I don’t know what to do.
This morning I woke up to a text from my Dad that read, “Just something to think about.” Attached was a meme of a pretty girl holding a map. It said:
Travel. As much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can. Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.
It’s not? Can’t it be, though? Why not? These are the grand questions of my life right now. My partner recently applied to grad school. One of his possible schools is in the city where we currently live, but the other four are all far, far away. We won’t know where he got accepted for several months still, and the uncertainty is wrecking me. If he gets into one of these out-of-state schools, he’s going. But what am I going to do?
Each scenario that I play out in my head makes my guts churn. Stay at home, and let him go without me? Is that just a prelude to a break-up? Does that make me selfish? Does it make me a coward? Am I just afraid that I’m incapable of building a new life on my own merit?
Or do I leave?
Typing it out makes me cry. My family is here. My parents and my brother. Sunshine and warm days live here. There are baby pandas and whale sharks here. Big Bird is here.
My job is here. My friends are here. My second family.
I walked through the doors of my job for the first time when I was thirteen years old. I’ve been chasing this place since that night. I’ve spent over half of my life with this institution taking up the most space in my brain and in my heart. I’ve climbed up every conceivable rung of the ladder to get to where I am now: sitting here at my desk, sneaking time to write in between updating the building calendar and putting on my Lady Macbeth wig. The thought of walking out these doors for the last time makes me feel like throwing up. Who am I if I’m not chasing this place?
I’ll go get ready for the show in a few hours. We close tonight. I don’t know what’s next for me after this. A dear friend asked last night, “What’s next for you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Any auditions coming up?”
It’s been in my head all day. I’ve spent the last three Octobers with fake blood caked into my nail beds. That’s all over so soon. And I don’t know what’s next. What play I will be in, if there’s going to be another play. Where I’m going to live, if it’s not here.
I saw this stage in the eighth grade, and I exploded. I’ve never looked back to pick up any of the pieces. I grabbed what I could stuff into my back pocket and I started moving forward. Now I’m here, and I fear that I’ve only ever looked backwards. I’ve looked at old show pictures to remind myself of my worth, never content with the promise of my own potential.
If I’m good in the play, then I’m good. What am I if I’m not in the play anymore?
I am not brave. I am very, very afraid. Staring down what feels so impossible, even though people do it all the time, I am embarrassed by my cowardice.
I don’t know what to do.
I’ve started running. Just a few miles here and there. I signed up for a half-marathon. In April, I’m going to run the Star Wars Rival Run Half Marathon at Walt Disney World. That’s the thing that I know I’m doing next. Running’s hard, but it’s simple. All I have to do is wake up and put on shoes. I can handle that. Sometimes that feels like all I can handle.
I’m not good at it. I’m slow, and I get out of breath faster than I’m proud of. But I’m doing it. In my brain that constantly says, “Why aren’t you doing something, you dumb bitch,” running is a quick fix. Running counts. Telling myself that I’m training for my race counts. It’s quiet, and I can do it by myself. Which is good, because this is all I want to talk about. I’m worried all of the time, and I don’t want to bum you out. But I can put on my shoes and go outside and do something. I don’t have to know what to do.
Depending on how things fall out, tonight could be the last night I speak on this stage that I’ve spent so long chasing. I do not know if I will have the courage to say “good-bye” when or if the time comes.
Tomorrow morning I’ll get to scrubbing the blood out of my nails, and I’ll lace up my sneakers. I’m a big dork, so the E.T. end credits music is on my running playlist. For a few miles, I’ll give my feet over to momentum and my heart over to John Williams. Because I still know how to move, and I know how to yearn, and maybe that will be enough to carry me into whatever adventure comes my way next. Even if it’s a quiet little adventure where I am only me.
Tomorrow morning I will have to remember how to be just me again. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.