Five years ago I moved back to the Midwest from Wyoming. My plan was to stay for five years, or until my grandmother died, and then move on to something else. Maybe I’d move back West and get another library job. Maybe I’d move to some other part of the country I’d always wanted to live in. Maybe I’d join an intentional community. Maybe something else. The plan was hazy, except for this: Leave.
Well. You know the joke about how to make God laugh, right? Make a plan. In the nine months after I moved and started a new job, I got pregnant, decided to have a kid, and bought a house. In another nine months, I had a baby and my grandmother died. And now here I am, my kid about to turn four, my house the place I’ve lived in for longer than I’ve lived anywhere in my life, and my plan, for the foreseeable future, to stay. Stay.
The very first issue — if you can call a few hundred words an issue — of The New Rambler was written just a few miles from here, in a basement apartment on Iowa Avenue, and if you can get past the philosophizing of a recent college graduate realizing that we all have to work for a living, it touches on the same panic about staying. Thank God this is a nine-month gig (in fact, I lasted only four months). Thank God I don’t have a plan. Thank God I’m not stuck here. What I remember of that time is sheer terror. Perhaps it’s no surprise that I ended up in the hospital a few weeks after I wrote those words.
The older I grow, the more I wonder if there is that much of a difference between the things we are fated to and the things we choose. I didn’t want to be born in the Midwest, but I’ve chosen to live here. I didn’t want to get pregnant, but I chose to have a baby. I didn’t want to have a mood disorder, but I’ve chosen to write about it as honestly as I can.
Oedipus — I have written about this before, and I will harp on about it until the day I die — had a fate, and he made choices he thought would help him avoid it, and instead they led him to that very thing. He chose his fate, you might say. That’s not the same as loving your fate, but maybe — if I’m right — the difference doesn’t matter so much.
Where that leaves me, exactly, I don’t know, except that almost two decades later I’m still sitting late at night typing to people on a laptop, thinking perhaps a few of them might read it. I suspect I’ll always do that, wherever I end up. And that’s something.