a life unconstrained

i had breakfast in the diner across the parking lot from the motel i stayed at last night, partly because it was such a Place that i couldn’t pass it up and partly because that’s what my dad would’ve done. he has a thing for diners. i don’t really know what to do with the recent realization that i am much more like my dad than i had even known (i discovered that i make decisions that echo decisions of his that i didn’t know he’d made as a young man – which is…A Lot), so when the urge to embrace it comes along, i’m just going with it. there’s plenty of time for that identity crisis to play out; i see no need to rush it.

like…this is a very place-y Place right? it has a lot of Place Presence

also part of why i keep going to diners is because they’re part of the Great American Road Trip aesthetic and i’m a slave to that. unashamedly a slave to that. see me in the crappy motels and in the kind of diners you can find in every fuckin us town drinking their shitty coffee i’m so down

while i was there, nursing a bad cup of coffee, i called my grandmother. it’s the first time that i’ve called someone while on the road, since i was busy doing the thing i do where i don’t communicate with people. i just get so swallowed up in my internal life that reaching outside of that takes a great deal of effort, often more than i have to spare. i have been texting people though, which honestly is such a Feat that i should get a medal. (in truth, it’s been delightful to get to share this trip that way. well worth the effort.)

but i’m talking to her and she’s missing me and, unlike her, i’m having a hard time getting a handle on the permanence of this situation. i’m moving, isn’t that wild? this trip isn’t just a trip, it’s a move. i know that, but i don’t really Know That, y’know? i’m happy to be moving, don’t get me wrong; it just doesn’t feel real yet.

today is the last day of soultrip – tonight, i’ll be in seattle, my new home. which is of course bittersweet. this road trip has been one of the best times of my life; i haven’t felt as much myself as i have while on it. living life completely unconstrained by anything is going to be very, very hard to give up.

so i’m gonna try not to.

seattle is brand new territory for me. it offers me a life completely free from any of the expectations implicit in a place that knows me. i have a couple friends there, but they’re the type who will let me be as many versions of myself as i need to be before i find the one i like the best. nobody else knows me and therefore no preconceived notions of who i am exist.

i am trying to keep myself from having preconceived notions, too. life can be anything. it doesn’t have to look the way i’ve always thought it would, or the way society expects it to look. since i have the opportunity to build a life from scratch, i’m damn well going to make the most of it. i know that this is a rare gift – one i might never get again – and i don’t intend to let it go to waste. god or the universe or whoever gave this to me and i’m too grateful to squander it.

yesterday, i was in a portland bookstore: powell’s city of books, which takes up an entire city block in downtown. it is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the best bookstore in the world. i spent hours there, feeling faint among the towering stacks of books in color-coded rooms.

this is only PART of ONE ROOM

the purple room housed a christianity section that was four aisles large that in turn housed a mary magdalene section, the presence of which nearly knocked me off my feet. in the rose room in the ya section, there was an end display of lgbtq ya books, with a sign reading “i ❤ queer lit” – the heart was colored in rainbow; i had to work very hard not to cry. in the queer-specific section, which included queer theory, i found a shelf dedicated to bisexuality. seeing the word in print is always such an experience.

FOUR. AISLES. OF BOOKS ABOUT CHRISTIANITY goddddd. (also not to self-plug like an asshole, but to self-plug like an asshole: there are more pics of this bookstore on my instagram @ky_cochran just sayin’)

the store is so big and so wonderful and so completely captivating that i got lost and definitely thought about living in the literature section for the rest of my life, curling up to sleep on the hard floor near wuthering heights.

since the trip is nearly over and my being employed again is a close reality, i told myself i could spend too much money on books. once decided, my trip through the stacks became an exercise in self-creation.

i grabbed a queer ya novel because i’ve been out of the fiction game for a long, long time and the only place to start there is in queerland. (i confess to having very little interest in het…anything.)

i picked up a mary magdalene book that my other mary magdalene book had recommended (and one of the few on the shelf that portrayed her as a woman of color on its cover and like…if you’re portraying mary magdalene as a white woman on your book i’m…not gonna buy it…because you’re wrong from the get-go). i got a couple books of poetry — ross gay, for joy, and sappho, for queer — and a book about bisexuality that i’ve been eying for two years.

these books all address facets of the person i’m working to become – or to embrace. i’m finally in a place where i feel free to really be queer in a way i didn’t feel like i had the opportunity to before and i’m also finally at a place with my faith where i can shape and build and express it any way that i want and feel with surety that it is mine. the faith of my childhood and teen years was prescribed to me more often than not and i struggled, in the years after the death of my aunt, to get a handle on what it meant or might mean to me. and to be queer and a woman of faith at the same time? goddamn revolutionary.

i know that it is going to take a real effort not to fall back into old patterns or paths — which is why the books. i don’t want to do what is familiar; i want to do what is right. but i know that the pull of familiarity is strong as shit (how many diners have i eaten at while i was on the road???), so i’m declaring seattle my “try it” place, the land of new experiences. and i’m gonna make my friends — and my books — hold me accountable to that.

i want to be happy, goddammit. i deserve it. i won’t let my potential for happiness be overrun by apathy or fear. while i don’t know what exactly my happiness might look like, i do know who i want to be. i want to be good and compassionate, sympathetic and empathetic, i want to be hopeful and encouraging, to be someone who believes in kindness, to be a person who loves unreservedly and to great lengths – both herself and others. i know how much work those things take, i’m more intimately familiar with that than ever, and i am willing to put that work in. and i am willing to cut out anything that hinders those things.

i also know that i have been dying for the chance to be my full self in a way the midwest and my life trajectory therein were not allowing. now that that chance is within reach, i will not waste it.

best yet, i know now, with an absolute certainty, that i can lose damn near a whole goddamn life and still come out better afterwards. so what’s to stop me from reaching for everything my hands might grasp?

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