Matt and Marina helped us haul another van-load of boxes and furniture from Santa Cruz. Marina's still recovering from a cold, so she went home to sleep, and Matt came to our new house and helped us unload the van. Afterwards we went out for soup and dessert at a vegan place a couple of blocks away, then hung out messing with the iPhone and other hardware, mooching the next-door neighbor's wireless internet.
La can walk to school next morning, since we're just a few blocks north of the university. She's very excited about not having to ride over highway 17 eight times a week. I'm excited about my work being 10 minutes away instead of an hour, and about the size of our new place. As I sit in this chair, a cool breeze is wafting over the back of my neck from the open window. I was expecting the air to smell bad here, like it did in Pasadena, but so far it is pleasant.
Over time, I have found that there are two kinds of events that bring so much change that they create new chapters of my life. The first kind of event is when I end a relationship. The second kind is when I move into a new home. The move I'm making now will bring the Santa Cruz chapter of my life to a close. It was a wonderful chapter - with many poignant moments and interesting new people - but I'm glad it has drawn to a close, because it was getting a little too ... easy.
The high point of Santa Cruz was the year 2004. That was the year we toured Alaska, the year I got engaged and married, the last year the Braindead Monkeys convened, and a year that was filled end-to-end with Friday-night meals around a crowded dinner table, brimming with food and laughter and good conversation. Before that year, I didn't think it was possible to have a year better than my second year of college at UCSC; I thought the best times had dissolved at the tail-end of my late-blooming youth. Then I discovered that there were better things than the bohemian student life I'd spent so much time coveting.
Not only was there life after college, just like there was life after high-school ... there was actually too much life, and the kinds of choices I had to start making were of a new and alarming type. I became very conscious of how each thing I pursued was occupying a space in my life that some other thing required. For example, I realized that I couldn't drop everything and go live in the Canadian wilderness without leaving behind my friends, family, culture, and eating habits. I couldn't have a laid-back low-key job by the seashore without denying myself the excitement of brilliant workmates, bleeding-edge technology, and working on something really ground-breaking. I couldn't date a fiery, tempestuous, inscrutable vixen without denying myself a loving, supportive, thoughtful, sane woman. I had to lay out my options and ask myself, "Will I feel okay if I end up never doing this?"
Some people start asking these questions when they're partway through high-school, and agonizing over test scores. Some people don't think this way until they're half a century old, and divorced a few times. I'm not looking for a standard age - but I find it interesting that the question is essentially timeless, even if the objects change. I'm okay with never walking on the moon, but my descendants might consider it a rite of passage. I wasn't okay with never being a college student, but I have Russian ancestors who lived their lives on meager farms in tracts of desolate wilderness and never imagined something so lush as a college campus. What argument could I make to them that wouldn't reek of entitlement? What dismissal could I make to my children, if something as amazing as a journey to the moon is within their grasp? (Not that I would dismiss it.) Beyond physiological needs, the milestones we choose for our lives are all suspiciously relative. And they certainly don't form the neat progression that many of us were promised back in the suburbs - thank goodness.
But pushing all this complexity aside, I find that one true thing still summarizes all that's happened in the dozen years since I was a desperate teenager: No matter what opportunities you think you've missed or doors you think are closed, you're never in danger of not having a life. There is more, way more, out there than you could possibly see, and most of it plays out and vanishes without even touching recorded history ... it will happen just inches away and you will never notice it at all. The idea that you can permanently miss something essential to your happiness, or throw your future off its rails ... is a perverse delusion, as damaging as it is unnecessary.
But on the other hand, what can I say about this, that isn't undermined by what I know about other people? My advice is garbage to someone who, for example, was verbally abused as a child and is now an adult with an inner monologue of discontent and rejection. My advice is cold comfort to a teenager who's been disowned by her parents for getting accidentally pregnant by some drunk stranger at a party. Life is a slow-motion train wreck for many people. Most of the reason I'm still standing and content is because of some lucky prioritization I did when I was very young.
Anyway, this wasn't meant to be a big philosophical treatise. I'm just announcing that I'm here, more or less, in San Jose now. In a few more weeks we'll have all our possessions here, and then we'll make the final action that will christen the new house into our real, live home: We'll bring Mira the cat over.
Then sometime after that we'll have dinner, and invite over Tavys and Matt and Marina and Robin and Laura and Dan and Alex and Helen. Now they all live ten minutes away or less.
Once upon a time, an infinity ago, I helped move Carolyn out of her last dorm room. We'd pulled every scrap of clothing and paper out, pulled the posters of Bjork and Robert Smith down off the walls, and stripped the bed naked. We stood together for one long solemn moment in the middle of the empty room. Then I led her to the threshold, and stood on the other side of it past the doorframe. We clasped both hands together across it, and I asked her, "Do you have it? Is it all inside your head?" She nodded and, each of us holding our breath, I gently pulled her into the hall in one long step. Then I reached behind her and shut the door. There were only a few bittersweet tears.
Moving can be hard sometimes. I'm glad this one is going well, and that someone is coming with me.