Howdy Friend, I'm A Country Girl Again
Ugh, my initial draft of this post was terrible and melodramatic. Literally the first sentence was going to be “I cried a lot today, but in a nice way.” Fuck me… I did not start this blog to give my readers mild nausea, I did it because it’s 2006 and I just got my MFA. Do I have to call this a blog? Not to be judgmental, but if someone tells me that they are a blogger, I try to leave the room. Maybe I'll call it a rolling-self-published-essay-collection-ebook of an indeterminate length. Perfect. Rolls off the tongue. Welcome to my e-book. Let's begin.
I lived in New York City for seven years, and then I had to leave. In July of 2022, I could tell that my partner of four and a half years was thinking about leaving me. Breaking up had never been on the table before, but something was different now… As I was laying on my bed in Morningside Heights, staring at the ceiling, tears literally flowing into my ears, I had surprising clarity: “If you get dumped, your only option is to move back to your childhood home in the middle of nowhere New Mexico.”
When my fears were confirmed, I told my amazing friends, who were for the most part very supportive but surprised, about my upcoming move. Everyone knew that I was trying to break back into TV, that I loved a classic NYC Saturday night and that I am too obsessed with 24-hour drug stores to thrive anywhere without them. I had/have (?) overwhelming pride about being a "new yorker," a title that I had definitely earned.
It’s hard to leave New York and not feel like a massive failure– it’s also hard to move back to your small hometown and not feel like a royally massive failure. When I lived in rural New Mexico as a child and teenager, all I thought about was moving to New York City. It was (and maybe still is?) my dream city and so it sucked to be only 26 and with a strong need to get the fuck out.
I still sort of can't believe how quickly I followed through on this impulse. I'm not great at making decisions, especially about my future. I rarely listen to my gut, because I have horrible, medical anxiety that makes my gut incredibly unreliable– I've been scammed more than once.
So, I packed up my 2017 Subaru forester and headed west… sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Especially the Subaru part. Incorrect! The only romance I have experienced in the last few months have been through television shows or the small moments when the sunset has tricked me into feeling like a windswept protagonist. I expertly packed my car to the ceiling with almost everything I own, attached a big, black, waterproof sack to the top and started toward Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. The drive was completely solitary, five days long, and surprisingly fulfilling. I listened to Song of Achilles, a bunch of old girl band music and many hours of a Dungeons and Dragons podcast. I have refined and sophisticated taste.
I have a lot to say about my new, very strange, lovely home, but I will unfold it all for you– be patient, goddamnit! My mental processing system has felt like a fax machine, and so you will have revelations with me in real time– what a treat! Taos County is an amazing place and it deserves a level of observation and reverence that cannot be rushed, especially since I am also wading through all of the feelings that this town gave me as a teenager.
As you can tell from the header, the blog will be called “Local Tourist,” and it will be about the people that live here, the people that come to visit me, and my experience reintegrating myself into a town I ran from eleven years ago. I decided to start this blog, rather than a diary, to keep myself accountable and vulnerable (what a pretentious rhyme!). I also already have a diary and it’s a fucking mess and it’s private.
I have been thinking a lot about bravery recently. I have also been thinking about Aristotle's theories on virtue ethics because I suck. Basically, Aristotle said that there are a list of virtues (aka qualities) that a person should strive to have. He has a specific nine, but basically any positive traits that you can think of are applicable: intelligence, empathy, a sense of justice, etc. Bravery is of course on the list.
Aristotle says that while people are born with some of these virtues, they are all things that a person should work to develop through practice regardless of what comes naturally to them. Cultivating these virtues should be treated the same as someone trying to learn an instrument; everyone practices their instrument regardless of how good they are at it already. Also, he says that it is really important that everyone has a balance of each of these qualities. Even if something is a good virtue, everyone can have too much of it: if someone has too much empathy, they lose their sense of self in service of others. If someone is too smart then they are the worst to be around. And so on, and so forth.
Right now I do not have enough courage, or bravery, or balls or whatever. I have decided that this is the virtue that I will focus on cultivating. I can only speak for myself, but I imagine that I am not the only person who got less brave during the pandemic. I get bad social anxiety, I struggle to finish anything artistic because I am scared that everyone will hate it, and I don't feel excited about trying new things. I used to be hella brave! I moved to Italy at sixteen! I did standup for four years! Now I can't imagine doing any of that. Doing this blog, putting myself out there like this, is hopefully the first step to gaining a level of courage worthy of Aristotle's approval... well, more importantly, worthy of my own approval. I don't want to feel like I am missing out, and right now I do. I'll let you know if it works.
On a completely different note, there is bear poop right on the threshold of a little two story structure on the property that I am using as a studio. That means she is walking up the stairs to my little patio and relieving herself a few feet away from me, which is super exciting and the right amount of scary. I called my mom and mentioned the bear poop. She said that Mama bears take their littles up into safe places while they forage for food. I would have never been this excited about mysterious poop in NYC. This move is already giving me great returns.
If you had told me three months ago that I would find myself suddenly single and move back to my home town I would have said: “Fuck you that sounds complicated, and painful and I don’t think that I will survive that.”
But I have survived it, so far… I have been welcomed back by New Mexico and spend a lot of my time sitting silently with my ear pressed against the door hoping to hear the tiny growl of a cub learning how to be a bear.