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You know what’s really hard?
When the only honest reply to a question is “I don’t know.”
I just moved to Maine, so I’ve been making a concerted effort to meet people. Putting myself in new places, striking up conversations with strangers who have kind faces. I’m a warm person, but stupid shy. So this is already an uncomfortable experience for me. Then, in the course of painful small talk people inevitably ask that question I try so hard to avoid: “so what are you doing here?”
At first I tried clever or quick replies:
“I heard the water is warmer here”
“Too many people out there, thought I’d trade em for trees”
“I have family nearby”
Lately I’ve just gone with: “I don’t know.”
I follow up with a quick, “but I’ll figure it out” to ease their brows wrinkled in concern.
I didn’t want to write a post about not knowing. I wanted to write a post about my cross-country adventure. I’ve wanted to describe the amazing mountains I’ve seen, the smell of pavement after rain, the game-changing discovery of cruise control. I’ve wanted to celebrate the fact that I accomplished one of my longest-held dreams with the added bonus of reconnecting with well-loved friends and family. No flats, no robberies, and only one anxiety-ridden detour for gas off a lonesome mountain highway. I made it. I drove over 4,000 miles with all my belongings; I saw things so beautiful that I could only laugh in disbelieving awe.
But that victory has been overshadowed by my anxiety at the unknown.
When I was driving from California, I knew what I was doing. I was driving to my next destination. I was covering x miles, in x hours, and stopping for gas like a paranoid apocalypse survivor (being stranded was my greatest fear).
But as soon as I got to Maine – before I even killed the engine – the reality that I had no definite plans set in. I had kept unknowing at bay with constant moving, and now there was no more moving, no more distraction. I sat in my car and cried. Adventure fallout* set in. I had been on this high of exploration and discovery, and now I had to take all that experience and meld it into normal life again. But I didn’t even have a normal life to return to. What am I doing here?
To be completely candid, I do have my reasons for moving. But they are deeply personal and intangible, with almost-impossible-to-measure goals like “healing” and “reconciliation.” These are not goals that I will accomplish overnight. These are not goals with a grad program or career path, and they’re not easy to explain.
I may not know exactly what I’m doing here, but I know I had to do it.
*Adventure fallout: That strange depression that follows an amazing adventure, accompanied by feelings of restlessness, uncertainty, and longing. It can last for a moment or months.