Leaving on a Jet Plane

I always tell people who are struggling with dilemmas to make sure they are the ones making decisions for their lives, and not just waiting for things to happen to them. Hate your job? Look for a new one. Hate your climate? Move to another one. Hate your current relationship? Choose to leave or make your best effort at finding a more suitable mate.

Here I am on the eve of my departure of Arizona, with my car and pod of belongings already on their way to my new apartment in St. Paul. The decision to move back to my home state after being away for 20 years was one of the most difficult I’ve ever had to make, because since the age of 16, I have taken charge of my own life. Really, though, either path ahead of me this time around would have been a bad choice. I could stay in AZ but be at the mercy of the lack of social safety net programs and dependent upon my own friends with their own families and challenges, or I could move to MN and have better programs and healthcare options and help from family and friends but be taken down by seasonal depression because of the 8 months of snow every year. Let me tell you, I am going to buy one (or seven) of those sun therapy lamps and sit and bake in front of it so I don’t go bat-shit crazy.

My family is going to be very helpful with getting me to and from doctor appointments and surgeries. However, since I’ll be living near my family, that means that they are going to know more about my dating life than they have ever known before. I am literally going to have to sneak my date(s) through the back door of my apartment because my sister works across the street, and it’s possible that her minions are going to report goings-on to her, whether she wants to hear them or not. No longer can I get away with vague statements about my romantic adventures. Of course, I’m assuming that I will date again – maybe not immediately, but I can’t be held down for long.

I moved to Arizona in November of 2003 after vowing to never go through another Midwest winter again. When I rolled into town, I didn’t know a single person, I didn’t have a place to live, and I didn’t have a job. I quickly found a place to live in a convenient location with only one huge downfall – my apartment was frequented by many, many cockroaches and crickets. The complex was treating my apartment every month but those little jerks would still come out in droves. I think the worst part was that when I slept I didn’t wear my wigs, so the bugs would crawl up into the corner of the bedroom ceiling and then make death-defying leaps onto my bare head in the middle of the night. There was even one time that I woke up because I was bitten on the back of my knee. I awakened almost immediately and figured out it was a cockroach that got me because it was scurrying away from that area of my body. Then I Googled whether cockroaches do that sort of thing, and they do! It wasn’t my imagination.

Internet dating was picking up speed in 2003/2004, so to solve my problem of not knowing anyone, I decided to go on dates. (I’ll cover that year in a future post.) The internet let me go shopping for men with my grocery list of requirements, which included such necessary items as “pays his own bills” and “does his own laundry.” The list from my 20s was more like “can’t have a hairy back” – oh, how priorities change.

I managed to land my long-term gig after being in Phoenix for a month. I was incredibly lucky to have a workplace only 15 minutes from the apartment I chose, because the job offer came after the apartment, and Phoenix is a city of sprawl – traveling from the SE corner of the suburbs to the NW corner takes an hour and a half or more, depending on how far one has to drive to get to a freeway. As luck would have it, I was one of only three women and the rest of the 33 employees in my work group were men. That gave me an additional pool of potential dates, of which I dipped my big toe into often.

Finding and keeping good friends is always a challenge for any adult who doesn’t still reside in the place where he/she grew up, or who doesn’t attend college in person. After many stops and starts in the realm of friendship, I feel like this is the best part of the world I created here and I have the hardest time saying goodbye to these great people. I have a meaningful connection with more people than the total sum of my fingers and toes and recognize that I am indeed luckier than I sometimes know or deserve. After taking the time to say goodbye to each of these people, hug them, look them in the eye and thank them for their support, I know without a doubt that these friendships are the greatest love story of all of the time that I have been here.

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