an entire movie could be made about what has happened and been said to me in the last week, but I have to keep telling myself the adventure is just getting started. The warm feelings for my hometown I’d been writing about continued, if not increased, as the week went on. And maybe I’m just on a southeastern Ohio high (a common affliction, I’m sure), but I’ve found myself thinking that once all this Chicago business is done, maybe Caldwell wouldn’t be such a bad place to settle down. I can hear my Columbus friends and family dropping their jaws in horror. Anyway, it would really depend on what kind of job prospects I’d find and that is yet to be determined by how I spend my time in Chicago. A lot of decisions depend on events that haven’t taken place yet, which I guess is true of anyone else’s life.

All I know is, Caldwell is not a normal town. When you make friends there, you make friends for life, whether you like it or not. I still see my three closest friends from school on a regular basis, and even though that won’t be the case for the foreseeable future, I know I’ll still be in touch with them. I’ll always care about what’s going on in their lives, their children and their marriages, their dreams for the future. My dad has always had a knack for keeping in touch with old friends from grade school, and I remember thinking as a kid I hoped I’d be so lucky. I’m not sure if that’s an inherited trait or a learned practice, but in any event, I think my wish came true on that one.

This is the cheesiest post I’ve had in a long while. But since I’m moving out of the state for the first time in my life, I hope you’ll forgive a little excessive nostalgia.