You must change your life

I’m watching the Superbowl in a room full of people. I’m the lame-o typing on a computer, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I have something to tell you, and it would be probably best to do it straight out. We are moving. Again. In May, we are leaving the woods and moving to Pittsburgh.

I’m not expecting this to mean a lot to you. It isn’t monumental news — just two twenty-four-year-olds packing up their things and looking for jobs and being hopeful, same as everyone. All it means is that you can change your mind, you can change your life. All it means is that you can move back to the place where you grew up when you are twenty-four and haven’t lived there in seven years. All it means is that moving across the country is a thing you can decide to do, and it might even be the right thing to decide to do. And anyway, it’s all I can think about today, so I guess it’s what I have to write about.

{P.S. Multiple Superbowl commercials have already made me cry, which may or may not be because I have my period}

I think of when we decided to come here, to the big woods in Wisconsin, how sure we were, how we had to. I think of us now, of how sure we are of Pittsburgh, that it is the place we must go. We weren’t wrong! We aren’t wrong! To choose to go somewhere and then leave is not failure, it’s forward momentum. To choose to change your life is always something energetic, positive, buzzy, I believe that. There is something to be said about patience, yes, but there is also something to be said about saying a thoughtful “no” followed by a thoughtful “yes.” We had to leave Chicago and go to the woods to choose to go to Pittsburgh. Isn’t it amazing when your path is made straight, all of a sudden, in ways you didn’t expect? I wonder if maybe I knew all along, just barely, that this is how it would happen. There’s so much I had to come here to find out, and there are so many reasons to move on. Is this what our twenties are about? Making one choice just to get to another, skipping down the cobblestones, never resting anywhere too long?

The thought of Pittsburgh now is so comforting. A return to land I know. After seven years of pine forest and prairie, finally hills and creeks again, finally maples and meadows, rivers, goldenrod as far as the eye can see. I’ve been yearning for the topography ever since I left, consciously and unconsciously, so it feels like a treat almost too rich to vow to return. I’m almost afraid that it won’t feel like home anymore, but I know it will. Isaiah and I will turn it into a new home, something different than my childhood, something new like the way the city is new, more and more every day. It can’t be the same as it was before because it is different and I am different.

When I left for college, I felt some complicated pride in my going far from home, as if it made me bigger than I was. I don’t know if it made me bigger, but it did make my world bigger, my circles wider, my sense of space and home more spacious and various. And helped me notice what I was missing. Helped me see what was glorious about the place I left. Each time I would return to Pennsylvania, as soon as we made it to a stretch of highway I recognized, my eyes would be glued to the window watching the hills rush by, a weird euphoria spreading in the core of me. I’d think, shouldn’t I be cooler than this, more sophisticated? Now I know that this is so beside the point. I left so I could come back wider. I left so I could see the land that raised me with new vision, new hope, new ways to give back what it gave to me. After six years in Chicagoland, we didn’t want to live there anymore. After seven years away from Pittsburgh, there is nowhere else I want to live.

This is a really sappy post, but it’s a really sappy thing to do to move back to your hometown in your twenties. And I have my period! It isn’t my fault! This is how it is for me. This is where my heart is, in yearning for home and meeting that yearning with action. In being prodigal. In changing my life, again and again and again.

From the last two stanzas of Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo”:

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

You must change your life as many times as you can, as many times as you must. When the time comes, there’s no way really not to. What a comfort, the inevitability of things sometimes. What a comfort, the way we try to solve all of our problems ourselves but all we really have to do is keep walking forward. What a comfort that we can leave and come back. I don’t know if we will live in Pittsburgh forever or even for a long time, but I think it doesn’t matter. We are moving forward. We are doing what we must.

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