The time I moved to Idaho – what a conundrum I am finally starting to solve and make peace with. I’m going to be real blunt and let y’all know that I went about doing so the entirely wrong way, although I’m not sure there was a better option considering the circumstances. I didn’t mean to blow out of Salt Lake City like it had been invaded by aliens and I had to head to Area 51 with Will Smith. Without a job, I worked until the last possible second to ensure I could have as much money put away as possible. I may be 34, but I’m clearly not a fucking adult so I didn’t have any savings or stability to coolly lean back on. This decision proved to be wise but left very little time & energy for a proper goodbye.
With two weeks standing between my job ending and Bridies beginning, we were determined to take advantage of it and get our bitch asses on the road. We traveled from Salt Lake to Reno where we visited with my sister. From there we traversed up the Southern Oregon coast as far as Florence, before cutting inland to Bend and finally heading back to Nevada to retrieve my car. Then a tumultuous 13-hour drive to Idaho that literally gave me the same level of anxiety I would have if I shit my pants and had to secretly walk around carrying a load.
When we arrived we had two days before Bridie had to be on the river and we spent it unpacking and getting our bearings. Just as I felt the fake semblance of any comfort, like a fucking Genie – POOF, she was gone. Of course I assumed that I’d be slaying haystacks, doing goat yoga, and acclimating like a goddamn rock star, but clearly that was a case of reckless optimism on my part. The idea that I would arrive to a new life in Idaho with no trouble transitioning, and without the potential to greet a bit of a depressive spell was naïve. The reality is it’s still hard to have my partner gone 98% of the time, and even more difficult to feel isolated in a strange place.
Slowly though, it’s becoming familiar and the pieces of myself that felt a bit buried and fragmented are returning. I found the local crystal shop which puts Dancing Cranes to shame. The second I stepped in there, relief washed over my body and healed it like I was plunging headfirst into a Hot Spring. I took note of the fact that there was a case immediately when you walked in that housed what I assumed was a taxidermied rattlesnake amongst a slew of gemstones. It lay frozen forever on fluorite, amidst amethyst – and a small note read: “Yes! I am alive.” I chuckled internally at their dry sense of humor until I returned later to see it actively slithering on selenite. It was like my dream (rock shop) had a baby with my nightmare (venomous snake) and there it was: SO FUCKING IDAHO. I find many instances of this, for example: walking past a minivan that instead of the annoying stick people decals used to denote their families and how many kids they have, they represent each member with guns. I wonder how long it will be before I’m…so fucking Idaho.
Turns out trying to make friends as a 34-year-old in a place where you have limited connections is challenging. Enter: Hannah, aka my roommate, aka my saving grace. Now we had never met in person before living together, so you can imagine my relief when we immediately and effortlessly bonded. She’s a rad, bad, queer, PhD student with a quick wit that challenges mine and she’s got the kindest heart. I’ll admit it took me a while to accept her invitations to me were because she wanted to hang out, and not because she pitied me.
One fateful morning when I walked out of my bedroom groggily and entirely too late she yelled to me: “Hey! You’re cordially invited to family dinner tonight, you free?” I opened up my imaginary social calendar, scrolling through all my non-existent engagements. “I’ll move some things around,” I said. We went about our days reconnecting later in the evening to go to her friend’s house together. “It’s walking distance,” she said, “So if at any point you’re uncomfortable and want to leave you totally can.” In retrospect, I now have a new understanding of where that flippant comment came from – but at the time I thought she was referring to the fact I was feeling shy, vulnerable and a bit up and down about transitioning into my new surroundings. What would make me uncomfortable at dinner, I wondered. Would I not like the way they cooked their tofu? Be appalled at the consistency of their quinoa?
Dinner came and went and as expected, I felt a little overwhelmed being in a house full of people I didn’t know and carrying on conversations with a bunch of individuals in academia. At one point I took notice of a few tarps tacked in the corner of the kitchen and on the floor. Since I obsessively listen to True Crime podcasts, I figured they were going to kill me but I inquired about it anyways. “Oh that’s for _________’s birthday. She’s not really into gifts, so we planned something experiential.” There was also a table housing a plethora of seemingly unrelated food items: Lucky Charms, tomatoes, oranges, bananas, and cottage cheese. As several girls began to change into bathing suits I started piecing together what would become a very weird yet wonderful puzzle.
“Do you want to participate?” _________ asked. “It’s your birthday,” I replied “You decide.” “Oh no! It’s all about consent,” she retorted. It’s hard to give accord when you’re not sure what you’re agreeing to, but my guttural instinct told me if anything, this was too good a future story to pass up being even a witness to. Two girls in sparkly high heels dumped all the fruit into two buckets and began mashing it with their feet. I changed into a very ill fitting bikini that barely housed my double D’s, unsure but tentatively there for whatever was going to transpire (within reason.)
That’s how I found myself engaged in what can best be described as a non-sexual adult food fight. The first thing that happened was that the girl I literally had gone to earlier in the day to get a ring resized, threw a banana at me and completely miscalculated it’s direction and fruited my face with force. It’s a small town so it’s not uncommon for things to overlap like going to get jewelry fixed and then having them hurl harvest at you. I won’t go into detail but people may have been whipped with celery stalks and despite showering I still found crusty cottage cheese in my hair the next morning – I’ll leave it up to your own personal vivid imagination.
I think this group was surprised AF that I stuck around and afterwards everyone cajoled: “Welcome to Moscow!” I feel like there were two gift baskets presented to me from the welcome wagon, one was a casserole, and the other – was to BE the casserole. Reactions from my friends in regards to this occurrence were as follows:
- “When did we trade lives?”
- “How are you meeting these people in Idaho? They are drawn to you in every state!”
- “That seems about right.”
- “You found your people!”
Low and behold, I guess I’m pretty on brand whenever and wherever I go. I’d love nothing more than to tell you all I am the strong person I intended to be in the interim but the reality is I still cry most days. But it’s okay to miss your friends and girlfriend and the place you lived over a decade. It’s fine to pace the streets of a small town with your tiny dog in hopes to get a mental map and some comfort with it all. It’s acceptable to be scared, lonely, and feel a little lost. To wander new forests and landscapes with apprehension, to trade cities for limited cell service and ultimately be okay. I’d say as far as where I’m going and what I’m doing I’ve never had less answers and I know I will find them all in time to come. The important thing is it’s hard but I’m trying, to find joy in and around myself, and I think I’m doing all right.
Here’s to staying weird. Xo