Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Itchy Feet

This is going to be one of those personal posts that has very little to do with adoption. Except that it kind of has a lot to do with adoption, eventually. I promise.

Lately I've been restless.

I should be more specific. I tend to be restless physically as a general rule. I can't remember the last time I sat still. But lately I've been mentally restless as well, and it's getting worse.

I'm convinced it's a genetic trait. My paternal great-grandmother (for whom Roo was named) was born to an unmarried mother, her biological father having been the sort of man who does not stay in one place for very long. She married a man, my great-grandfather, who was also the restless sort. They had two sons, and their second-born became my grandfather.

But years before that, he got itchy feet. (Not literally.) At the age of sixteen he fudged his birthday and joined the United States Marine Corps. They gave him a gun and a knife, and then they shipped him off to the Pacific to fight in the second world war. When he got back, he married my grandmother. After a few years they moved. And again a few years later. And again a few years after that.

When my dad told people he moved around a lot as a kid they assumed his father was in the military, and he was. But my grandfather was in the Reserves after the war. The constant relocation was his own choice. He worked as a pipefitter and a foreman and he had a temper. Every couple of years he'd get sick of his boss, quit his job, and move the family to a new place. The wandering life seemed to suit him.

It did not suit my father. He wanted roots. Once my oldest brother started school, my parents were settled, and if my father occasionally felt restless like his father he hid it well with car trips or new ways of arranging the furniture. I spent the first 18 years of my life in the same small town ... and I hated it.

My father wanted roots; I wanted wings. I felt stifled; trapped. I was envious any time there was a new kid at school; I felt they'd seen more than I had, experienced more, been more free. My world was so small. I grew to resent it. I took any chance I could to shake things up. When we had a family trip planned, I would pack my suitcase weeks in advance (and end up unpacking one day at a time because I had nothing to wear). I loved moving furniture around, painting walls, planting flowers. Anything to shake up the monotony of my tiny world. Every couple of years I had to do something, anything, to make a change.

I never outgrew it. At college, I was the girl who would say yes to any trip, anywhere (even an ill-planned trip in an aging truck to the top of a mountain, in the snow, at 2am, to help my friend Connie look for her camera. None of us brought a flashlight, and I was wearing flip-flops. Sorry, Mom). I was desperate for new experiences, new people, new scenery.

Since the age of 14, I haven't done any one thing for more than two years. I had one job from 14 to 16 and another from 16 to 18. Then college for roughly two years, another job for two years, 16 months of beauty school, a salon job for about two years. Then two years of unemployment, during which I grew a human being in my free time. Then my library job - one position for a year, and 18 months in my current position.

And I am getting restless. I don't know how to have the same job for so long without getting itchy feet. I keep shuffling pictures around at my desk, trying to make things look new. But I'm starting to feel trapped again. It hit me a few months ago. I was refilling my water bottle and my brain was idling and I suddenly couldn't remember what day of the week it was. This happens regularly, but that day I realized that it happens regularly. That there is precious little to distinguish one day from the next. That the past year of my life has flown by as if it had hitched a ride on a cannonball. I had this horrifying feeling that the next two, five, ten years of my life could easily be the same kind of a blur.

I managed to shake the feeling for a few months but it's back in full force. My twenties got away from me and if I keep on keepin' on, my thirties will be an endless cycle of damnation - work-sleep-work-sleep-work-sleep. No progress, no change. There is no opportunity for advancement at my library, and the county has not given pay raises in over five years. I have reached a dead end. I'm not unhappy with my life, but I feel like there has to be more out there for me and I find myself getting more and more desperate to find it.

So a few weeks ago I reminded myself that I am not a tree. America is a big country - the land of opportunity. I have options. I'm not stuck. I can go anywhere I want. I started looking for library jobs in other cities (thank you, Houston, for letting me know how grossly underpaid I am). I imagined myself in Illinois, in North Carolina, in Texas, in Virginia. My itchy feet danced at the thought of a fresh start, a new city, something different to get tired of in two years.*

I would be alone in a strange city, and that made me a little nervous. But, I asked myself, isn't it worth the risk? What do I have to lose? What is there for me in Arizona?

And right away I knew the answer. Roo. Roo is here in Arizona. She is my precious, amazing, wonderful little anchor to the Grand Canyon state. Roo is here. How can I go anywhere else?

I am so spoiled to live so close to her - in the same city, maybe a dozen miles away. When I want a visit, it's a matter of weeks and very little planning (on my part, anyway). I've been able to go to her dance recitals and play with her at the park and have breakfast with her at a restaurant. I could do none of those things if I lived in Houston, for example. Visits would have to be carefully orchestrated, and they would be expensive for me. I'm afraid I'd feel I was missing out on the little things - things I'm invited to now because I'm close but that might slip past if I lived a thousand miles away because it would be so difficult for me to go.

Roo is getting older (she will be four this summer. Four!). The older she gets, the more important it is to have a good relationship with her and her parents. I don't ever want her to feel abandoned by me. I want her to be able to see me when she wants to. To get to know me if she wants to. I don't want to be some distant figure, someone talked about but not to.

The simple thing to do would be to find something new here in the valley. A new apartment, a new job. But ... I can't explain it. Arizona almost feels too small. Yes, all 113,990 square miles** of it. I have lived in Arizona for thirty years. I know it too well. It's too familiar. There's nothing new here for me, and my feet want to go somewhere new.

But how can I even think of going anywhere that Roo's not?

Yes, I know that I'm being stupid and that Roo probably wouldn't be bothered by my relocating. The truth is that I'm the one bothered by it. The thought of moving away from her scares the heck out of me. And yet the restlessness grows.

How can I make my feet agree with my heart? I wish I knew. I don't know if there's a compromise. I don't know which part of me is going to win.

But I do know that it's time to start rearranging the furniture. 

*If you're thinking the whole two-year-itch thing means I'd make a good military wife, you're probably right, and I've thought so too. But single Mormon military men aren't exactly thick on the ground in the Phoenix metro area. So if you know of any, do a girl a favor, won't you?

**Thank you, Wikipedia! Also, I know that people have these ideas about Arizona because of Sheriff Joe. So I would just like to remind you that we are also the state that brought you Grumpy Cat. You're welcome, America.