"None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”
- Jane Austen, Persuasion.
Dark clouds rolling in from the Atlantic had become an expected sight in my short time in Porto de Galinhas. Around 3:00 in the afternoon, they'd appear on the horizon, steadily growing closer. Tourists lazing about on the sand and vendors hawking piña coladas and sunglasses all kept one eye squinted seaward, calculating just how many minutes of sunshine they could squeeze out before the clouds arrived. As they approached, the beach would quickly empty. Getting caught in the deluge the first afternoon was enough for me - I learned to get to a cafe and wait the weather out there, my hostel just a few steps farther than the time it took from cloud appearance to cloud burst.
The final day, as I followed others scurrying for shelter, I ran across a group of local kids. They were still in the ocean, shouting, laughing, having the time of their lives. It looked like fun - I may have wished for a moment that I was still 12 and unconcerned by lightning.
I love a good boat metaphor.
"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by..."
- Sea Fever, John Masefield
Bound for ports unknown. Or known. This *is* a Disney cruise.
While I'm wrapping up blogging about my experiences in Brazil and Argentina, the truth is, there's been a ridiculous amount of rough water in my life in the three months I've been home.
I returned to the US with a directive to call my mother, ASAP. She had good news - after three years on and off the market, my parents had sold their house. I traveled home for what I assumed would be the last time, to help pack up. Meanwhile, I knew I only had two weeks left in my own apartment. My two roommates were moving on to new opportunities outside Brooklyn (New Haven and Zambia, respectively) and so I was left with a three bedroom apartment where I couldn't dream of financially qualifying to take over the lease.
I'd hoped a new apartment would fall into my lap much as my first one had, but after two weeks of e-mails and phone calls, it became apparent that lightning does not strike twice. When our lease ended, I put my belongings in storage and returned to Virginia, staying with my parents for the few days we had left in our home of 29 years. From there, we traveled up to their summer home in Canada. I stayed for a couple weeks, furiously hitting up Craigslist for possibilities on the NYC apartment front.
"I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife..."
Being a teacher, I was lucky enough to have until the beginning of September to secure a new place. August rolled on. I got a few promising leads on apartments in the city and flew down to check them out in person.
The first girl, through an unfunny comedy of errors, basically stood me up. The second raised the asking price and found someone else who was willing to pay it. After a couple nights in a hostel, I took a bus down to my aunt's house in Virginia, crashing with her while I continued to look.
I repeated the cycle the following weekend. Bus up to New York, pay for a hostel, look at several apartments, get rejected.
A few days before school began, a friend from high school put me in touch with some people who needed a subletter. This month-long grace period allowed me to start off the school year (putting some much-needed money back in my bank account) while giving me a little longer to search.
I clung to the idea of going back to work, my rock in an ocean of change. Then, the night before the first week, I was informed that I would be subbing for Kindergarten. And while I didn't mind - it was fun and brought in some extra money - it was one more change I had to deal with. Once my normal classes resumed, I discovered that I was essentially being kicked out of my tiny corner of office space and relocated in a hallway, along with my supplies.
Work felt like an deflating life jacket and the few friends I had left in the city hadn't even offered to let me crash with them for a night or two during my search. Meanwhile, I was receiving loads of encouragement from my friends back in Virginia. Still, I continued the pattern - call or e-mail, hear back from maybe 1 out of 10, interview, get rejected. I was a soppy mess on Facebook. At my lowest point, I posted that I felt adrift and just wanted a home to feel homesick for.
"And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat."
- George Gray, Edgar Lee Masters
It wasn't until the very end of the month that I admitted defeat. Between the changes at work and impending homelessness, my parents called to offer their two cents - maybe it was time for me to leave New York. Hearing them say it gave me the freedom to let go. However, in the past, I'd always known returning home was an option if everything else failed. Now I'd lost that security as well. After finishing up their time in Canada (they're prohibited from staying year round due to their six-month resident status and the fact that the pipes installed for a summer cottage would probably freeze in winter), my parents were headed off on some adventures of their own. Instead, I called my wonderful aunt and asked if I could crash with her for a few months.
I'm currently searching for a job in Virginia. I need that anchor in my life, that certainty. I fit my horoscope profile - a crab that's happy to travel, but at the end of the day, needs the comfort of home close at hand. (Claw?)
"To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid."
So, while I want to agree with Jane Austen, and John Masefield, and Edgar Lee Masters, the boat that is my life needs to find a safe harbor to return to as well.