I can still remember the emptiness I felt on that bed. Lifeless. Tidbits of paper hovering over me with goals I deemed as unattainable because of whatever excuse came to mind, followed by a deafening silence that even the loudest of headphones couldn’t drown. I was depressed. Each day felt like a year, which evolved into a decade, and everything became like a rerun of those novellas my grandma would religiously watch every morning. Following a two and a half year journey that led me to soul mates, breakups, drug usage, and dropping out of school, I was caged and sealed in my hometown for the past year and a half, a time to reconnect with my parents who almost enjoyed the fact that their little boy was back under their watch. I mean, if captivity taught me one thing, it definitely was to write my heart out to the only person who seemed to understand me—that black leather notebook was my one true lover at the time. “I know that there’s more to life than this,” I’d say to myself.
It wasn’t until that Tuesday in late May that it finally hit me. I’m finally living out my dream of flying out West. On the night before the big trip, my mother would ask me, “How are you feeling? Aren’t you gonna miss home?” I knew she knew what the answer was. My friend Mike would tell me “You should stay with us, Gus. You know people here. Everyone’s going to get mad or miss—“ I stopped listening after that point. None of them have ever taken any action in their lives that required working for themselves. It wasn’t their fault though. Long Island was simply not the place it was when our parents moved there 20 or 30 years ago. Culturally, my town never changes. People are still reminiscing of the day Patricia Barnes tripped at the high school pep rally eight years ago or one of the countless weekends you got drunk at the local sump. Tony’s still at the Carvel, Jenna’s at the local bar. Financially though, our parents are still slaves to their homes, their cars, their competition with Mr. Jones down the street, etc. It was a dead end and those who are brave enough leave, but many will never find the maturity or courage to do so.
It was the morning of the 17th, and the pressure inside my stomach clutched every element of my body. I barely slept all night thinking about this moment that I’d long been waiting for, however, I was highly unaware of the unexpected adventure that the universe had in store for me before I got there. We arrived at the airport, a dull grey apparatus with the gleaming city skyline in the background. My father’s always been a man who perceives black and white as two distinct entities, no more no less. The thought of him going to an airport he was unfamiliar with was “una locura,” especially when the two terminals were indistinguishable. After countless turns around the freeway, we arrived almost half an hour behind schedule. Predictably, my father would start one of his typical humorous rants of an aging man, “Aaahhh, this airport’s such a pain in the ass! I don’t understand why they have to make this shit so complicated!” Hearing him made me laugh, but for the first time ever, it hit me. I wasn’t going to hear these rants for a while. Then it all came back. My mother’s little bickering with Grandma over eating a whole box of chocolates, my aunt passionately crunching away numbers during tax season, my weekend reunions with my friends of chugging Four Lokos and speeding down Ocean Parkway to see the sun rise. I was leaving. The hug that I gave my father was one of the longest we’ve ever exchanged; I knew there wouldn’t be another one for a while.
If there was one thing I learned that day, it was definitely the importance of “getting there two hours before your flight leaves.” Sleep’s always been precious to me, and I was not about to ruin that for any major move or life change no matter how big. However, the universe will teach you the meaning of hustling whether I liked it or not. I remember running through the barrage of travellers with a hopeless attempt at catching my flight, and at first, there was an illusion that I might have succeeded. Then customs happened. At that point, there was no choice but to accept that my six-hour flight had just turned into a 18 hour waiting game accompanied by overly salted airplane nuts and cheap soda. Heh, at least I can say I “traveled” across the country. From talking to the gracious flight attendant in Chicago to almost getting off the plane in breathtaking San Diego, life was teaching me the lesson of patience yet again.
18 gruesome hours later, I managed to make out the icon that made Seattle look like a miniature Tokyo. At least that’s what I read in a random article on Google. Haggard, hungry, and desperate for some rest, I stepped out of the terminal and into the railway to downtown. I smiled until the sides of my mouth went numb. Never have I felt so accomplished, so refreshed, and honestly, so free. The nostalgia quickly dissipated as I stepped into a high tech vortex that would be my home for the next six months.
It’s almost funny how much your mind can separate dreams or fantasies from actual reality. The miniature Tokyo ended up being the opposite of what I envisioned. The Space Needle—an obvious trap for the your wily visitor with their ever so stylish fanny packs—ended up being as cutting edge as Google proclaimed it to be. However, there was something that told me that this was not like any other city. I knew I had a purpose for why I came, but of course, life’s generous if you decide to wait long enough. During those first few months, I managed to find a small room not too far from downtown, landed a job at a local pizza joint, and on the surface, life was good. At least I convinced myself that. My internal dialogue of denial would repeat, “I wanted this. This is my dream. I’m living it!” But being alone in a place that doesn’t necessarily warms itself up to an outsider turned out to be the best mistake I could’ve made; the “Seattle Freeze” is real folks. The “outsider” status is not new to me, but I wanted to believe that it was going to be a lot easier, or that I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to make things happen. It’s part of something you learn, I guess. It forced me to reflect on my past a lot, and self analyze certain elements that have still followed me across the country. My life the past few years, my recent heartbreak, my own prejudices towards others, etc. Moving to another city was only the beginning. Dealing with life and all the beauty and ugliness it contains was another species.
As I’m sitting here writing away like a juggling acrobat, it’s almost crazy how fast my life’s progressed in only nine months. I’m in a completely different city, experiencing a lighter energy, and living a more satisfying life, but it wouldn’t have happened without those months of gloom, analysis, and friendships that remain with me to this day. I still talk with my mother on the phone and she’ll always mention to me whenever I tell her about my life that, “I was the one who decided to leave!” I don’t regret one day. But the time that I’ve spent have taught me lessons that no physical comfort could ever teach you—I’m finally living.