The relief I felt when I finished university – or more accurately, nearly twenty years of school – has been replaced with a debilitating fear of complacency. The town that I grew to call home has become a transitory limbo from where I watch my friends move onto more exciting things while I idly plan my own future. Why did it take me so many years to get to this point? Why did I stay here for so long?
6:30am: Wake up, hit snooze repeatedly until 7:00am: Get out of bed, fix coffee. Eat a muffin, but not a big one – working a desk job has made me softer around the middle. Pack travel mug, lunch, and Gatorade. 7:30am: The dog is still curled up in bed, but she has to be walked before work. 7:45am: Begin work commute.
At first it felt great to have a relaxed, predictable routine. I finally had a paycheck that covered all of my bills; I didn’t have to skimp on the small things like coffee, or even the big things, like health care. In lieu of the uncertainty that came with the small paychecks and erratic schedule of university life, I now had security and comfort.
But I quickly relapsed into insomnia that I hadn’t had in years, trying to fall asleep for four or five hours each night. I stayed up crying out of frustration because I finally had a schedule that allowed me to sleep, but the sleep wouldn’t come.
How did I end up here? How do I move on?
When I was nineteen, I moved to Los Angeles on a whim with no money or plans. It was a sophomoric mistake, and I hated every moment of it – I hated my job, I hated the air, I hated the yellow LA patina that coated all of the cars, trees, and buildings – but I did it. I tried so many new things: I visited new art museums, yelled at strangers, attended a motorcycle convention in Reno, scaled the length of the state in a night, ventured into stores where I couldn’t afford anything. I perfected my bitch face out of self-preservation. I slept soundly at night.
Sometimes I still look for the California mountains in the Texas clouds.
A few months ago after I started my new job, I began to go dancing every few weeks in Dallas. My friend DJs at a small, atmospheric club every Saturday, and it’s always easy to find someone to go with. Someone suggested that maybe I’d started doing this because I had a Fear of Missing Out – that I needed to be seen, or that I needed a place to wear my heels. But the real reason I go is to combat the day-to-day monotony of a nine-to-five. I go to wake up the next morning immobile in pain, hair completely unmanageable and makeup smudged, gingerly wiping dried blood off my face. These are the nights I sleep the hardest.
At one of the first houses in Dallas that my family lived in, there was an alley that ran behind the house. My sister and I were allowed to walk down the short end since it was within view of our house, but the other end was explicitly forbidden because my parents feared we’d get snatched. I still have dreams about walking down the wrong end of the alley, and what existed where I hadn’t gone. There’s something so enticing about venturing into an unfamiliar place, despite the risks that are involved.
These days I feel like I’m trapped in a cul-de-sac: I’m comfortable and safe, yet completely stationary. I don’t mean to scoff at my security, my paycheck, or how easy my postgrad life has been. I just wonder if this is really the conclusion I’m meant to reach – if it’s too early for me to settle down in this role, in this place. I love Denton, but sometimes I wonder if it’s a little too sleepy for me.