The 8 Year Layover

I’ve lived in the desert for 8+ years now. Call me a camel, I retain water like one anyway. I also complain, incessantly, about living in the desert. My little town, affectionately termed Shitsville, is ugly as sin. The desert is only pretty out in the desert folks where people don’t actually live, the rest of it is brown, sandy, gritty, and need I say hot?  I can handle the heat though, and the sand and the endless color palette of poop brown. This town is what has given me so much grief.

The people are cliquish and small. They think small and live small. I could say a lot more about the people but I would just sound like an arrogant, elitist, racist pig so I shall refrain. There’s no shopping. The mall would more appropriately be called ‘a hall’ and the only store anyone would recognize is JCP. There are no bars. I mean like the kind of bar that’s just a bar, not a bar and a restaurant together. Your friendly neighborhood pub where you can catch a game and beer, or coffee and some homework, and chit chat with the local trash, yep, none to be found ’round these parts. Gas prices are ridiculous. Outrageous even. This is black gold country where they pump the crap right out of the ground! You’ve never seeeeeeen so many pump-jacks in your whole life till you come to southeastern New Mexico, and we pay gas prices that are reliably .50 cents more than the rest of the US, sometimes a whole $1 more! In the last 8 years my mantra was “I hate this town, I hate this place, it sucks here and I can’t wait to leave.”

Imagine my surprise at the gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, sadness I feel at saying goodbye to it all.  Somewhere along the line this place has become home. Home with a capital H.

I wonder to myself why I felt the need to complain with such vitriol all those years? I fell in love here, twice. I got married here, had a baby here, got divorced here, bought two homes, sold one and relinquished one. Finished school (ummm, sort of), and throughout it all worked at the same place. This job carried me through a lot of tough times, my employers are great people. I’ve lived a whole life here and yet I never really wanted to put down roots. There was always a part of me that resisted, fearing that the next day might actually bring my chance to bounce on outta this mug but I’d be too tied down to take it.

I think that reluctance to climb down from the fence and truly emotionally invest in a life here has cost me a fair bit of contentment. Looking back I could have bought my own home early on and created a place of peace and welcome for myself. Instead I stayed in apartments (1, 2, 3, 4 of them) in between the house I bought with my ex-fiance and the house I bought with my ex-husband. I could have rejoiced in the stable job I had and worked harder to cement my friendships and commit to my relationships. Instead I worried and tried to anticipate when everything would end. I flirted with loving people too much for fear I’d leave them behind. I was afraid to make plans for fear they would change as soon as took the first step.

I’ve moved 33 times in the last three decades…have I mentioned I’m only 30? I have wrestled with this nomadic, rootless, lifestyle; this restless energy in my spirit. Some misbegotten sense of romanticism colored my worldview and I restrained myself from every fully enjoying what I had in the moment, because I always wanted to be ready for the next moment.

I imagine my life here being like some kind of 8-year long layover. I arrived and spent 8 years filling my time with all sorts of things, just waiting on the next plane to take off.

I don’t actually regret it though. Maybe I would have been more fulfilled, more at peace, happier even, had I fully invested in a life here, in my heart. I do like to learn things the hard way though and in this I’ve learned a valuable lesson: carpe diem doesn’t have to be just a catchy little tagline. Appreciating and investing in the present will not diminish or restrict my future. I have met people here who I am certain will be my life-long friends, they are beautiful inside and out and I love all of them dearly.  I love my life in Shitsville. I never thought I’d say that, and now I’m leaving for the Foreign Service. For the next leg of this trip I won’t hold back.  (I know my dad is reading this so Pops – I’ll try harder to take your advice too.)     🙂

Life is a journey, not a destination
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Forever is composed of nows
~Emily Dickinson

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience
~Eleanor Roosevelt

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every new wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this
~Henry David Thoreau

Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour
~Walt Whitman

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