One month ago we moved in. This seems somehow impossible. Time is simultaneously inching by and then, lurching forward. The adjustment has been unlike any we’ve had before. It’s been difficult primarily because all of a sudden we feel very “locked in.” Like anywhere else we’ve moved there’s the adjustment of a new city, of finding your places and learning your way around. But we’ve done that so many times, that it doesn’t really feel like an adjustment and causes exactly no anxiety. No, what we’ve had to adapt to here is the general low-lying feeling of being stuck.
I realize of course that this anxiety stems from living a pretty non-traditional life thus far. Our twenties were an absolute whirlwind, not without difficulty of course, but always with the promise of newness and adventure. We never really knew what was next, and thus, there was always intrigue for future opportunities. Living in Europe with flexible schedules and a desire to explore meant being able to travel the world. We thrived. And then suddenly it all came to a screeching halt. Alex now works 80 hour weeks with three weeks of vacation for the next…might as well be forever. And this is (unfortunately) normal in the US. So for a lot of residents, they have to adjust to their new lives, but fundamentally, not all that much has changed. For us? An incredible amount of change, not much of it positive. We now are closer to family (though we’ll see them arguably less than before), and we have access to Target. So, yay? We know it’s temporary, that once he’s done with this absurdly long training segment we can readjust our lives and live them more fitting to our preferences and values. We will gladly sacrifice money for freedom-an option that just doesn’t exist right now. It’s all fine. We view it as paying our dues. Or something. Life needs contrast, so this is ours.
On a day to day basis things are generally good. We’ve been able to explore the area a bit, including a mini hike to a waterfall for Alex to cliff jump. We’re going camping this weekend in the Great Smoky Mountains. I’m throughly entrenching myself in my various running groups and loving getting to know some awesome people and feel like I’m part of a community. I desperately wish that Vanderbilt were a place where Alex could also foster a feeling of community, but it’s just too big and not likely to happen. But as I’ve mentioned, it’s why in part we’re now focusing on smaller programs for next year. And although I’ve struggled with conversations a bit, I’ve met a few great people that I am really excited to form friendships with over the coming months. It’s just a bit hard that now all of a sudden I feel like I have to carefully guard a big part of my life (travel), though I know they exist, we haven’t met anyone for whom travel is a large part of their lives. It’s what bonded us all in Dublin, and everyone there was well traveled. It was a given. And conversations like “how’d you find Ethiopia? I was thinking that or Oman next break” weren’t weird. Now I feel like I have to be careful. Not to come off as bragging, when of course, it’s just a huge part of my life, so naturally I want to talk about it. Typically it’s how I’ve related to people in the past. And I have trouble talking to people about more everyday things like “oh, yeah, home improvement is rough…?” Can’t really respond with “homeownership sounds awful.”
On Saturday’s long run one woman I was talking to had traveled a bit in Central and South America and I thought, yes! This is so great! She said “I’m more drawn to the developing world in terms of travel.” I told her I was too, and that my favorite part of the world was South East Asia. She responded “huh, I’ve never even considered going. Is it difficult to travel there?” To which I responded it wasn’t, and explained the joys and ease and deliciousness of traveling there. When she asked what countries I’d been to I felt a drop in my stomach. How do I respond to this? She seemed very proud of the fact that she’d traveled to a handful of countries (which, she should be). How do I say 53 countries without being off putting? Previously this number would be considered “average.” Maybe on the higher end of average, but far from strange. I know someone who’s traveled to 135 countries, to 85, to 50 before their 25th birthday. But here, I haven’t found those people yet (though I know they exist). Maybe she wouldn’t have cared, or even thought it interesting. But I was super self-conscious about it. Luckily we were distracted by a water stop. But conversations keep going back to travel because it’s what I pick up on, it’s the most interesting part of my life. And I’d way rather talk about travel/adventure stories then…well…pretty much anything else (maybe except for food).
I’m sure as we adjust to this life and get to know people better the conversations will get easier, and more meaningful. This “friend dating” as an (introverted) adult is exhausting. But it’s also super rewarding. Aside from feeling a bit unsure of myself it’s been so good to get to know people. I honestly have no idea what I’d do without running and the community of inclusivity it fosters. Not only is the exercise portion an absolute essential for my mental health, but it allows me to meet so many different people and be imbedded immediately into a community that supports and cheers on every member. It’s pretty incredible. Of course, the three women I’ve talked the most to are all associated with the medical community (a resident Pathologist, NP, lawyer for a medical group), can’t seem to escape it!
So while adjusting to this new life is harder than anticipated, life is in general good. We live in a city that has everything we need or want (minus proximity to other countries), we’re slowly feeling settled and part of the city. Though I may never meet the people Alex works with, which feels very strange, I’m thrilled with the community I’m getting to know and be a part of. I’m excited to see how this year progresses. Perhaps by the end I won’t want to leave, I’m very much hoping that’s the case.