Grey Area

This post originally appeared on That First Year.

I was taught that there are two types of people in the world: people who can never take a break, and people who never want to get to work. At my office, it was announced a few months ago that in 2017 we will instate an unlimited vacation time policy; half my coworkers cheered, the other half put together a strongly worded email to the CEO. Some of them hadn’t taken more than a day at a time off in years. Others used their vacation days up so quickly they had to plan each hour out to the T.

Half of them can’t get enough of work. Half of them feel work is not enough.

But then, there are those of us who live somewhere in between. I find myself going months without taking a minute to look up—my nose so close to the grindstone, I listen to podcasts about “the grind” in my half hour a day of free time. I decide I want to take on all the jobs, the side hustles, the fitness challenges. And I don’t burn out; I get excited. I feel proud of myself. I think I can go like this forever.

Until I take a vacation. Eventually, it comes time for the holidays, or my friends and I decide to go away on a trip. I’m jolted for a day—what do I do with all this time on my hands? But it isn’t long before I relax into eating all the carbs and chocolate, turning on Netflix for six hours, not tempted to look at my email inbox for entire days. I can do rest like nobody else can—I am the queen of taking it easy. I think I can live like this forever, filled by the promise of infinite time and infinite calories. The joy of being out and about during office hours and seeing the sun for more than an hour during my lunch break feels like freedom and I think, nothing can be better than this.

Until I have to go back to work. My PTO comes to its end and I’m dragging my feet back to the office for another 8–5 run. I feel low, and trapped, reminiscing on the day before when I spent four hours drinking champagne on a pontoon boat. But it’s only an hour before I’m knee deep in emails, thinking about the latest problem that needs to be solved. I get home hyped on adrenaline and make a new meal plan—I can’t believe I let myself eat so much pasta—and I’m energized by the new challenges.

I enjoy my work. I enjoy my rest. I’m not one or the other, I’m not an either/or. How many of us ever are?

We’re not model-thin but we’re not going to be starring on my 600-lb. life either. We’re not child prodigies, but we have some talents we’ve been working at our entire lives, too. We’re not all good and we’re not all bad. Most of us didn’t really love Trump or Hillary. We are always somewhere in the middle, not an extreme, but just another lover of the grey area.

2017 is just around the corner, and with that comes a lot of expectation about who we want to start becoming once January 1st cleanses us of our bad habits and old, 2016 selves. But what if we didn’t have to choose who we want to be? Why can’t we decide that our resolution will be to eat healthier, but still make room for the pizza and chocolate when we want it? How about we accept that we’re never going to be an either/or, a one of two types of people?

How about we love to work, and we love to rest, and we don’t feel wrong for loving each while we’re in it.

Grey always has been my favorite color.

Somewhere Else

This post was originally published on That First Year.

“I’m moving to Canada.”

That’s something so many of us have heard, or even said ourselves, over the past week once America’s long-awaited election results stared us in the face. Canada’s immigration site even crashed from too many disgruntled, scared, devastated Americans looking for a way out. Canada will be better, we thought. In Canada we can find our peace.

We were searching for a place we could be accepted and understood. A place away from people we thought we knew and people who had disappointed us. A place away from the reach of a president we didn’t trust. And if the election had swung a different way, the other half of America would have been doing the same thing. Because really, we were all just searching for somewhere else—somewhere else sounded like a promising offer of something better than this.

For me, somewhere else has always sounded like a promise of something better.

In high school, nearing graduation, thinking, “College will be better than this. I just need to move away to college.”

In college thinking, “I just need to get away from this. Maybe I need to study abroad to really find myself.”

Back home with my parents for the first few months of post-grad life, thinking, “Once I move out, things will be better. I just need to move out for my life to get on track.”

After a trip to New York, thinking, “This is where I really should be. If I could move to New York maybe I could figure out what I want.”

Somewhere else. Somewhere more exciting. Somewhere away from the daily tasks and the daily tragedies life throws at us every time we wake up to face a new day.

But every time I’ve found myself in what was once my somewhere else, I end up realizing that maybe it isn’t going to be the solution to my problems after all. Somewhere else always finds its way back to the top of my list of dream destinations, again and again and again.

*

I’ll be honest, I was not made for travel.

I missed my stop on a one-way train from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles even though it only made three stops. Carrying a suitcase over my shoulder for more than a few blocks makes me feel like I’m carrying a bag of rocks as punishment for my sins. Being Southern California-raised means I don’t adapt well to different temperatures, and you can forget about me going outside to explore if the humidity is above 20%.

But I never remember those things when I look back to the different times I’ve decided I needed to go. I look through my photo albums from past trips and remember the mountain top moments, exploring the grottos of Capri, eating gelato three times a day, drinking a bottle of Pinot with new friends in a Paris hostel. The second my life starts to feel like it’s gotten stuck on loop—wake up, work, exercise, dinner, bed, wake up, work—I go back to thinking about getting out, buying a plane ticket, indulging in a one-way adventure with mountain top moments I can store away for safekeeping. I want to start over, be someone new. I block out all the practicality of how my plan will work, what my new life might actually be like, how I will start over the process of building a community around me. I just want to go, get out, find that somewhere else calling my name and plant a stake in it to keep it from flying away again.

Elusive, ever-changing, I’d follow the idea of somewhere else if it led me to my grave.

*

The day after the election, most of us realized we weren’t about to sell our homes, pack up our lives, and head for the sanctuary of the Canadian border. People posted statuses, wrote Tweets, took pictures of sunsets, marched in protests—the general consensus was, this is home. I’m going to stay here and fight for my home. Somewhere else isn’t going to fix the problem, the problem is right here waiting for me to fix it.

The problem is here.

I’ve spent so long dreaming of what somewhere else looks like, I sometimes forget to think about what it is I’m trying to chase in the first place. What does it have that I don’t?

The problem is here.

So close to home, waiting for me to fix it. To decide that somewhere else is a fantasy I don’t need to dwell in and reality is waiting for me to pick it up and learn from. Somewhere else can’t promise to give you something you already have the permission and the ability to give yourself: A chance to find the something better worth fighting for.

This is home, I think after a long, restless night of wanderlust-filled dreams before my 6 am alarm brings me into another day on loop. I’m going to stay here and fight for my home.

October

Every year since I was a freshman in college, I’ve had a boy in my life during the month of October.

Something about the changing of the leaves, the crisp tinge in the air, opening up my sweater drawer, drinking hot coffee on early mornings underneath thick blankets, sparks another feeling in me—a feeling like I’m ready for a hand to hold and to not be alone on Friday nights.

Not all of these October men turned into relationships… few of them did. But if I’m being honest, the relationship wasn’t really what I was after. It was the rush of meeting someone new who launched a knot of nerves in my stomach. Of late night phone calls and good morning messages. Of wondering what he was like in high school—wondering what he was like last year. My October men were mysteries to unfold, first kisses, someone to ward off that awareness of being alone that so often accompanies Christmas carols on the radio.

Last year I met a man in September. He took me to a pumpkin patch and we had scary movie nights in all through October. We drank hot coffee together and unwrapped each other’s mysteries. And when October ended, I found out that I didn’t want us to end either.

This year, we came to a lot of conclusions the week before October’s beginning. A painful, if needed, goodbye and I found myself in a position I’d never been in before.

I wasn’t going to be with anyone during the month of October.

I was in this one alone.

*

I think we make dangerous assumptions when someone says they don’t like being single.

“You need to learn to love yourself.” “You need to be comfortable with who you are.” “You don’t need anyone to complete you, you’re complete all on your own.”

You say these things hoping to make the friend who said she was feeling a little left out of the relationship parade see that there are steps she can take to feel better about her situation. But instead you made her feel like there is something wrong with her any time a twinge of relationship jealousy hits.

There is nothing wrong with her.

Here are some things you might not know about the girl who is single during October:

She loves going out on Halloween with her two best friends, dressed in cheap costumes, drinking cheap beer, laughing more than they talk.

She is happy when she stays in with a pumpkin-scented candle lit and the book she found for a steal last week.

She will scary-movie marathon by herself or with friends, but she’ll definitely have nightmares no matter who she scary-movie marathons with.

She goes to a pumpkin patch on a farm tucked away from tourist eyes with her parents and her sister and walks away with memories that make her so happy, she will hold onto them forever.

She is full, and she is complete, and she doesn’t need to learn to love herself because she’s already learned that lesson over and over again. But sometimes she sees a boy pull a girl aside for a kiss and she remembers that sometimes being loved by someone else is a beautiful thing. And sometimes she wonders how long it will be before she meets someone who makes her knees shake again.

*

It’s finally Halloween today, which means I made it. I went thirty-one days without a boy to get me through the barrage of relationship overload that surrounds fall. I drank way too many lattes and I bought two adorable pumpkins to sit on either side of my fall candle collection. I went to New York. I went to North Carolina and played in the fall leaves. I saw my friends—a lot—but I enjoyed some wonderful nights in, too. I watched a movie called Hide and Seek that still makes me afraid to turn my lights out at night.

And I get to keep all those memories for me. I don’t have to share them with someone else, don’t have to worry about them turning too painful to look at again.

Fall is a time for change. A time when the world takes on a different color, and we start opening different drawers of our wardrobes. A new menu is written on the Starbucks specials board, and sometimes we start over again.

We start over the process of figuring out who we are. We start figuring out that maybe fall isn’t the time to reach out for somebody else’s hand, but the time to rub ours together for warmth.

You don’t need to be happy about it. There’s nothing wrong with you for feeling the pain of change and wishing that sometimes things could be different. You don’t need to be hard on yourself for wanting what someone else has, what everyone else seems to have, but you do need to learn to live through it.

Get through October. Make it through October. The leaves have hit the ground, but you are only just starting to rise.

One Year Later

This post originally appeared on That First Year

Last Thursday, I got an email from my company’s CEO.

“Congratulations,” it read, “on the most important decision of your life thus far. You’ve been with us for an entire year!”

The email was a little presumptuous; I found it a little off-putting. But it reminded me of a milestone I would have marched right past had it not been for a standardized company email and nice little bonus gift in my paycheck—I’ve been living this adult life for 365 days.

It was only one year ago that I was sitting in coffee shops pulling my hair out over job applications… one short year ago “effective cover letter examples” was my top Google search. Only one year ago that I was living in my parent’s house stalking Pinterest decoration ideas for a little apartment in a big city I could call my own one day. One year ago I felt like everyone else was getting invited to live their dream lives while I was being shut out of the club.

I remember more than one night sitting on my living room couch, looking past my mom, best friend, or empty seat at a framed high school senior year photo of my seventeen-year-old self, blinking tears out of my eyes. Thinking, You wanted more than this. I just didn’t know what it was that I wanted more of.

I’ve always been a dreamer, to the point where missing milestones becomes my norm, and big accomplishments get passed off as mere stepping stones. 365 days ago I got a call from someone named Melissa in HR, telling me news I’d been dying to hear since I turned the tassel on my graduation cap, and for about five minutes my heart pounded with joy and I couldn’t wipe a smile off my face if I tried. I called all of my closest humans, I cried from relief, I thought, I finally did it.

But then came the apartment hunt, and then came the moving, and then came the first day, and then came the planning for how quickly I could escape this place and move on to the next. Not a month after I started my dream job, I was already setting timelines for how long I could enjoy it for before I moved on to “something better.”

The deadline was one year.

A few months into this adult life, I realized just how much I was enjoying it—I was getting used to feeling surrounded by friends, to runs on the beach, to my little purple-painted bedroom. I hadn’t woken up in a panic of “What do I do with my life?” in longer than I could remember. I was getting better at my job every day and started becoming friends with my co-workers.

“By fall of next year I’m either starting grad school or starting job applications,” I told my friends one night at happy hour (another perk of this adult life). We all agreed. We loved our first jobs, but we didn’t want to get comfortable. We had bigger dreams. We had to keep moving.

But one by one I watched all of those friends hit their one year marks, and each time they’d say it wasn’t time to move on yet. “I still have more to learn,” they told me. Or, “I like it here too much,” or, “It’s just too good a job to leave.”

I questioned them. I knew when I hit my year anniversary I was calling it quits, I was moving forward, I wasn’t going to let myself be held back. But the months kept passing, and that lightness in my heart kept expanding.

I made more friends. I got downright good at my job. I was learning more. I had time to work on my own projects. I went to more events. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my purple-painted bedroom. Every time I came home from a weekend away, I’d think, “This is home.”

I didn’t realize that all of those excuses my friends gave me when they decided to stay weren’t excuses—they were just happy.

It took me 365 days to take it in… I am just happy, too.

I’m still a dreamer. I still have a checklist with all of the places I want to live written down in my journal. I still spend half my life worrying about what I want to do with the rest of my life after this. Sometimes I’m so bored of my routine I want to hop on a train during my lunch break and just see where it takes me.

But for all the fears That First Year after being pushed out of college instills in us—after all the fear and stress and worry and wondering—one year later I’m living out the happiest, most blessed period of life I’ve encountered so far. One year later, I’m taking a moment to enjoy this milestone.

Sometimes, moving forward isn’t the answer to “How do I get ahead?” Sometimes, the life you’ve been seeking meets you just where you are.

Ring Finger

The church taught me about purity.

High necklines, no padding in your bra,

“Saving myself” ring

Branded onto the left, fourth finger.

Say no, when he invites you inside…

The inside of you, belongs to a him

You don’t know just yet.

Abide by these rules, and His grace

Will flood you—overwhelmed.

But what about the grace of his

Breath on my neck,

The ache of my groin as he digs himself in

—deeper.

I’m overwhelmed when he whispers,

“Baby girl,”

Washed clean by the evidence of love

Spotted on grey sheets.

Pure, I think,

His manhood still between my legs.

I am free

Of the guilt I was chained to

In the years I spoke of my body

As a husband’s prize.

I Wish I Was

couple cute

I’ve been listening to one song on repeat for the last 24 hours.

It’s about not being the hero in the story. About the times you have to be the bad guy to protect someone who’s good and deserves more. About the times when you wish you could be the more they deserve, that you could make something work just because you want it. But then you realize that wanting something doesn’t mean you get to have it.

Sometimes I forget I’m not living in a Disney movie. I don’t always get to be the good guy—I can’t always be the one the audience is rooting for. Not everyone who comes into my life is going to be able to flip back onto the chapters we shared and remember me with a nostalgic smile. Sometimes they’re going to wish that chapter hadn’t happened at all.

*

I have a tendency to drag on relationships longer than I need to. I don’t communicate the end well. I stumble and stutter and close off until a poor boy ends up confused, trying to understand what I’m saying and trying to comfort me as I fall apart under the weight of what I know I need to do—but they don’t realize I’m usually even more confused than they are.

I don’t like losing people. I don’t care if it’s a friend, a boyfriend, a family member, or a random classmate who loans me their white out on test days. I don’t know anyone who does.

But when you’re breaking their heart every time you try to convince them not to hate you, not to be upset that you want to take a different path, you’re not being the person they deserve. You’re not being the person your mother tried to raise you to become. You’re not being the good guy—

Telling someone “remember, I’m the good one. I’m the one who’d never break your heart,” comes with a big old, “I’d never break it on purpose.” And they stand there with their broken heart wondering what to do next, but you get to walk away, wipe the sweat off your forehead, thinking how lucky you were to escape that one unscathed.

*
We’re living our stories where we are the protagonists, and we want to twist and cram everything we do into the role of the good guy. But there are people outside of our stories who deserve to be a hero too.

I know a boy who has done everything right. He cherishes his role in my life and hugs me close when I’m sad or sick.

He’s made mistakes too. Sometimes he stops responding to my texts and tells me there’s no time in the day for us. Sometimes he cancels dates and forgets to ask me about my day.

I’ve spent the last year of my life trying to protect this boy’s heart—but when I look closer, I think I’ve really spent the last year of my life trying to protect my good guy status.

It hurts me to think about a time he’d look into my eyes and forget to see the good I wish him because he’s drowning in the pain I caused. It hurts me to think about seeing his name in his phone and scrolling past it because he doesn’t need to see a message from me.

And then one day a girl will come into his life and show him what it’s like to stumble back into love and she’ll take over the role I don’t want to lose. The girl who is good to him and could never break his heart…even if it wasn’t on purpose. The girl who he’ll spend forever with, long after our chapter has closed to never be reopened again.

He deserves that girl.

I’m not her. Even though I wish—lord, I wish—I was.

The Middle of the Story

He called me last Thursday, and I answered to the echo of, “here we go again.”

By Sunday we were back in his room with his cat watching his TV inching closer to his heart—

I didn’t want it.

By that night I was running out, running home, thinking never again, never again. Thinking, why—why do I always come back?

“You need a fresh start.” I wrote that in my journal Sunday night. Two words to mull around, to wash my guilt in, to hang up on a clothespin airing into my bedroom at night.

We usually think of fresh starts as solid things. They come on New Year’s Eve, at the start of a new school year, when you start a new job, when you go through a breakup. You wash your hands clean of the thing that was holding you back, the habits you started to see as unhealthy. You are detoxed. You are fresh. You are ready to make your life over again like Cinderella trading in her bare feet for glass slippers. It’s a glorified moment. It’s an optimism people bathe themselves in once or twice a year.

But we don’t usually talk about the moment when you start to backtrack on that new beginning. When old habits or old people or old thoughts start to creep back in. When you skip a day of exercise that turns into a week; when you turn on the TV when you get home from work instead of picking up your notebook and pen; when you stop meal prepping because your week is too busy for whole foods; when your hands get dirty in the mess of life and you forget that you had turned a new page and embarked on your fresh start as someone more disciplined. Happier. Better.

But it always happens.

When we broke up I said I was ready for a fresh start. I was going to get back into running and yoga, I was going to go out with my friends every weekend, I was going to read more books and write more words. I was going to read the news. I was going to read the Bible. I was going to be better, and he was still going to be my friend but he wasn’t going to hold a piece of my life or my schedule or my future.

And we talked irregularly and then we talked once a week and then we were talking almost daily. And then he called me last Thursday. And invited me to his house on Sunday. And I came home and wrote down the words “fresh start.”

I’m always talking about starts when I’m smack dab in the middle of a story.

I wasn’t going to see him anymore, but then I did. And then we broke up and got back together a few more times. Maybe last Sunday was the last—I hope last Sunday was the last—but leaving people behind doesn’t mean we have to start new chapters in our stories.

We’ve been in the middle of our lives since we learned to read the word “middle.” We can pretend that fresh starts are what we need whenever life gets hard, but we all know that when you start something there are going to be pauses and stops, highs and lows, a middle and an end.

Every time I say never again is not an ending. It doesn’t mean that the next day I’m starting over from Day 1. Because yes, I saw him again, and no, I don’t want to make a habit of it.

But leaving was easier this time.

I’m in the middle of this story that looks like changing key habits in my life, and I’m getting better at it. Day 1 tempts us with shiny fresh starts, but getting past Day 121 is where you look back and see real progress, real life, start to unfold.

Taking Some Time

Dark

These past few weeks—these past few days—have been dark.

We all know what’s been happening in the news. A mass shooting of innocent people. The murder of a young girl at her own concert. An arrest of a man with weapons intending to kill a community celebrating their pride. A toddler dragged by an alligator into the water to his death—at the happiest place on Earth.

It feels like the world is losing all of its happy places.

Politicians are arguing about gun control and public safety. There’s been a call for a ban of a group of people no more associated with terrorism than I am associated with the church who believed God sent the shooter into Pulse nightclub.

Everyone, it seems, is arguing about what it means to have love overcome hate, even though we can all agree that is what our world needs.

Yes, in the news and in my own life, these last few weeks have been dark. But I don’t know what it means to make a change. I don’t know how I can show love to my community—I didn’t realize how much I’d been failing them until hatred started seeping out of the cracks of people who’d spent so long biding their time in silence.

Now they’re loud, and they’re carrying weapons.

So for the rest of this month, I’m going to take a break from this blog. Cut back on social media. Stay informed by the news without spiraling into its darkness and coming up hopeless. I’m going to spend more time with my Bible—I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who clings closer to God in the hard times, and now’s my chance.

I’m going to read the Gospels, see how Jesus loved people, and loved them so well. How he put the Pharisees in their place when they condemned those who they didn’t agree with, or didn’t see as holy enough for their temples.

I’m going to spend more time with my people. Listening to them. Encouraging them to get honest about these dark places. I’m going to reach out, and I’m going to find patches of sunshine even through all this June gloom.

When times get dark, that’s all we can really do. Find our patches of light. Try to grow them. Invite people to join us in them.

Stay there, keep holding onto each other’s hands.

You’re Doing It Wrong

large (14)

Sweat rolls down my forehead, leaks into my eyes. I can see drops all across my arms and my yoga mat.

“Hold your plank for just ten more seconds,” the instructor says, her voice steady in the midst of what I’m pretty sure is an introduction to what hell would feel like.

The room is at a, what the website says, *comfortable* 101 degrees, and holding this plank on a Thursday night feels like finally hitting my breaking point. I’m about to collapse onto the mat—walk straight out of the room if my legs can still hold me up—never go back to Sweat Yoga. Avoid driving by it on my way to Wednesday night happy hours downtown in case somehow they drag me back in.

“Eight seconds,” the instructor says, in that annoyingly composed tone. “Eight seconds, to think about the shit that’s being thrown at you. Seven seconds, to prove you’re stronger than it.”

I’m still holding on. Eight seconds to think about the reasons I cried myself to sleep last night, and the night before that. Seven seconds to hold on, like I do every morning when the tears are dried and life keeps moving forward.

When she finally lets us drop to the ground, I collapse onto my mat. I’m glad that the room is dark, and nobody can separate the tears from the sweat on my cheeks.

“Let it go,” the instructor is saying. “Breathe out, and let it all go.”

*

There are a few things that happen when you graduate college. You celebrate school being finished. You send out job applications with big dreams and starry-eyes. You get rejected and ignored. You send out job applications, and LinkedIn invitations, and cover letter after cover letter—you dream about cover letters—you start losing steam. You want a job. You want a job so badly.

You get a job. You celebrate. You go to your first day in a new pencil skirt with starry-eyes. You love it, for awhile. Some days you hate it. Sometimes you wish you could go back to that time when you weren’t tied down to your desk, even though that’s all you wanted. You start losing steam. You want a new job, or to travel, or to do what that girl on Instagram is doing. You want that other life so badly.

And it’s not that what you have is bad, or that it isn’t what you expected. It’s that there are so many reasons to tell yourself that you’re doing something wrong. That you didn’t choose the right path.

You’re young, so you should be traveling the world. You’re new, so you should be exploring all your options. Date whoever you want, for as long as you want, while you can! Spend your money on experiences you want to have, while you can!

But you’re getting older, why aren’t you looking for someone to marry? But you’re getting older, it’s time for you to get serious about your 401K. Stay at the job for two years, minimum. Don’t spend all your money on that plane ticket, you have rent to pay.

You’re doing it wrong—I hear it like background music to everything I do. When I was first pushed out of the nest into the real world, my family and friends and professors and motivational books told me to follow my own path. To do what felt was right.

But now that I’ve been living in it for awhile, they make me think there’s a path I should’ve been following all along.

I chose a stable job, and a city close to home with plenty of friends I already knew. I chose consistency, and working in the background toward a much bigger dream. I chose to prioritize paying off debt and building a savings account. I chose to live in a way that would minimize anxieties and give me hardly anything to fear.

But I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on adventure. On challenges. On cool trips to see spectacular cities and meeting people who make me question everything I thought I knew about life. I feel like I’m missing out on a bucket list, putting it off until I have this amount of money or these successes to add to my resume.

I felt like I was crumbling inside, because I didn’t know how to change my life. Because I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I’m coming up on the anniversary of the day I left college, and when I thought I’d be moving along a path I planned to stay on for awhile, instead I feel panicked—not knowing at what point I can wander off to start a new one.

That’s how I ended up in a hot yoga class with a person I’d only just met days before. Just inching a toe across the line of the routine I’ve watched my life become. I wanted to try something new, meet someone new. Maybe try being someone new, who didn’t always feel worried that I was letting myself down.

*

“Let it all go.” That was the theme of the class. You’re letting your fear go, your inhibitions go. You’re sweating your skin off in a room full of people you don’t know, attempting to get in and stay in positions that make you more than a little uncomfortable. You’re breathing in heavy breaths and blowing it out with loud sighs and moans. You’re feeling a little silly and a little exhilarated but mostly just hot.

But you hold the positions. And you breathe through them. And you prove that you’re strong.

Until you don’t, and you fall out, and you lay like a lump in corpse pose while everyone else is trying hand stands.

“Go to your own flow.” My instructor says that whenever she sees or hears someone struggling.

So I do. I let it all go—the expectations, the judgments, the fear that I’m doing something wrong or making myself look silly. I hold the wrong pose in the wrong way and I take 500 water breaks.

I go to my own flow. And when I’m home that night, feeling loose and sore and still just a little bit overheated, I wait for the wave of panic to come over me. The one that tells me I have to wake up in the morning and keep walking the same road that I don’t even know I should be on.

But for once, it doesn’t come. I fall asleep as soon as I crawl under the covers.