These first weeks back have been not so much a holding pattern as meditative breaths. I have been back in Durham, though in and out of it as usual (New York, DC and Baltimore being just some of the places I’ve run off to).
I cloistered myself in the apartment, that first week back, rediscovering my domestic side. After Ben and Phil’s initial labors to carry the heavier items of furniture up to their new third floor apartment, I unpacked and organized many of the boxes. I rented a storage unit to put most of my belongings – books, papers, bedsheets and winter clothes. I also spent plenty of time complaining about Durham’s humidity.
I’ve settled in to the feeling of living with Ben, the pace of working from home, and the sensation of preparing for what comes next. I cook a lot, run errands, catch up with friends. I see professors and chat with them about my summer. I become “that student” who has graduated, but still hangs around at the Big Cats Initiative research group meetings. I forget to write.
In the midst of the past weeks, I turned 28 – that healthy, prime-of-life age that will bring me both maturity and satisfaction – and why not? This is the age that I will try out my new life as a dancer. It is ushered in by the wishes of friends and family who are distant in mileage, but just a Facebook-click away. It is ushered in with bacon for breakfast and steak for dinner, convincing me once again that I am unreasonably lucky.
In a deeply therapeutic conversation with Steph (this in fact describes 100% of our conversations together), she assured me that she would still support me and care for me if in 2 months I decided I couldn’t make it, and quit the dance life to do something else. Two months seems like an overly fast folding, but the reminder was a good one. Just because we begin something, doesn’t mean we can’t change our minds and do something else later. The two of us have so much to catch up on, and so few days together. I feel like we talk nonstop over steaming cups of tea, while checking out the delightful American Visual Arts museum, as we wolf down Stuggy’s Carolina slaw hot dogs, during our grocery run and breakfast preparations, and even as we walk down to my car and I drive off.
Driving up to DC and Baltimore, and then cruising all the way back, feels like freedom in a thousand ways. I’ve carved that route so many times in my Durham life. Traveling northward on Monday, I watched the trees grow in color. In Baltimore, each leaf was a brush dipped into fall ink. Traveling southward again, I watched time go forward, even as the forest ran backward into summer. Just 10 days from now, the Chinnifer-mobile will be back in California; that drive will never again be mine.
It seems right, though, that these things should pass. In New York, I visited Chris and Carissa and saw what a life they’ve built together. In DC, I stayed with Robert and met with him and Kevin for dinner. It has sometimes been hard for me to regard that city with happiness, but the past months have renewed my faith in it. We bantered, reminisced and laughed together. In those moments, there was no place more perfect for me to be.
I read a Neil Young quote today, “I’ve always been better moving than I am standing still.”
This Friday morning, I will embark on The Great American Roadtrip (Abbreviated). With Ben, and then picking up Robert and Bonnie in St. Louis, the Chinnifer-mobile will cruise from Nashville, Louisville and St. Louis to the Badlands, then Yellowstone, and finally back to her new home in the Bay. Keep your eyes peeled for posts from the road!