I felt this way three years ago exactly. The New Year in fact felt like a new beginning, not in some dramatic way, but more like most loose ends had been tied up and rather than feeling behind on deadlines or overwhelmed, what lay before me was an open road, a clear path, not quite a clean slate but a calm, smooth way ahead on which I could build or plant or place things as I fancied. In normal language, my house was clean, there was food in the fridge, my bills were paid, my car was working, and I had a well-organized routine and schedule that enabled me to accomplish necessary tasks and see my friends all at a rate that pleased me. Before you hate the guts of me from three years ago, let me add that a few days after that pleasant, calm, New Year's Day, my carefully crafted routine got dumped on its head and the events occurred which set into motion my move across the country from the place I had lived my entire life.
I think about this a lot, and it was only in the past few months that I realized that while I had still felt a strong connection to that place and the contents of the life I had three years ago, many of those contents--the ones that are real live breathing people--have removed me from the forefront of their consciousness. Why shouldn't they? Even in this day and age of e-mail and Skype (which is probably going to be phased out by myFace or whatever the video chat of iPads/iPhones is called), maybe it's the people one sees in real life more effortlessly take up mental space than those who exist like imaginary friends - unseen, or seen only through a screen, or words, or heard in some digitized form on a phone.
I don't know how true this is, actually. I don't really know what I think about this. Only that I was starting to think that the reason that old life felt so real and present to me is that I made an effort (although not a conscious one) to keep it that way--I held onto the idea of certain places and people with a tight, barely-yielding grip, like a clenched fist. It was only recently that I could go back to visit without a manic need to re-visit each of my former favorite places, so that I wouldn't miss out on a single springtime at Willowwood or late November toad lily at Buck Garden. Only recently I tried to stop living two lives, or only half-living the one I have here.
I hope no one interprets this as a statement of having cut out completely my "old life" or anything like that. I still talk to my family approximately every day. I still feel the same love for my friends, only now I've accepted that you don't have to talk every week or even seen one another every year to be close.
Anyway, today I feel very much like I did three years ago. (Perhaps this is what happens when you don't wake up on New Year's Day with a hangover.) I have some creative freedom with my To Do List. I could make bread. I could re-organize my file drawer. I could study for the LSATs (more on that later.) I could finally knit the green winter hat with owl cables for which I purchased the materials in 2009. I could walk to Lloyd Center and try to replace the third of my wardrobe that was recently stolen. I could make lentils using the recipe on the back of the bag, which is in French, because my family's tradition is to eat lentils (not black-eyed peas) for good luck on New Year's Day. I could buy a calendar for my office. I could even go to Seattle. (That is going to be on my 2012 to-do list, by the way. Nearly three years in the Northwest and I still have not been to Seattle, not once, except to change planes, and that might actually have been in Tacoma. As blog is my witness, I will go to Seattle this year!)
I originally sat down to write, overwhelmed by the multitude of topics available. I even have handwritten notes on paper, not scribbled on a dry-erase board or a napkin. They are in a notebook for once (although some are on the back of a beer bottle label/tour ticket from a brewery in Colorado.) Not sure where to start, I planned to just list them, to get myself started, and I'll write about all of it later this week (because classes don't start until the 9th and I have no more Christmas cookies to bake; I have nothing but time!). And then I wrote this long intro. So without further long rambling intro, here are twelve things for 2012 aka twelve things from my road trip notebook/beer bottle label and a few more from my head from the last couple of days of December.
1. A license plate holder about John Galt; confession: I read Atlas Shrugged and liked it. Does that make me a Republican? 2. Sitting on my dream couch in my office, looking out the window, reading and writing--doesn't it just sound perfect???? 3. Big-haired Jersey driving in Wyoming winter...an unexpected adventure. 4. Whenever I'm in Portland, I don't want to leave; whenever I leave Portland, I dream about someday leaving, like how I left for Portland in 2009. 5. Artichoke dip should be a traditional New Year's morning breakfast. Served with flax seed crackers - easy and healthy and cheap and why didn't I know about these earlier? Also, they may satisfy every possible dietary exclusion of every possible party guest. 6. Symbolism in life and in fiction and even nonfiction - the first time I attempted to employ this literary tool in a short story, the teacher who read it and wasn't too thrilled, how insults are often more a reflection of the insulter than the insultee, and some signs that might help tell the difference. 7. A brief rant about dietary exclusions and attempting to accommodate multiple varieties at once. 8. Weird fruit returns to Portland grocery stores--my favorite part of West Coast Winter. 9. My life right now is the life I dreamed about when I was younger and I need to stop forgetting that. 10. Review of New Year's resolutions from 2011 - in short, I actually stuck to all of them. 11. Thoughts about interstate exits. 12. The "collect 'em all" mentality of an 80's upbringing and how it relates to soda and beer and traveling.
That and many more things, coming soon...
Oh, and as compared to three years ago, this New Year's Day feeling makes me less cockily sure that smooth roads and easy choices are ahead. Now I wonder, what next? What should I prepare for, or should I finally accept that some things can't be planned?
In conclusion, the beginning of a road on a morning in Northern Idaho: