June 17, 2005

other people's stories and our own

Eliza mentioned me in her journal today, mentioned becoming invested in this cross-country move of ours, called us brave. I know what she means. Well, not sure about the brave part, though sometimes, yes, I think it must be brave in the way that you are when you walk into what looks like a wall, knowing it's an optical illusion but the logical part of your brain, the empirical part, says, "No, that's a really a wall and it's gonna hurt like hell when you slam your nose into it," and so you close your eyes and hold your breath and take one step, then another, then another, all the while thinking "I can stop any time, I can decide not to go through with this, I can walk backwards if need be, right? And by the way, where's the nearest hospital? Y'know, just in case." And before you know it, you're at the wall and wow, you're through and then finally you find out what's on the other side. So yes, maybe brave is the right term for this, maybe so.

But when I said I know what she means, I meant the readerly fascination with personal stories, with life as shown on blogs and online journals. The way you become invested in someone's life, reading it like a book when the hero just stumbled into a hornet's nest and then one of the hornets pulled out a knife, and boy what's he gonna do now? And your heart beats faster as you're reading and you stay up way too late because you can't put the book down. But this is not fiction and it has no ending, it's just twists and turns and thoughts and feelings, it's like nothing else. Memoir as it's lived, unfolding in real time. I too am addicted and so I understand that right now my life is like that, this big cross country move creates that sense of wanting to turn the page to see how it turned out for us in our new home, our new life. Hell, I feel it too. I want to know how this story ends. Do we live happily ever after? Do we feel this was the right choice, to go back home to the New York area after seventeen years? Will we land on our feet? What's going to happen? Where will we live, how will we make it work? Can I take one little peek at the epilogue now? I promise not to tell!

When we started talking about this back in February, I figured we wouldn't go unless Dan had an editing job lined up, safety net and justification both. But it became clear after our visit in April that he probably can't get a gig there while he's still here. Because nobody really believes you'll pick yourself up and move from the film capitol of the world to a smaller filmmaking community unless you just go ahead and do it. Prove you mean it. But we both also realized then that we'd be heartbroken if we didn't make the move. Our hearts are there, not here. And if we didn't try it now, we would always wonder if it would have worked, how it would have been. So we have to give it a try. But for a while I was having a hard time with this idea. Cart before horse, result before cause. How does this make sense? People make these huge moves for tangible reasons, no? Solid financial or career considerations, usually. Isn't that the way it goes?

I started thinking about the people I knew who had done such things. And you know what? I mostly thought of people whose lives I've read online. John Scalzi, who sold his house and moved from the DC area to rural Ohio, largely because his wife missed her family. Yeah, that's me, only in this case it's true for both of us. Karen Meisner (now offline), who packed up her little family and moved from Berkeley, California to Madison, Wisconsin, mostly because she felt like Berkeley wasn't the life she wanted, it didn't challenge her enough. I can relate there too – not that LA doesn't challenge me, but it doesn’t excite me, and it most certainly isn't the life we want. Sage and Todd, who have moved more than once; their last move was from the Western US to Toronto, primarily because of the worsening political climate in the US. We thought long and hard about that ourselves, but it turns out that this is not exactly us after all, except for this: we move from a city that doesn't feel in sync with us politically, emotionally or socially to a town that does. But in all three cases – and I didn't have to think hard to come up with these, they are (or were, in Karen's case) people whose words I read weekly if not daily – they moved for personal reasons. They chose to do it, no external force (ie: job offer) pushed them out the door.

I feel much better now, realizing this. Remembering what I've read. We're not alone. People have done this and not only survived but thrived. I know this because they told me. Online. It's not fiction, it's real life stories we read online, and our own lives are sometimes unexpectedly enriched because of it.

Posted by Tamar at June 17, 2005 12:37 PM | TrackBack

You can do it, Tamar! I know it's scary from experience. When my Mom was 49 and I was 16, we packed up a few meager possession and moved from Germany to the US. We had relatives waiting for us here, but still, neither one of us spoke a word of English. I can't imagine how frightening it must have been for my Mom to have to start over again so relatively late in life. Me, I guess I was too ignorant to be scared. As it turned out, my Mom took to life in the US like a duck to water and I was the one having the hard time. Having to attend High School didn't exactly help. Kids that age can be awfully cruel.

Good luck with your move! I can't wait to read the next "chapter" of your story.

Posted by: Renate at June 17, 2005 01:57 PM

You have no idea how much I needed to read that, Tamar. I left a comment awhile back and mentioned of my intention to move from Montreal to Halifax. I've had many ups and downs about that decision, and I've backed out a few times, but now I'm back on the moving bandwagon, so to speak. See, just as it might seem "crazy" to some people that you and Dan would move from the film industry capital to a smaller film town, so it seems a bit nuts to some people that I'd move from Montreal - a big city with (theoretically) more job opportunity, to a city in the Maritimes which generally has *less* job opportunity. It seems nuts to some that I'd give up a job I have here - not that it's perfect by any stretch, but at least it's a JOB, they argue - to not having a job lined up. It took me a good long time to come to terms with the fact that I probably wouldn't have a job lined up before going. Because, as you said, companies don't really believe you're going to uproot yourself. A Maritime city with a somewhat high unemployment rate (not as high as places in Newfoundland, thank god) is not usually the direction a person from Montreal or Toronto or Vancouver will go in.

But I'm doing it anyway. I'm going on vacation for two weeks during the first weeks of July. Going to look at apartments and (hopefully) sign a lease. Come back, give my 2-week notice at work. I've packed up a bunch of my books. I've almost finished writing a training manual for the next person who replaces me. This time, I think, I'm ready.

All the best to you and Dan and Damian.

Posted by: Amanda at June 20, 2005 06:44 AM

These leads me to a confession Tamar. When I first read about your impending move - about the idea of selling your house here and hoping it all works out so that you can eventually buy a house there - my feeling was, 'Wow, scary, but it will all work out.'

Partly I felt that way because of a lifetime of believing in the happy ever after, but I realised that it was also because I was reading about your life. And this isn't the sort of story with a sad ending, is it? No, this is real life. Your real life. I know that - knew it - but for a moment there, my programs about the written word were primary.

I still do think it's all going to turn out well though! :) And congratulations on the summer jobs - especially yours. Money is certainly good, and work can be good too.

Posted by: Kay at June 21, 2005 06:13 PM
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