So in an effort to distract my thoughts, lighten my mood and lift my spirits given recent developments in my cousin’s health since the last blog post, I indulged in some Netflix binge-watching in between furniture assembly and cleaning all weekend. I settled on Aziz Ansari’s Master of None. I was delightfully surprised at the depth of the final episode of this series.
Spoiler alert: the last episode of his Neflix series is refreshingly profound. He has been traveling a road with his girlfriend, and becoming ever more terrified of where it’s going after attending the wedding of friends who were on the top step of the figured-it-all-out-ladder. He sees love scores of 100 for a couple, and his current situation maybe hits a 70 or an 80. He worries that it’s all figured out from that point on. Marriage, kids, and the spiral into predictability terrify him. He runs from safety, as does his girlfriend, and they pursue new roads in life.
I’ve been known to do this more than once. For having such a stable childhood in a single family 3-bedroom home in the suburbs of San Jose, California, I sure have moved around a lot. I left home at the ripe young age of 17, for college in Chico, California. It was a 4-hour drive from where I grew up, so it was both far enough away and close enough to home to suffice. College in Chico became a 5 year affair, because 2 majors and a minor had my name on them. Every year, I lived somewhere different. I mixed it up. I got my crazy out. I lived.
Freshman year, I lived in the dorms. I grew up an only child far away from most of my family, with three legs on my stool of life: my father, my mother, and me. This was the first time I ever lived with anybody new, and in such close quarters, like sharing a room. 2 XL twin beds, 2 desks, closet, and a fridge/microwave combo. The second year, I moved to an apartment complex off campus, with 3 girls I befriended in the dorms. We all had nicknames – Shorty, Piggy, Hoochie, and Deemoney. Sounds like the Golden Girls, right? Guess which one I was. The accounting and finance major. Dorothy. Mmmmhmmmmmmm. Other friends who just moved from the dorms lived in the small 40-unit apartment complex, so it was sort of like being in the dorms still, but still being a little more grown up. We had our own rooms with community living.
The third year, I moved down the same road from the second year place. Nord Avenue was a major road in Chico, and it housed a burrito place for 2am munchies, a Safeway nearby, a sandwich shop, and bike paths that led to campus in less than 5 minutes. This was the year I lived with a quiet girl I’d known from high school and middle school. She was an English major, mostly kept to herself, wrote in her spare time, and was just leaving San Jose after 2 years at community college. This was her first year of living away from home, and by then, I had morphed into a wholly new creature. I still wasn’t out of the closet yet, at the beginning of my third year. I had been to many frat parties, house parties, impromptu BBQ’s with the music turned up and the beers flowing like water. I partied. We won’t get specific, but I gained invaluable life experiences that would forever brand me as me. What she saw, with her eyes leaving home for the first time, was no doubt no less than a crazy person. There, I said it.
My 4th apartment was with the same girl from 3rd year, with another girl I’d known in the dorms first year, but hadn’t previously lived with. She lived in the 2nd year complex, in another apartment. This new place was in the Aves, a different part than where I’d previously lived. Chico was organized on a grid. The streets downtown actually have the names Chestnut, Hazel, Ivy, Cherry, and Orange to make the acronym, “C.H.I.C.O.”, which makes it easy to learn downtown. I was on the opposite side of campus from the C.H.I.C.O. streets. I rode my bike to campus, yet it was quiet and not where all the frat houses and party houses were. I was still a mere 5 minutes from campus. Perhaps that is what spawns my disdain for daily commutes. It should not be that hard to get to a place you have to be every day. There are days you don’t want to be there at all – making it difficult does not help the situation. It was in this apartment I took a big step. I met someone online, a woman, and began dating her. She moved out to Chico from Tennessee, and I came out as gay that year – to my parents, friends, hell, anybody who would listen. Life wasn’t so predictable when that happened. I mean, every day was unlike the previous and I was soaking up information and Bud Light like a sponge. I think I should have put myself on the liver transplant list this year, if I hadn’t in all my previous years. I had a full course load, a job, and an unpaid internship that year. I also started a non-profit student organization on campus this year, the Women’s Center for Financial Information.
My 5th and final year at Chico State, I moved in with my girlfriend, in an apartment overlooking a farm and a baseball field on someone’s personal property, far away from campus, in the suburbs. The complex had a laundry facility, a pool, a clubhouse, and was close to bike trails that led to my gym and eventually to campus.
After Chico, I moved to San Francisco, on a whim and after a series of unplanned and fortunate events. I’d been gearing up to work with a financial advisor at which I interned, when I found that she was closing her business down and I was out a plan. I had a friend who knew a recruiter at one of the Big 4 accounting firms, and a very short time later, I had a job starting with them in San Francisco. It happened so quickly.
My girlfriend and I lived apart that year, as I moved to San Francisco for work and she continued studying architecture at Chico State. It was my idea for her to keep herself occupied. I wanted her to push herself if she was going to move to be closer to me. It couldn’t be for me – it had to be for her. I found a very new life in San Francisco. I had a tiny 3rd room in an apartment in Haight Ashbury, where the famous homes of Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix can be found. I found my roommates online 2 weeks before I moved down. The rent for the smallest room in the first floor flat with laundry in it in San Francisco in 2004 was $750. The cheapest rent I ever paid in San Francisco. Don’t even get me started on this tangent. But I digress…
Then I moved in with my girlfriend from Chico less than 1 block down the street from that first apartment on Waller Street to another apartment on Waller Street. From there, we ventured into my first foray into home ownership and bought a place in Lower Haight, where we lived the year after that. The year we broke up.
I then moved to my very first apartment of my own, on the corner of Pink and Pearl Streets near Duboce Triangle in San Francisco. Most. Lesbian. Location. Ever. The Pink Pearl. From this apartment, a couple years later, I got the itch again and moved to Sydney, Australia. I lived in the same apartment there for my whole 3 years abroad.
My point (and I do have one – thanks Ellen for the fabulous book title), in relaying the almost annual turnover in my address since moving out of my parents’ house, is this:
I like to believe that life doesn’t get stale – if you’re doing it right. What Aziz Ansari felt, that fear creeping in of the mundane and safe, doesn’t have to be. You do have the power to change your life. Anytime you don’t like it. I refer you, dear reader, back to a quote from a fantastic film, Benjamin Button’s letter for his daughter, which reads:
For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early, to be whoever you want to be.
There’s no time limit, start whenever you want.
You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing.
We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it.
And I hope you see things that startle you.
I hope you feel things you never felt before.
I hope you meet people with a different point of view.
I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.
I truly believe this with all my heart and being. I have succeeded so many times in picking up the pieces that lay broken and piecing myself together in a new way that lets me put one foot in front of the other every day. I left home. I made mistakes, I travelled to far away places, even lived there. I loved. Hard. I opened myself up and met new people. I not only ventured outside my comfort zone but I lived there for 3 years. I was a foreigner who had a noticeable accent and was horribly out of place. I mastered the arts of being awkward and super smooth in social situations. I came home when I never thought I would. I fell down really hard a couple of years ago. I’ve picked myself back up and gritted my teeth and kept going. I adopted a sweet little kitten, lost sight of the shore, quit my job, moved to a new city and bought a condo to call home for more than one year.
Life isn’t stale to me right now. I’m exactly where I need to be, where I want to be. I’m right here. I had to go to all those places, fall apart, and glue myself back together. I had to be the person I am today. I am no one’s cup of tea. I don’t wake up and feel stale. I feel alive. I had a choice in the matter. I’ve used my voice regardless of who hears. I don’t care if I’m too loud, still awkward, and not perfect. The imperfection is the best part.
I didn’t follow a straight path (insert a fan attending the Rocky Horror Picture Show screaming at this crucial point, “No, you followed a gay path!” and throwing toilet paper across the audience.) I tried new things. I’ve been places 90% of my friends haven’t been. I’ve killed so many brain cells in college, hell, I can’t remember some of the best memories, but I know they’re there.
When I look back on my glory days, hopefully as I’m zooming down the bike lane of a 4 lane road on my Rascal at top speeds of 25 mph, when I’m old, I’ll have memories resurface I’d long forgotten existed. Or hallucinations, depending on my dosage.
I hope I see the laughs I had. I hope I see the people whose lives I had a positive impact on again. I hope I meet my own 5 people in Heaven, if there is one, like the made-for-TV special starring Jon Voight “The 5 People You Meet in Heaven.” I hope I see that, despite not having children, not being CEO of a company, not doing a lot of things actually, I’m satisfied. I hope I see that in my vast experience there are still some things l haven’t done, and I better love that. I hope I’m satisfied. I don’t think I’ll get to do everything in just one life. But I sure as hell can knock a lot off my list.
Life is unwritten, everything after today, anyway. Parts of today are still unwritten. I write this, in the closest thing I’ve had to happy place in what feels like forever: at my recently delivered dining room table. The first I’ve had in two years. I’m in a new home, in a new city now. San Jose, Chico, San Francisco, Sydney, Seattle… what looks like fun with a “Choose Your Own Adventure” in the S volume of the encyclopedia (with a little hiccup in the key of C mixed in there) has actually led me to just the place that feels right to put down a few roots for a while. It’s anything but stale, because I chose this. I needed this. I want this. Have wanted this. For a long time.
I didn’t let myself get too attached these last two years in San Francisco, after repatriating back from Australia. Now I feel my roots taking hold in fertile soil. I’m ready to grow. Buds are forming. I’m shooting forward every single day.
Even on good days, many relationships don’t get above 60. Sometimes, when times are really tough, it could be a 20 or a 30. It’s never 100 every day. You would hate it if it was, if you were to be honest with yourself. It’s true. You need the 20 days to make you appreciate the 50 days. You need the 50 days to appreciate the 80 days. We need all those days to feel like we lived a life well spent. Even the 10 days were a blessing, even if in disguise to your blind eyes. We need our fill of drunken, stoned college pool parties to appreciate that those days are behind us, and with them, our abilities to rally the day after such a party with a massive hangover. We want to be in a hospital waiting room, wanting any news, even if it isn’t good, to remind us how short life is and how much we really do love without even knowing we do. The bitter is bitter but the sweet is so much sweeter. I think I read that somewhere in Einstein’s theory of relativity. Write that down.