We learn through pain that some of the things
We thought were castles turn out to be prisons,
And we desperately want out,
but even though we built them,
We can’t find the door.
–Anne Lamont Help, Thanks, Wow
I am in my burnt-orange faux leather reading chair, feet up on the multi-color ottoman listening to the same side of a Billie Holiday album over and over again. The chair is very deep, and it requires a sort of launching action to get out. I push myself only far enough to move the needle to the beginning of the album but not quite far enough to flip the album to side B. I am reading Cait Flander’s newest book, Adventures in Opting Out: A Field Guide to Leading an Intentional Life. This will turn out to be the second book of Flanders’ that will change my life, the first being The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You can Buy in a Store. (This girl likes a long title.)
I am having some sort of full body experience while reading this book. Flanders is talking about how so many of us are taught by our parents that the correct path in life is to go to school, get a good job, buy a house, plan for retirement; that is the way things are done and you don’t stray. That is certainly how I was taught and thus far, I have abided and it’s served me well. I have hit all the checkmarks. I continue to read and there are feelings and emotions bubbling up from me that I realize I have been pushing down for god knows how long. I start imagining calling my mom and telling her I want to come home and I can’t imagine this without hyperventilating and palpitating. I feel hot from the inside and my face is flushed. This can’t be good.
Go home? Really??
I finish the book and check my watch. I need to get in the shower because I am due to wrap cookies with my baker friend, Jennie, in about two hours.
In the shower I sob uncontrollably. The hyperventilating and palpitating haven’t exactly subsided yet either. I am glad my bathroom fan is loud. I get out of the shower and look in the mirror and notice I’m covered in red splotches.
I debate calling my mom but don’t yet because once I say it out loud, I can’t take it back and I realize this is why I am having this full body reaction. After years and years of making hundreds of new life plans and never going through with them, I know deep down, even if I’m not ready to say it out loud, I am going to go through with this.
And this is the most anti-Aimee life plan.
Going back to North Dakota. An entire part of my identity is wrapped up in hating North Dakota. When I tell people I grew up in North Dakota and they say, “Oh, I’ve never been there,” my reply is something along the lines of, “Well, yeah. Why would you?” Followed shortly by, “No, actually Mount Rushmore is in SOUTH Dakota.”
Seriously, guys. Mount Rushmore is not in North Dakota and people from my side of the state don’t talk like they do in the movie Fargo. Let’s just clear that up from the get-go.
I finally call my mom and I can’t talk because I am crying. She is used to this, so she waits patiently. I say something reassuring like, “I think I am having a crisis.” More crying. More waiting. And then I think to say, “But, I’m ok.”
Finally, I compose myself enough to speak. I want to come home. I miss my family. Because they live in dumb North Dakota, I only see them a few times a year, mostly because I refuse to go there in the winter and my brother never brings his kids (or himself) out to visit me. I want to sell my house and all my belongings and live off the money while going to grad school. I want to be retired with my mom and learn how to be a proper aunt. I want to work part time at a bookstore or bowling alley or the Heritage Museum. I want to rent an Airbnb in Winnipeg for two weeks and another in Austin for two more weeks. I can do school from anywhere. I want to immediately convince them all to move away from North Dakota and go instead to Minnesota.
She says, “Obviously, I am ok with it. But you really need to think about if you will be happy living here.”
I don’t think I will be able to know if I can be happy there until I try it. That’s what Cait Flanders says. Try.
So, that’s what I will do. I will try.
I am going home.