(But Also, it Might Not Be)
Less than 24 hours after landing in Massachusetts, I had my last session with the therapist I’d been working with for over two years. We stared at each other from behind a screen. His house was visible in the background — not too much of it, just a couch and some windows, palm trees swaying in the background, the occasional attention-seeking cat brushing up against couch pillows. “How are you feeling?” he asked.
I let out a sigh. It had taken me four days to get there from Alaska where I’d spent the last month at a writing residency. Before that, I’d packed all my things up, prepped and ready to leave St. Petersburg, Florida for good. “I feel ready,” I said. “Calm.”
“Like everything’s about to fall into place?”
“Yes,” I told him. “I think I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
I spent a total of six and a half years in Florida. St. Petersburg is the first place I really fell in love with a city. I loved almost everything about it — the lizards that scampered across the sidewalks when I went on runs, the sunsets (always purple and orange and a stunning shade of red: burgundy or shiraz, like the wine), the way the downtown always felt so quiet and safe during the early mornings.
In Florida, I rented a small house next to a neighbor who shared his dirty-snouted terrier pup with me. I dogsat in exchange for usage of his washer and dryer. My coworkers came to me for answers each day, always moving around me like I knew things they didn’t. They thanked me for my work. Local bookstore staff greeted me by name each visit, with questions and recommendations and always smiles.
Florida was where I was supposed to be. (At least, for a while.)
The first few months in Massachusetts are some of the hardest I’ve ever faced. The people are openly wary of me as a non-native, sometimes downright rude. The job is terrifying. Challenges pop up financially and otherwise.
I call the suicide hotline once while sitting in the backyard of my sublet, a noisy main road humming in the background. Later, after buying a house and thinking I’ve settled in, I sustain a concussion during a night terror that is so violent, I break the bedroom lamp and send the items on my nightstand scattering…