An ex-boyfriend used to tell me that in his opinion, I was capable of more than I thought I was. He would say it whenever there was something I thought I couldn’t do because of my depression or anxiety or endometriosis or whatever else. “You can handle more than you think you can.”
I understood where he was coming from, and I knew he meant well, but I never liked hearing him say it. It made me feel guilty for not doing more. It made me question my carefully-implemented self care regimen. It made me feel like he thought I was acting weak. Sometimes I wondered if he thought I was weak.
The only way for me to know what I can handle is to think of a thing and decide whether or not I can handle it based on what I assume are my limitations. Or I can look at things I’ve done before that I couldn’t handle and not do them again.
Both methods are faulty. How do I know for sure what my limitations are if I don’t test them? And how do I know that not being able to handle something in the past means I couldn’t handle it now? Most of the time I just have to guess. Or sometimes I do a thing I think I can’t handle, and try to prepare myself in advance for the ramifications of the not handling.
Other things happen to me whether I can handle them or not.
Moving to a different state may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my adult life. Here is a list of the things about it I’m not handling very well.
- I work from home, so I’m at home alone all day, but in the evenings I don’t have any plans, so I stay at home then too. I go to sleep, wake up and work from home alone all day, and the cycle continues.
- There isn’t really anyone in St. Louis around whom I’m comfortable being needy. In Austin I had friends and a sister I could text and say, “Can I come over?” or “I know we’re supposed to go out, but I’m feeling down so can we just sit around and watch TV instead?” or “I need help with something, can you help me?” My parents are here, but they have their hands full with my dad’s care, so I try not to bother them unless it’s an emergency.
- I don’t feel very needed. My parents need me for logistical reasons, but I don’t have friends here who text me and say things like, “Can I come over?” or “I need help with something, can you help me?” It’s hard feeling like I’m not part of anyone’s emotional support system like I was in Austin.
- When I first moved here, I tried online dating. It was by turns a strange, hilarious, frightening, humiliating and very hurtful experience. Some things that happened still hurt and will probably hurt for awhile. Online dating has made me question my trusting nature, my appearance, my self worth and my value to others in ways I haven’t done in a very long time.
How was I supposed to know I couldn’t handle moving to another state? I’ve never done it before.
I’m not going to undo it, though. I don’t want to move back to Texas, and I don’t want to admit defeat and move somewhere else just yet. It’s only been six months. It’ll get better, probably. Maybe.
I’ve been here for a month and a half, I think. I’m probably supposed to have updated my license plates and drivers’ license and stuff by now, but I haven’t yet. I’m tired.
Even if you’re familiar with it as a place to visit, living in a new city is exhausting. You have to constantly remind yourself that you live there now. The other day my aunt asked me if I had my DSLR camera with me so she could get some pictures of the family. “I don’t have it with me,” I said, forgetting that I did have it with me, just a few blocks away in my new apartment.
My dad keeps asking me when I’m leaving town. “I live here now, Dad,” I say, and he smiles and shakes his head as if to say, right, I should remember that by now. Me too, Dad.
The grocery stores are different. I got used to good tortillas and good tortilla chips and my favorite brands and the Austin plastic bag ban. Everyone in line in front of me and behind me in St. Louis has their items put into what looks like a thousand separate plastic bags. When I give my fabric bags to the grocery bagger, he gives me a strange look like, “what are these?”
OH, NOTHING, I’M JUST HELPING TO KEEP THE GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH FROM GETTING BIGGER, I want to yell. But I don’t. It’s not his fault.
The radio talks about NASCAR. The guys on Tinder (I’m not ready to date, but I looked) are all pictured holding dead fish or automatic weapons. I can’t do the thing I did in Austin where I talk to new people and can safely assume they’re as politically liberal as I am.
This part is good, in theory. In Austin I got tired of the homogeneity. If you stayed out of the far-flung suburbs in Austin, you would pretty much see the same types of people everywhere you went. In St. Louis it’s different. I went to the zoo last weekend with my dad and sister and nephew (the latter two were here visiting us), and the mix of people there reminded me of Houston a little bit. I hadn’t realized how much I missed that.
I keep thinking about jobs I had in the Houston area in my teens and twenties—waitress, grocery cashier, that sort of thing. The people in those jobs were all very diverse—politically, ethnically, age- and politics- and education-wise. I’d always liked that feeling of being part of a weird crew of people from various backgrounds who respected and loved each other despite their differences. Maybe I’ll find that here. It’s less unlikely than it was in Austin anyway, with my remote job and the city’s lack of diversity.
(I don’t mean I want to have diverse friends as tokens or anything; I just mean that knowing more people who aren’t like me is good for my perspective. And my snobbery.)
But it won’t happen right away, because like I said, I’m tired. The last few months in Austin, packing, feeling displaced, not having a real home, and saying goodbye to my friends and family and habits and things I was used to, really took it out of me. Since I’ve been here, I exercise in the mornings, work during the day, and then in the evenings I lie in bed with my dog and my knitting and whatever I’m watching on Netflix, and then I fall asleep. It’s about all I can muster.
When I do meet new people I ask them about the local laws and customs. Is it okay that my new landlord didn’t have me fill out a form with what’s wrong with my apartment before I moved in so I don’t get charged for those things when I move out? That’s what they do in Texas. Can you really drink in the park here without getting a ticket? Does everyone refer to Anheuser-Busch as AB or do some people call it InBev? I hadn’t realized how many strange assumptions I had until I moved away from Texas for the first time in my life.
My new aerial studio is different, too. I took a private lesson with a trapeze instructor so he could see what level class I should take, and every skill I know has a different name here. He asked me if I knew how to do 4 and I said, 4 of what? It turns out “4” here is called “candlestick” at home, and I knew how to do it, but I still felt awkward. I took nearly all my classes in Austin with the same instructor, and having someone different feels wrong. My new trapeze classes start on Tuesday, and I’m already nervous.
(I’m the most nervous because I’ve never had a male instructor before. I won’t be able to make jokes about how hard a straddle is for me due to my giant boobs! If I cry in front of a male instructor it’ll be awkward and I won’t want to explain it! What if I develop a huge dumb crush on the poor guy, as is my tendency these days? Then I won’t want to sweat or look gross in front of him, and it’s hard to learn trapeze properly without sweating or looking gross.)
The major reason I moved here, to help my parents, is going fine so far. I live a block and a half from them, and it’s great to be able to walk over there on a whim to help my mother change a light bulb or fix the printer, or hang out with my dad while she runs an errand, or help them make dinner.
It rains differently here. There’s no lightning or thunder or hail or high winds like in Texas. I walk outside and find that it’s been raining softly for hours without my even noticing.