“Did you ever celebrate moving to Atlanta?” she asked me.
As much as I am the introvert’s introvert there are times, more precisely there are people, who work on me in the exact opposite way. They do not drain but fill me up, and I find myself wishing the conversation would go on forever and ever.
The question did not come out of nowhere. We had been discussing this very thing: my moving here, the difficulty I was having with that decision, my inability to deal with those consequences. And yet the question caught me off guard in that way that told me immediately it was exactly the question I needed to answer.
“No,” I said. “I never did.”
I never did.
I’ve been in Atlanta 8 months now, and it just occurred to me that I never really celebrated getting here. Oh, I’ve talked about it. I’ve recounted the story of what brought me to this place multiple times. I’ve had people be very excited for me, cheering me on, but I’ve never celebrated.
And it wasn’t so much that there wasn’t a party. I’m not sure I would have really wanted a party. I know I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much I ought to have. And my friend knew that. She and I are a lot alike, not in the least sense that she herself moved to Atlanta almost two years ago, for some of the same reasons as I did, and had dealt with many of the same things I’m currently wrestling with.
She knew that “celebrate” wouldn’t have meant a big to-do for me. In fact, she knew exactly the form it would have taken.
“You should do a Table for One,” she said. “You should take yourself out for a steak.”
And I knew she was right.
Table for One is my way of treating myself. It started as a semi-social experiment. I take myself out to restaurants as my way of challenging what seems to be a taboo: eating alone. But I learned a while ago it’s also a big aspect of self-care for me.
I never used to eat at restaurants alone. Fast food, sure. Take out, definitely. And these days you can get most anything delivered. But the act of going to a restaurant, sitting down, taking in the atmosphere, making the effort to get out of the house, is more than merely debunking social convention, it’s a way to remind myself that I deserve these kinds of things.
Which is why it was the perfect way to celebrate my coming to Atlanta. And, also, why I had avoided doing so since I got here.
The moment my friend even mentioned celebrating I knew why I hadn’t. I never celebrated coming to Atlanta because I didn’t think I deserved to. I got here and immediately let all the decisions and questions take the forefront: looking for a job, looking for a place to live, trying to plant roots in a new place. I never took a moment to revel in the fact that I had actually done it, this thing I had wanted to do for years. Instead I chose to do what I thought was the responsible thing.
Only the responsible choices haven’t worked out. At least, not how I thought they should. I still don’t have a job, not a steady one anyway, and it’s starting to seriously worry me whether or not I can continue to pay rent in the place I live. I’ve been worrying about all these things, I realized, for 8 months, without much change. The worrying was getting to me, all of it was getting to me, which is why I confided in my friend, who offered up dinner as a solution.
I’ve always hated the cliché concept that the moment you consign yourself to what is you’ll get what you want. It shows up in so many forms. The moment you are content with what you have you’ll get what you want. The moment you are okay where you are you’ll get where you want to go. The moment you’re fine being single you’ll meet the love of your life.
It feels like such a bait-and-switch. Like God is just holding back until you don’t want it anymore before he gives it to you. And while I don’t believe that’s the case, I’m starting to realize the actual truth.
When you are content with what is, you allow it to change.
It feels very paradoxical and in some ways looks a lot like the bait-and-switch. But I now realize that a big aspect of what’s been holding me back is that I won’t let myself believe it can be better. Though I want so much to.
I want to believe that this is all setting me up for something good. So many people have been telling me that, that they believe something better is just waiting for me, that I am on the cusp of something amazing, and oh, how God is using me. But up until last Wednesday, I had never really believed them.
I wanted to, but I wouldn’t let myself. Because I’ve believed for so long that my wanting something is a good indicator that it will never happen. That the moment I name my dream that’s a guarantee that I will never get it.
It’s cliché, but I won’t let myself enjoy things. Because I’m afraid they’re going to be taken away. And they probably will. Things change. People change. They move and grow and nothing is ever the same or solid. But you still get to enjoy things, don’t you? That’s what it seems like everyone else is doing. So why am I the exception?
I see now I was always looking for a reason. I wouldn’t let myself celebrate Atlanta because it felt like I hadn’t earned it. Even though, I have.
It was a long road getting here. A lot of decisions that were very much outside my comfort zone. I spent a year in limbo, living in spare rooms and extended stays, trying to take the “responsible” road to get here, only to pack everything up and come anyway. The story alone is worth some kind of celebration.
But it didn’t feel like enough. I didn’t believe I had done enough.
But, and I’m seeing this just now, I will never believe I have until I believe I have. You don’t shape the universe by choosing for it to be one way, but you do change yourself. Your thoughts, your attitude. They don’t necessarily change things, but they change how you view them, and that can change things. That can make change possible. Because you can bar a lot at the door. Until you let it in. And you get to choose to let things in.
So I let them in.
I celebrated moving to Atlanta. 8 months after the fact, but, hell, it’s never too late, right?
And, while it’s only been a few days, and even now I’m nervous to say one way or another, I am feeling better. I am starting to feel like things might be better. Maybe the biggest difference is that while I’m tempted to end this with “We’ll see if it lasts”, I don’t want to.
Instead, I’ll say: We’ll see where it goes.
I’m excited to see where it goes.