I’ve lived in a lot of places in my life. Enough that I’ve only ever stayed put long enough in my adult life to be called for jury duty once, during graduate school. I’ve lived on both coasts and in the middle. I’ve lived in cities I’d go back to in a heartbeat if a job presented itself, and I’ve lived in cities that I ran from as fast as humanly possible.
I’ve said repeatedly that any place I live in that isn’t the 9th Circle of Hell is home, but I’ve also said that home is nowhere. Each city has been a steppingstone. It has been something impermanent to be enjoyed for a few years and moved on from when career or family beckoned ever onward. I’ve never fully believed that I’d ever stay in one place long enough to truly settle down, even as I carefully chose my current city with the stated hope of finally finding a way out of the 9th Circle of Hell for my family situation for good. I look forward to the day in a few years when I can legitimately say I’ve lived away from the 9th Circle of Hell more years than I’ve lived in it, but it would take a very long time to be able to say I’ve lived in any one place longer than I walked the cursed ground of my childhood.
Trauma tends to destroy trust. It’s almost cliche to be commitment phobic as a result of complex trauma, but I’ve certainly been that commitment phobic and untrusting girl for most of my life. My shattered faith in humanity has previously led to a few relationships of exactly the “you get the crap you ask for” type that you might expect. Trauma begets trauma, as I started short-handing it somewhere along the way.
I’m still commitment-phobic, and I still have a fairly dim view of humanity (though I like some select humans.) I’m just no longer afraid of a relationship. My Partner has ventured to the 9th Circle of Hell and spoken up in my family’s defense twice now. He’s beginning to have the nightmares and hypervigilance of trauma in his own right to prove it after what those visits have proven to him exists in the world. I have to assume if he’s seen that much of my Hell and stuck around, he’s probably there for life. My Partner is probably the only person I will ever trust in my life, but I do trust him. I’m not commitment phobic about relationships anymore.
I’m just commitment-phobic about cities. It turns out I really like the East Coast. I like that people are kind of comfortably isolated and don’t expect anything from me. I like public transit, even when it’s hard to get someone to give up a seat for me with chronic illness. I like the variety of restaurants, the plethora of public parks and even the blizzard-cold winters. My dysautonomia really loves the cold winter; heat is not its friend. About the only thing that has so far kept my current city from rising from like to love is that I really haven’t made any friends here. It gets harder to make friends the older I get, and social anxiety doesn’t help.
I may or may not have taken a step in that direction this week. Some of us decided to form a practice group for Improv, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a smaller group of people that practice scene work outside of class with a coach who has been successful and who sees potential in us as a team. The hope is of coalescing enough to eventually audition together. We can’t audition for the main performing troupe without having a theater background or completing the full sequence of classes, but there are other ways to perform for a wider audience around the city if a group of students is committed enough to form an “indie” troupe. Our coach had to cancel the first few sessions to go support another indie group he coached at their debut in a local theater – always a good sign – but today we finally had our first practice. Working in a small group that’s dedicated seems like it will seriously up my game. It also seems like it might connect me to the Improv community in a way I wasn’t connected before I became a more advanced student.
Oh, and our group discussed getting together for things that were more than just Improv related, including maybe just seeing Incredibles 2* together. That starts to sound tantalizingly close to a group becoming more like friends than just acquaintances.
That terrifies me. You see if – despite my best attempts at being socially awkward and weird – I manage to make friends, I might start to want this city to be my home. If I manage to get good enough at Improv that I ever perform outside of open mic nights and student showcases, I might want to keep doing it. That’s not going to be as easy as it sounds if I leave where I currently live. Cities seem to either have such a big Improv scene that you have to be worthy of Second City to perform at all, or they seem to be so small that there is no Improv to speak of. I am pretty sure I’m not Jim Belushi, Steve Carrell or Stephen Colbert-level good. I love it that my current city is big enough to have Improv, yet small enough that anyone with the most serious pretentions at it will just move to New York proper and leave a space here for folks who enjoy it as a hobby. That’s a rare combination.
All of these things together make me just want to live in this city for – dare I say it – good. And that sucks. That sucks because my current office is falling apart and I’m worried about my job security. That sucks because I’m not confident I could find my next job in this same city if I wanted to. That sucks because this city is still pretty damn expensive even if it isn’t New York expensive, and, without a job, my need to protect myself at all costs would quickly make me feel compelled to widen my job search to anywhere that would have me. That sucks because, when it comes right down to it, I’m still terrified I won’t make it in one place long enough to risk getting attached. I got attached to another city. I didn’t find my job after grad school there, and I still miss it. I don’t want another lost love to regret.
I’ve looked at my sojourns in cities as extended tourist visas, but complex trauma has never let me believe that I could ever become a true citizen of any of them. Forget having a kid or buying a home. I still panic at the thought of signing a two-year lease. My life has been too chaotic for too many years to trust that I won’t be abandoned by my city of choice again.
I learned to trust a human, but that took years and, quite frankly, waiting until he’d literally lived my trauma and not left for me to do. How do I learn to trust a city? How do I trust myself enough to embed myself within that city when it or I will probably break my own heart if the bully-in-my-brain is right?
*Oh, and on a simpler note, how do I politely explain that I probably can’t see Incredibles 2 in the theater? I’ve only had one previous movie actually trigger a full-on seizure – my one and only seizure in my personal life though epilepsy runs in my family – during a flashing bright lights scene. However, I’ve had to walk out of several movies because, while not quite seizure-inducing, they were certainly migraine inducing. Apparently, Incredibles 2 has a thirty-second scene that isn’t migraineur or epileptic friendly. For my spoonie readers, consider yourself warned if you are thinking of using that movie as a way to make friends (or just looking for a night out.)