I am an impulsive person. I try, when I can, to plan things out, but the major life decisions I have made were done quickly, without pause, with a knee-jerk reaction. When I lost my virginity, I merely accepted it as something that needed to be completed. It did not come with calendar hearts or a long conversation. It happened because I saw the opening (ew) and got it over with. When I left for college, it was because I was so done with everything about Long Island that I didn’t even graduate high school. I left a bunch of angry friends without telling them I was going and just didn’t show up for my senior year. After I graduated college, I spent a year bumbling around Great Barrington, MA trying to figure out what I wanted to do with myself. When a relationship turned sour and my fight or flight response kicked in, I packed all my bags, filled up my car, and got a job in the Berkshire woods as the creative arts director of an overnight camp. I lived in a tent for three months and had no idea what my plan was once the job ran out.
Because my student debt was so overwhelmingly burdensome, I knew that my resources couldn’t take me too far. I just knew I had to leave that tiny town, that cookie-cutter resort for summery Manhattan debutantes and rich middle-aged couples drinking wine in open restaurant windows. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best years of my life were spent there, but I was not wealthy nor beautiful enough to continue my residence in GB.
When my job at Camp Nawaka stalled out, I packed my car again and, after staying with a few friends for a week or so, I started looking for jobs and apartments in Northampton. Northampton, or Noho, as the cool kids call it, is about an hour and a half Northeast of Great Barrington, three hours and change from NYC, an hour and a half to Boston, and quaintly nestled in the beautiful Pioneer Valley of Hampshire County. It is home to Smith College and within fifteen minutes of Amherst, UMass, Hampshire, and Mt. Holyoke Colleges. It’s bustling downtown street life, amazing music scene, its young, Liberally-minded, culturally-aware townies, and semi-affordable housing made Northampton my new oasis. And I embraced it. For a long time.
Fast forward from August of 2008 to present day 2013, and I’m ready to break up with you, Noho. And let me just start by saying, it’s not you. It’s me. You’ve been really good to me, baby, and I never wanted to hurt you or anything, but you just can’t give me what I need anymore, you know what I’m saying?
When I arrived, Northampton seemed like a city compared to Great Barrington. I could walk downtown from my apartment and everything I could ever want was in a one mile radius. Places to dance, read my words, drink amazing coffee and beer, tons of live music venues, an awesome radio station, a food co-op and fresh air market, a bike trail, place to swim, and tons of babely residents to keep me company.
It did take me a few months to come into my own when I first moved here, but after catapulting myself headfirst into the spoken word scene, frequenting a hip little dance club on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and knowing the right places to get a brew on the cheap, Northampton soon became the home I never had with the family I’d always wanted.
But something started happening about a year back. I’d start recognizing the same twelve people in the coffee shop sitting at the same tables every time I’d go in. I’d walk into a bar and know the sexual histories of every intoxicated person lining the pool table. And the one-night stand with that someone you hoped to never run into again? Fat chance, sweetheart, because there he is at Trader Joe’s. Oh, and there he is at Reggae Night grinding on some other girl with that same shit-eating grin. And fuck! There he is driving slow down your street while you’re stumbling back home, and no, I don’t need a ride back to my place, thank you very much. All of a sudden, Northampton got small. Too small.
So here I am. Squirming in my seat, that itch for impulsion propelling me into a forward motion, but I’m stuck. I can’t go anywhere and I’m crawling out of my skin, practically salivating to go somewhere new, to get gone, to good riddance this place and everything about it…at least for a while.
The reasons why I can’t just up and go are not as crippling as they once were. In fact, they’re pretty awesome. For one, a few amazing members of my family scrambled together and shocked the hell out of me by pooling their finances and paying off my unbelievably monumental private loan that has pretty much been ruining my life for the last seven years. And while I still have a bunch of federal debt chewing at my ass, the government will let me defer that and at least get my ducks in a row–career-wise–before they decide to own me. What’s more is that I applied to grad school for social work, which is super exciting (and nerve-wracking and terrifying and anxiety-provoking, etc.) but now I am playing the waiting game with academia and have no clue where I’ll be this time next year. I only applied to three schools, knowing that I’m really only likely to go to a program that’s going to fund me, and because just applying costs an arm and a leg, I wasn’t gonna fuck around. Now I’m waiting on the universities of Washington (state), Chicago, and Michigan to ultimately be the deciding factors of my future and I will continue undergoing acute panic attacks until I find out if I got accepted. More likely than not, there’s no way out of here until at least July. Unless I don’t get in anywhere, then I’m hitting the road the second I receive my last rejection letter.
Because, I’m impulsive remember? I make stupid purchases without thinking, I adopt pets at a moment’s notice, I chop off all my hair and shave portions of my head out of boredom, I ink and pierce myself out of rainy day lethargy, and if I’ve ever loved you and you’ve made me angry, you can be sure that some projectile (a fist, a bottle, a pepper–whatever!) has come flying in your direction before I gathered the wherewithal to calm my ass down. And I know my own game these days. I start becoming the person, that I recognize by now, as the girl who has had enough.
I have had enough conversations about white privilege with people who have never lived a day off their father’s credit card. I have had enough Okcupid messages from people I already know who just wanted to say hi. I have had enough of feeling alienated by bars, or stores, or houses because my romantic misadventures have made me too awkward for accidental run-ins in public. I have had enough of everyone knowing my goddamn business and talking to me as though they have a right to it. I have had enough of clumsy undergraduate children taking up my dance floor to stick their tongues down the DJ’s throat, or to undergo their first Lesbian experience. I have had enough of Freegans. I have had enough of dread-locked liberal arts graduates asking me for change outside the coffee shop in between text messages on their i-phones. I. Have. Had. Enough.
Then I’ll enact a neurotic check-list of behavioral changes that work to alienate myself from a place, because I can feel it. I’m ready. First, I’ll start getting rid of tons of shit. I’ll clear out my closets, give furniture away, itemize my needs and get a boner envisioning my empty bedroom.
Then, I will become distant. The more you mean to me, the more likely it is you’re going to be ignored. You’ll keep doing things you’ve always done, but for one reason or another, it gives me the rage and I will isolate myself from you. I want to say I don’t mean it, but I do. I know that I’m going to mourn you when I leave and my only means of self-preservation is to act as though you don’t exist, or make excuses about why I don’t want to see you. Then, I’ll get drunk and probably send you a text message akin to “Whatever, I’m leaving anyway so none of this matters” and the next morning I will feel mildly suicidal because of it.
I will start taking long walks. Aimlessly biped-ing my way into whatever direction I throw myself just because I can’t sit in my apartment anymore. Because I can’t be present when I’m not here. Because inside my head, I’m already gone and I am roiling in an anonymity so thick I can’t wait to touch my first stranger. Because if I’m moving than I’m not thinking because I’ve been thinking so much that everyday brings a new migraine, a new hurt, a new realization that I’m not going to become who I am supposed to be while I am here.
And then, I think about you, Northampton. I think about you and every person who has changed me since I’ve gotten here. I think about how nothing’s been the same since I read at my first open mic. Since I pressed my lips against a mouth I never thought I’d want. Since I tried quinoa and cinnamon. Since I discovered the Mental Health field was where I wanted to devote my professional life. Since I threw my drink in that person’s face and they still loved me. Since I started taking my Black Velvet with ginger ale. Since I learned these things about myself I never would have known if I hadn’t stayed here so long. Since I felt like I belonged. Since I felt like I didn’t.
And then I know for sure, when it’s time to leave, because I start to miss you. I start to ache. And I want to get it back. That feeling of knowing when you’re home. And I guess that what it all comes down to, what all this misbehaving levels up to mean at the end of the day, is that this isn’t my home anymore. And it breaks my heart.