The Clean Slate Club

AM’s post about moving to a new city and having to make a new social life really resonated with me, but not because I’m moving or looking for new friends. It’s because I’m envious.

I’m not a very social person, so it’s not the “building a social life” or the “putting myself out there” that got me feeling a little jealous. It was the part about “from scratch” and “new me, new city, new things, new people.”

I love my city with a completely unobjective partisan love, and I am thrilled to know and hang out with fantastic people I hope to keeping hanging with for a long time. It’s just, well, I miss “new.” It’s like this:

Remember leaving high school? (At least vaguely?) If you’re lucky you go off to college somewhere new, somewhere that you aren’t “Bob and Sue’s daughter” or “the girl from debate class” or “the one who threw that huge party junior year and the cops came and half the school got busted on the new alcohol policy and never really forgave you despite all the money you spent on liquor.”

Maybe you gain the Freshman 10, but I felt like I dropped the Freshman 50, walking around free on my college campus. I can still see myself standing in front of the theatre building on the bucolic Smith College campus when I had the sudden realization: “None of these people know who I am. Good lord, I could be anybody!”

Then you leave college for work, or grad school. Probably you have a series of jobs before you find one that you stick with for a while, or before the babies turn up at your door and tell you you’re not leaving for a couple of years. Each time it’s a chance to be brand new.

I managed to squeeze in quite a few fresh starts in my young life, transferring schools, skipping town, going online, leaving academia. Often these were hard goodbyes. Plus moving sucks. I hope to stay in this house forever, or at least until someone buries my ashes in the backyard. (Note to family: I’m hoping that won’t be for a while, so put away the shovels.)

Still, there’s a part of me that is always looking down the road for the next corner to turn. When I stay in one place too long I get Itchy. And Scratchy. (But not Poochie.) Living online seems to exacerbate this feeling: every word goes on your permanent record, every person you’ve ever known comes back to find you again. Except they know you as You 2.0 and you’re now at least OS X Snow Leopard and looking at upgrading to Lion.

So many sticky little threads holding you in place, fixing your identity: no wonder they call it the World Wide Web.

Much as the idea of a dramatic breakout appeals, however, it’s not in the cards. I’ve got the Real golden handcuffs: great kids, dreamy husband, a little slice of the Midwest that I’ve grown to love. How I’m going to achieve that great “Clean Slate” feeling I love is still a little bit beyond me: divorce, the Witness Protection Program, and high colonics are out, as are drug-induced amnesia and the convent.

Still, every great journey begins with a single step, and I’ve started this one like so many others before me: with an inspirational refrigerator magnet. Check it out, it might inspire you too:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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About mina

Like a rock: sometimes hard, sometimes crumbly, occasionally brilliant, sometimes dense.

Posted on October 14, 2011, in inspiration, letting go, stuckness, transitions. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. You know I love Emerson. 🙂

    I have had too many fresh starts to remember. Since I have been married we have lived in 4 states, and 7 houses. When I was growing up I went to 13 schools in 12 years.

    When I was a kid I thought I could reinvent myself. “This time I will fit in. I won’t care so much about justice, and learning and getting things right. I’ll just be normal.” I never never pulled it off.

    One thing I learned is that you can’t move away from your troubles. I think that is why they call it “baggage.” But, I think you can move yourself into better situations. And those situations can help you blossom (or crush your soul.)

  2. I spent a lifetime having “fresh starts” and while I have no negative feelings about all my childhood and young adult moves (cross country and across the world) I am finally–after almost twenty years in one place–feeling like I belong where I am now. It was unsettling at first and I found I would seek out ways to start fresh without a move, like abandoning entire groups of people, but now I feel I have some real lifelong friends. Not BFF’s, mind you, but people who like me for whatever it is I am when I wake up that day.

  3. I know this feeling so well…… . But here I am with an unexpected fresh start again. Although the leaving was absolutely brutal, I’m enjoying the new start, and quietly considering what kind of life to build here (so far I’ve decided it will not involve the PTA or pastoral council….. no offense to the many excellent people who volunteer for such groups). New starts are so awesome for introverts because you don’t have to talk to hardly anyone for MONTHS! 🙂

  4. My dad was in the Navy so I moved a LOT growing up and adored it. My sister and best friend was with me for every transition, so I never felt like I was leaving anyone behind. As an introvert, one good friend was enough. I miss that adventure. My husband and I have lived in 3 different states in our 19 year relationship and the pace does seem slow. Many of my good friends are in different states, and yet we can maintain closeness.

    Every now and then I want to just pick up and get the hell out of Dodge, but then I’d have to actually leave my house…

  5. It’s interesting how many people have moved a lot. I’ve always been pretty good at doing what Kelly describes — just up and leaving a group of people, even if I’m not leaving town. Maybe I’ve outgrown that now, or maybe I’ve just accumulated some of the baggage of maturity — a husband, kids, a house — that makes it too much trouble. I’ve dug in enough now that I need to make it work where I am, and I like where I am enough now that it seems worth it to figure out how to scratch that itch and still stay.

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