In 2014, Rebecca and her partner John left her lifelong home of Oakland, California in search of a better life. Their journey will take them to the Catskills in New York State, and eventually onto a converted school bus in which they will travel America.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Turning Point

The therapist I am seeing calls it an adjustment disorder. It's dead common, she reassures. Moving across country takes its toll, sometimes for half a year or more. My bickering with my partner? Also common when things get shaken up. Housemate issues? The same. I'm just being hit especially hard because I have anxiety. The doubts and fears have extra teeth--not extra credibility.

The shame of being a blubbering mess for weeks fades a little--and with it, bit by bit, my tendency to be one.

Meanwhile, the landscape around me was turning into this. Yet until this week I wasn't really able to enjoy it.

My therapist is a free spirit. An ex squatter and single mom of a disabled son, wrestling with her own life crap visibly but with grace. She knows everything about living flexibly and by her wits. I have money, she points out. I have options. There are good social services in New York for my partner, and myself if I need it. No, things aren't going to plan, but that's ok. I can reassess and make a new one less likely to be stopped in its tracks by one setback.

Slowly I start to lift my head. There is hope. I just can't see it through the miasma of what I'm going through.

I start wrestling with New York bureaucracy while waiting for my appeal hearing for unemployment. It's saner than California's but I end up needing to know the outcome of my hearing before I ask for aid.

After multiple phone calls Unemployment agrees to let me attend the Southern California hearing by phone.  I gather witnesses. I get help sorting out what to say. Everything is in the works or in the mail. I wait, filling my time writing and looking for freelance work.

My partner and I make an agreement to take three months sorting ourselves and each other out before deciding where we will live come winter. That gives us time: counseling, driver training, job hunting, waiting on this or that bit of bureaucracy to come through. The rooms we are in, the house crammed together with three other people, won't work once the cold sets in. A trailer on the land might work. The bus might be delayed too long to get set up before the weather changes, though we haven't given the idea up.

We might move to Kingston--but that presents its own challenges. Kingston is warmer and closer to services. Kingston has jobs and more public transit. We walk the Stockade District over tilted slate sidewalks and I fall in love a little. Then I tally the potential costs of rent, utilities, car, food and other things we need, and fret. Even if I get Unemployment, moving will be a calculated risk.

Turn a corner in Kingston and you might walk by a building that's older than this country.

But then again, so is life.

A week later I agree to go with the whole household to a comic book convention in Long Island. I know it will be a test of my energy and ability to deal with crowds. I choose to go through with it, risk of a public meltdown or not.

Three hours on New York highways to drink in the scenery and think about my new life. My partner and I figure we might spend up to three years in New York. We're just not sure where yet. Every village and town and then small city between Woodstock and New York City gets considered as we drive by. The hills lower, the buildings grow, and eventually I see the New York harbor. The Atlantic. The Five Boroughs vast at our flank as we cross through onto Long Island.

So much green space even in the city. The buildings are huge, even some of the very old ones. I see my first brick skyscrapers. No fears of earthquake here. No haze of pollution either. I stare at the Bronx's Co-Op City and remember East Oakland's yellowed concrete Hell, and the bricks and industry and cavernous, greenery and graffiti-filled alleys of the place shine by comparison. And it hits me.

I have suffered, sacrificed and risked everything, dealt with setbacks and breakdowns. I have been kept up nights terrified and woke sobbing with depression countless times. I nearly left for home twice. Yet if I had, or had not come at all....

I would never have seen New York City, the Atlantic, Long Island or the Catskills. I would never have walked Kingston's slate sidewalks. Or woken to birds instead of vomiting drunks and loud music for two months straight. I would simply have crawled back into the too-tight shell of my old life and stayed until it suffocated me.

Suddenly I find myself looking forward to the Con instead of dreading potential problems at it. For the first time in a long time, driving down that highway, there is nowhere else I would rather be than where I am.

I have fun at the convention. I go home tired but without breakdowns. The next morning, I wake without tears.