Hey there, stranger!
A lot has happened since the last post. Ideas have shifted, suns and moons have alternated, several decisions made, multiple promises broken.
Somewhere along the way, I’ve ended up on a more Southern terra firma. A new destination that was a nice surprise as much to me as anyone else.
I’m in Austin, y’all! (Couldn’t help it. Wasn’t trying.)
I do realize I should back up in this story a bit. It’s a random step up from Eur-tweaka, California – I know.
Or is it random?
I had been looking at Austin for the past ten years, but had always come up with an excuse to not go, not visit, or even consider the alternate lifestyle that is Austin. What those reasons are, I honestly don’t remember. Probably political.
Quite frankly, I feel foolish for not following through on this earlier in life.
Okay, so backing up:
In February of this year, I had been neck-deep in my third bout of depression. I had friends, but they were work friends, and there wasn’t anyone I felt comfortable relaying all my darkest thoughts to. I was on the other coast, far off from all my – remaining – friends. I had some that had just given up on me for varying reasons, some that had passed away, and one who turned out not to be a friend at all, whom I felt tremendously betrayed by. She had told me she’d be moving to Eureka to live with her “boyfriend”. Said mate has turned out to be an abusive alcoholic who somehow felt justified in throwing bottles at me while I was trying to get my things together.
She’s still not in Eureka. Shocker. What’s more, when I informed her of what transpired in the argument I had been in with him, she took his side, and has sought fit to ice me out altogether. Not only is she not living with her “boyfriend”, she’s moved in with parents again.
Very adult. Classy.
After all that had happened, my depression had gotten deeper and deeper, to the point I was considering suicide. Testing out the strength of rope versus the tie from my robe. Trying to estimate how much cough syrup it would take to make sure I never coughed ever again. Watching cars speed by, gauging if an 18 wheeler would be less or more painful than your average truck.
I feel the need to explain something to you at this point. This wasn’t a Screw-the-world-I-wanna-get-off mindset. This was more along the lines of Someone-else-could-do-better-with-this-life. With perhaps a dash of Maybe-the-next-life-will-have-better-choices.
Now of course I didn’t go through with it, and of course whatever life I have, it would still be the kinds of decisions I make that would have the outcome I deserve.
There’s that word…”deserve”.
We all have this subliminal idea of what we deserve, what we think we should be entitled to, don’t we? We don’t deserve to be spoken to in a certain way, we don’t deserve whatever unfortunate situation we’re in. It’s this same sense of self-entitlement that generally causes more harm than good, isn’t it? You can tell someone you “don’t deserve that” and walk off, sulking, returning back to your respective corner of the world.
In March, the depression seemed to have lifted for a little while. I threw myself into my work at the store, and came home with a fresh bottle of cabernet every night, self-medicating at home while verbally abusing Alexa.
April came, as did another cloud of depression, where I took no notice of the fact the same component was keeping me down as it always did. The alcohol. The wine. It wasn’t solving any of the myriad problems that shrouded over me like so many black veils (you’d think I was in an imaginary Italian funeral, or an extra in a Harry Potter movie). No, it was a warm, one-armed hug from a demon who was deftly tying an anchor with the other arm. But the one arm was all I wanted, so I paid no mind.
On it went. The days of mindless retail work, being verbally abused by a mother of three named Karen, who thinks her 4 month expired coupon for Febreeze should be honoured because “I said so.” Then going home to a round, black, talking disc, a quick dinner and a long drink. I was a functioning alcoholic, so long as I didn’t have to handle too many functions at once. Like handling civil conversations with Amazon customer service reps in The Philippines.
Towards the end of April was when things shifted. “I don’t deserve this” was returned to the Self-Entitlement Store – without a receipt – and traded in for “What the fuck do I want?”
The only word that came to mind was “out”. But it wasn’t referring to life in general terms this time. More like an elaborated explanation of “I want out of Eureka.”
It wasn’t a secret that not only did I not like it there, but it was crystal clear to even Helen Keller six feet under that I didn’t belong there. The town itself depressed me, yes, but I was already depressed. It was like adding more sugar to a fully iced cake.
Dammit, now I want cake.
I couldn’t go back to New York. I couldn’t afford it. I love that city beyond words, and despite my British accent I consider myself a New Yorker to the core. But I couldn’t afford it. Nothing about California appealed to me anymore, but I would go to Sacramento if I couldn’t figure anything else out, just to see what it was about. San Francisco had a minimal allure to it. All those paper dragons. They had some great bakeries there, great cakes.
Shit, Carrie, let go of the cakes already!
What about…? What about…? What about…
Austin? What’s in Austin?
It’s big dog-country there. Big music-country as well. It’s the only blue part of Texas – politically speaking – that will let you be weird, be openly gay, and also has a thriving job market. Things actually get done there. It’s progressive. They’re practically on the cusp of letting you get legally high. Don’t ask me how I know.
From there, my moods shifted North while I contemplated moving South. This was as good a time as any to explore a city that had frequently piqued my curiosity.
I had a plan now. I was on Team Austin all the way. All I needed now was the money. The job in Retail Hell was not going to get me to my goal in 5 years, much less by the end of this year. By mid-May, I was saying goodbye to red circles, and hello to office chairs in the non-profit sectors of the area.
Working on this plan, I was too busy working on a goal to bother with how I was feeling, or what I deserved. I was in action, so if I was feeling anything, it was enthused.
June came, and I was doing a daily exercise regimen of two long walks a day to and from my job.
A co-worker texted me early one morning, before I was even fully awake. It was a news story on Anthony Bourdain. Dying of an apparent suicide.
Hello Depression #6! Come on down, the price is right!
Admittedly, this news of one of my favourite American icons stopped me in my tracks. I had to go to work – in tears – trying to keep my shit together while my brain imploded. At the end of that day, it was two bottles of Cab that comforted me into a deep slumber. When I eventually woke up, Austin seemed pointless.
Mr. Bourdain was smarter than most men I’d ever met. He was brilliant, had a healthy amount of salt in his recipes AND his attitude, a world traveler, he was charismatic and he taught the world that it wasn’t enough to read a book about other countries; you needed to talk to the people living there. This man seemingly had everything. So if he was saying good-bye to a world he knew better than most, what the fresh fuck was I doing here? What was I contributing?
It took me a solid two months to snap out of that funk, and re-orient myself to my reality. Instead of asking “what do I deserve?” or “what do I want?”, I was focused on “what will I be willing to do to get out?” The answer?
Anything and everything.
I had been dismissed from one temp assignment, and moved on to another gig, three weeks later. That had sucked up my July, August, and part of September. By then, I had had enough of all things California in general, Eur-tweaka in specific. I couldn’t tolerate any more of the hostility, both from others and myself. Gone was any pretense of affinity towards this town, the sense of provincial community that only locals and council members could identify out of a crowd. My immediate air was thick with contempt.
I was on the computer, making travel arrangements.
One month later, I was in Austin, making life arrangements.