As updates go, this is a big one! I now live in Ambler, Pennsylvania, precisely two blocks from where I lived before the move to Portland on January 1, 2020. (Why yes that IS a crushingly expensive way to move two blocks, and I’ll talk much more about it later, promise!)
One of the things I put out of my head about the move itself — which was 7 days of road tripping car travel with a dog and cat, then 8 days of being stuck in Denver with a broken car, then a 3.5 hour flight to Philadelphia — is that when I got here, I would be moving into an apartment I’d never seen in real life.
For the second time in 2020.
The apartment currently has: tan carpets, beige walls, and the back of a walk-in closet that I’ve claimed as my writing spot. (I’m here now, writing to you in it!)
As someone writing to you with no furniture from a closet, I can assure you that…
This is Square One: the very beginning.
Nothing is done, and all the work lies ahead.
Psst! This is an episode of my podcast, That’s What She Said!
You’re always at Square One when a chapter ends.
Portland had lots of steps, and getting out of Portland had lots of steps, and when you end a chapter that big you inevitably begin again.
To make any progress, you have to pass through the territory of Square One. And begin again.
In case I sound wise AF saying this: NOT AT ALL.
Two nights ago I was sitting on the back patio, moaning ‘I have to do this’ to Doey.
I have to talk to the landlord about how to plug in the stove.
I have to change all my account addresses to Ambler. Again.
‘Have to’ focuses on what’s daunting, difficult, or depressing about the road ahead.
Shouldn’t there be some point at which moving becomes simple and easy?
Shouldn’t landlords simply stop buying institutional beige paint and save us all the painting-over process?
Where is my similar-to-Queer-Eye-design-team who will makeover my apartment in 5 days or less?
And then the usual Asshole Brain 2020 questions:
Why is everything so hard?
Why can’t anything just be PAID FOR BY SOME SORT OF TRUST FUND FOR WEIRDO CREATIVE HUMANS?
But then our landlord comes over and demands that we accept her offer of a free patio table and six free patio chairs OR ELSE and PLEASE USE THE EXPENSIVE GRILL HER BROTHER LEFT HERE and make yourself at home.
All of a sudden, I’m flooded with ideas: we can paint the patio! We’ll order an outdoor rug to cover up the spots on the porch that can’t be walked on in bare feet! We’ll put out art invitations for our lunch breaks, Meri Cherry style!
When the focus shifts to possibility, ‘I have to do this’ sentiments reveal their other side: I get to do this.
I have to do this.
I get to do this.
It’s an AND.
Yah, I’ll have to figure out how to make tan carpet attractive (HELP PLEASE HELP I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THIS MIGHT BE DONE), but I’ll also get to live and work and play with my partner and two best friends for the foreseeable future.
For sure, we’ll have to figure out boundaries and personal space and how to not get sick of each other over the course of the coming years, and also we’ll get to build a life together that’s rich, deep, fulfilling, and magical.
So if you find yourself at the Extreme Beginning of anything at all: I feel you.
I’m at Square One AGAIN this year.
I have to make a home again.
…I get to make a home again.
Those two sentiments will move in and out. They’ll undulate regularly.
Knowing that these sentiments are two sides of the same coin makes the ‘have to’ easier to handle, because the ‘get to’ is always on its way.
Power-washing the patio is right next to picking flowers from the yard and putting them in vases absolutely everywhere.
Assembling the outdoor cat playpen via somewhat torturous instructions lies energetically adjacent to dreaming up more private and colorful outdoor spaces. (Why yes I *did* lose a screw in the sidewalk when I was ‘helping!’ Impressive, eh?)
Getting the electricity transferred to my name is a stone’s throw from making plans for exactly how many different kinds of wallpaper one can fit into a single apartment. (Back of cabinet wallpaper! Bathroom wallpaper! Closet wallpaper! Wall wallpaper!)
Have to, get to.
Have to, get to.
A big part of your job with the ‘have to’s is to make up ‘get to’s.
For every shitty and awful and hideous task presented by Square One — the very beginning — there’s an opportunity to make it up, do it a different way, clear old garbage out, and try again.
It’s a hard job, and in 2020 an exhausting one.
It’s also worthwhile AF.
Does any part of your life feel like you’re at Square One, chock full of HAVE TO?
If so, where do you GET TO do something awesome, rad, subversive, weird, fun, or revolutionary?
Pro tip! It’s highly unlikely that outside forces will provide you with the get to parts.
‘Have to’ will be dictated by outside forces: paperwork, forms, documents, governmental agreements, and adulting-mandated tasks.
‘Get to’ is entirely yours. It’s NOT a reminder that you have X privileges and should JUST BE GRATEFUL ALREADY.
‘Get to’ is joy-based and generally functions outside of capitalism. It uses the resources at your disposal in creative ways.
In other words, ‘get to’ is fucking FUN.
In many cases, ‘get to’ is making the moves that only make sense to you.
You get to write the book or the movie or the poems or the blog or the weird snippets that have no shape or form just yet.
You get to frolic outside instead of scrolling for another hour or seven on Instagram.
You get to make stuff
and destroy stuff
and begin again
I’m the last person to shame you for beginning again (see: TWO cross-country moves in 2020!).
I’m simply reminding you that beginning again has its benefits, and maybe embrace those benefits, sparse as they may be?
At Square One of any major project, our ‘have to’ impulses focus on what’s daunting and difficult. The lesser-used ‘get to’ muscles focus on possibility, creativity, and the wide open portions of the road ahead.
The bonus, of course, is that ‘get to’ has the best wallpaper.
If you know or operate a source of amazing, fun, wild, and/or animal-patterned *REMOVABLE* wallpaper, I’d love to see it!