I cried from the front door of my parents’ house in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, through most of Connecticut. I remember the first time I stopped for a bathroom break, getting back into the car and thinking, “Man, it smells like dog sh*t in this car.” In fact, there was dog sh*t in the car, which I had tracked in on the sole of my Dansko. I know I had stopped crying by that point, because I remember feeling like I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and you can’t decide whether you need to cry if you’re already in tears.
I was moving to Boulder, Colorado, a town I had visited exactly once. I had quit my job and terminated my lease. I had about a dozen appointments to look at apartments and a friend to stay with for a couple of nights while I got my feet on the ground. I had a Garmin Nuvi to tell me how to get where I was going. I had no idea what I was doing.
I told my parents I planned to stay in Boulder for a year and then I would see how I felt. I don’t remember whether I actually believed that. I do remember feeling my heart break a little bit on the eve of my departure when my dad told me, “I’m afraid that you’ll get there, you’ll love it, and you won’t come back. I don’t want my baby so far away.”
I had moved back home to Rhode Island from North Carolina, where I’d lived most of my adult life, a year and a half prior. I had just gotten used to being back in my family’s usual rhythm- if there is such a thing when the kids are adults- and I was leaving again.
When the idea first occurred to me, it seemed obvious; Duh, why NOT move to Boulder!? I had no mortgage, no boyfriend, not even a goldfish tethering me to Pawtucket. Why wouldn’t I go where there the bike lanes were wide and plentiful, the sunshine bright, and the people friendly and crunchy?
I scoured Craigslist for apartments and jobs and immediately knew why I shouldn’t do it. It was scary. Where would I live? Where would I work? Would I have to sell my big green comfy couch, my first piece of adult furniture? How would I transport the oversized ceramic jack-o-lantern I made in the tenth grade? Would Southwest ever offer a direct flight from Denver to Providence?
How could I abandon the comfortable life I had created for myself in Rhode Island? I got to be with my family for birthdays, holidays, or no reason at all. (Which most of the time, was a good thing). I had a group of girlfriends, I had a Masters swimming group, running buddies, and people to ride with. I had (mostly) figured out the poorly marked, tree lined, pothole riddled New England back roads that were perfect for long training rides. I knew where to get the best cup of coffee, the freshest sushi, the ultimate pizza, and the tastiest breakfast.
And for everything I didn’t know, I had my family. My dad knew all the secret parking spots in downtown Providence, my mom knew just who to call when I needed to hire man in a gorilla suit to sing Happy Birthday, my sister knew where to get a bikini wax, and my brother had a guy for just about everything else.
I was afraid to leave but I was afraid to stay. What if I always regretted not leaving when I had the chance? What if I was still single by the time my much younger sister married, and it was all my fault because my perfect guy was in Colorado? What if I decided to move when I was 40 but by then it would be impossible to make new friends because I’d be the only one without children?
I felt like I was at the top of the high dive. From the bottom, diving in looks like an awesome thing to do. At the top, diving in feels like a ridiculously stupid thing to do. Climbing back down the ladder would be embarrassing but not embarrassing enough to stop you.
As I pulled away from my parents’ house that dark January morning, my material things packed strategically into every square inch of my Jetta, apprehension and sadness crowding my heart, I dove into my fears headfirst. And somewhere in Connecticut, as I scraped the dog sh*t off my shoe with a tissue soaked in hand sanitizer gel, I forgot to be sad for my old life. With two clean shoes on my feet and a hot cup of coffee in my drink holder, I headed west as a smile crept into my heart.
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