It’s hard to move across the country and also start a new relationship. Shocker, right? I mean yes we’ve been dating long-distance for two years but we weren’t very close and also a live-in relationship is completely different than even a close long-distance one.
First, let’s talk about what’s been easy. The practical aspects of my life have been easy. It’s easy to get to the grocery store and do laundry and socialize. It’s been fairly easy to make friends. It’s taken effort, but having made friends in a new city twice before, I have a much better idea this time of what I need to do, and good connections coming in, and have been able to do it. And it’s been working. One friend in particular, Robin, has been a real Godsend.
Sam keeps telling me to journal this time. He keeps reminding me that I’ll forget.
Here are a few things that are hard.
When you start a new relationship, ideally, maybe even generally, you come from a place of strength. You have friends, you’re secure in your job, you’re healthy. And you present those aspects of yourself while downplaying the loneliness, insecurity, and crippling anxiety.
In this relationship I have to twofold disadvantage of coming from a place of weakness and having difficulty hiding or downplaying it, as we live together in a not-huge apartment. Not that I’m trying to hide it. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my previous relationships it’s to sound the alarm about my unhappiness and unmet wants and needs early, often, and loudly. Because the alternative is pretending everything is mostly okay until I break and run away.
I’m surprised by how lame I feel lately. But lame isn’t the right word because you don’t generally choose to be disabled. It’s not your fault. I feel sad, boring, needy. I feel pathetic and uncool. But not the uncool I usually feel, where I can rest on the fact that I’m open and earnest. I feel empty, like I’ve willingly given up and let go the things that used to make me interesting and fun. I used to like my work, but lately barely meeting my deadlines has me feeling anxious and ashamed. I used to blog, but it’s hard to justify blogging for free when I’m barely meeting my deadlines for work. I used to go to cool parties and meet up with friends for happy hour and go to Black Pearl to smoke and watch Netflix in my underwear with Sam.
And now I have people over to our beautiful apartment next door to an olive oil store and around the block from an artisinal cheese shop and do yoga with Megan and go on dates with the Pirate and co-work with girlfriends on the boat and run into a Britney Spears-themed drag show at the club and go to wine country on the weekend and my high-earning, very supportive boyfriend takes me to see a feminist play that open with a trans performer doing a puppet show completely naked in a city that could not be more poly, queer, and liberal and the sun is always shining and the weather is always temperate.
It’s weird how cool/interesting/fun a life I can have, by my own standards, a life that exceeds my expectations in so many ways, and still feel so utterly uncool/uninteresting/unfun.
This will pass. I’ll meet my deadlines. I’ll blog more. I’ll form the relationships here that make life worth the hassle. Or, if I must, I’ll leave. Either way I’ll be okay. I am not intrinsically cool or uncool. I am what I repeatedly do. And I need to do what it takes to feel good about myself. To feel proud as well as grateful. But it’s hard. It’s about as hard as I expected it to be, though I didn’t know exactly what form the hard parts would take.
I doubt I will move back anytime soon because I am very committed to making a life here with my partners. But shit happens. No matter what, though, I do not regret moving out. Not just because it’s not that hard, but because I feel strongly that I had to know. I had to try, otherwise I would have continued to wonder. Because knowing is worth the effort. Because accurately predicting your own future isn’t a testable skill but trying big, bold things in order to build a meaningful life is. It’s a skill I’m demonstrably better at today than I’ve ever been before.
Part of a meaningful life, for me, is close relationships. And those require honesty. They require being real with myself and others about how unhappy I am. How anxious I feel. How rejected and stupid and uninteresting I sometimes believe myself to be. I don’t want to be a whiner. I hate how much of a downer I am right now. But this is real. This is hard. This is worth remembering, and sharing. Because I’m not alone. I think about all the people who move across the country to start lives with someone. And then because it’s new, because shit happens, because you can’t really know until you’re there, you have to prove you are worth living with and loving while you are at your least fun, secure, and interesting. Your least worthy. That sucks! How cruel! How ironic. But actually it’s the exact opposite of ironic.
I saw this coming, kind of. Anxiety gives you distorted previews of coming misfortunes. Two things kept me from coming out for a year (or two depending on how you want to measure it). 1. How good I had it in D.C. 2. A fear that he didn’t really want me. That he was settling for me. And that once I was out and he lived with me and saw me for who I really was and believed he had better options he’d realize he had settled and pull away emotionally. He didn’t want me when I wanted him when we were kids and he still doesn’t want me now. He just wants someone who is pretty enough and smart enough and pleasant enough and who wants him and I fit that bill.
Ooh man I’m getting real!
And I know it doesn’t matter. What I mean is that that in this case there is no actual “objective” difference between my worst fear and my best possible reality except how I see it. What does “wanting” me even mean? By lots and lots and lots of very objective and subjective measures he loves me very much and wants me desperately. By a few, mostly subjective measures I could gather evidence, and sometimes do, to build a case that this relationship cannot be what I want it to be.
It’s what I worried about when he said early on that he wasn’t in love with me. That was early but today there are things I expect someone who is in love to do and say that just aren’t being done and said. And I, humiliatingly, keep asking for them to be done and said and it’s still not happening and it’s like, well, if you have to ask. He can potentially change his behavior but if he doesn’t feel it, behavior change won’t meet the need. I need to be with someone who is in love with me. I need my partner to anticipate spending time with me and getting me off and is almost as eager about these things as I am and demonstrates that eagerness through words and action. I need a partner who is genuinely curious about what I’m doing and demonstrates that by checking in throughout the day and who cannot wait to talk at length about it in the evening.
Maybe if I sucked less he’d do it and say it and feel it. I’ve been saying this to myself a lot.
All that said, reality is what I make it and I’m responsible for making it a good one. The thing about my fear of being seen for who I really am is that it’s not possible because there is no “real” me. Insecure, lonely, terrified, and boring are feelings, not character traits. That is true of me and of everyone else. Ruminating on slights, assuming the worst, calling myself names, and indulging in self-pity, these are habits. Meditating on gratitude, taking an active interest in others, buying my motherfucking sisters motherfucking birthday presents like a motherfucking decent person, these are habits too.
This is objectively hard. I’m not crossing the fucking Rubicon, but it’s a thing I was afraid to do, for good reasons and for dumb ones, and I did it anyway. I’m proud of myself. I’m glad I did it. I’m grateful for all the effort my partners have put into making it as easy for me as possible. I’m grateful for the experience. Maybe for right now that’s enough. Maybe I don’t have to have a wide network and to be invited to do cool things every night and blog every day and have the close friendships it takes years for most people to form right this second. Maybe I don’t have a lot to talk about other than work being frustrating, my romantic relationships, and my efforts making friends but that is okay because trying to get established in a new relationship in a new city and freaking the fuck out about not being fun to live with because I’m boring and sad and anxious takes up a lot of my bandwidth.
The only thing I can do is try to suck less.
It’s hard knowing that even when I suck less, things won’t happen just the way I want them to. It’s hard to remember that things are always generally pretty objectively awesome overall anyway.
I am worth loving. I’m worth checking in with. I’m worth being excited about. Not because I’m awesome but because I know how to improve. I know the secret is there is no secret it’s just loving others and providing value as best you know how over and over again and that it does get easier every time you do it.
All I can do, all anyone can do, is to be real about it being hard, to be real about how hard it is, and to choose to do the next right thing anyway.
Aw, it is so strange to hear you are even feeling like this! The Cathy in my mind is vibrant and effervescent and endlessly smart and sparkly and doing amazing things. You’ve already improved my life by being here, and I mean that sincerely. Srsly, I’ve had moments where I’m like, “Cathy is so cool, I can’t believe she even wants to hang out with me!” 🙂 I do genuinely think you’re one of the most interesting people I know. But I totally understand getting worked up into a negative self-image, so I empathize. Know that it is definitely an illusion. And you’re not alone – I felt stuff like this HARD when I first moved! Mostly feeling like I didn’t have enough things to do or know enough people. It’s totally normal, and it took me about 2.5 years for that feeling to really go away. I think NOT feeling that way when you transplant yourself 3k miles away from all you know would be abnormal. When you get caught up in the negativity, just notice it, return to the breath and let it go. I’m SO happy you are here and I know the bad feels will pass, they always do <3
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