community · faith · gratitude · humilty · love

6 x 6 and 5 x 5

Six years ago this very morning, the Monday after Easter of
2006, I packed everything I could carry – i.e. a few suitcases and a pillow –
into my car, and headed West.
I drove from New Jersey in the rising light of a near-Spring
morning, muddy headed, giddy, nervous, and a little puffy eyed. I got on the
highway, and drove.
This was a planned trip – albeit, not very well. Having
arrived home after my 2nd completed teaching contract in South
Korea, and a few pitstops along the archepelago, I found myself to be 24,
living at home, with no thought of what to really do next. It was March.
I thought, and had the idea, that I would “break onto
Broadway.” It hadn’t really occurred to me that people often spend years of
their lives in training and working their way through auditions and classes and
various local troupes, and still don’t make that leap. I simply thought I could “make it work.”
So, I envisioned that I would get a roommate or two in
Manhattan, get a job as a waitress (cuz that’s what actresses do, right?), and
start my way up.
I did get a job as a waitress. At a lower Manhattan Italian
restaurant, and was told that I needed to wear all black as the uniform, and
start the next week. Great – perfect – falling into place.
I’m in H&M clothing store. I’m in the stall changing
room, and trying on black clothing for my new job, and I have a sudden thought
New York will eat me alive.
I suddenly realized that I had no business being in
Manhattan the way that I was drinking and drugging. That I would die if I
stayed. I somehow knew it. I was setting myself up to fail, as I had no coping
mechanisms and almost no community or friends, having lost most of those prior to
leaving for Korea.
I walked out of H&M without buying anything. I left the
black clothing, the representation of this pipe dream, and walked outside. I
called the restaurant, and told them I wouldn’t be coming in to work … That I
was moving to California.
What made me think that? I don’t know. But I had a
friend/acquaintance who lived in San Francisco, who’d invited me to come visit.
And somehow, San Francisco – California Dreamin’ – was for me. How ’bout I come to stay?
I don’t know what sense of intuition it was that let me know
that NYC was too much for the addled and fragile sense of self I was, but I am
grateful for it. In Korea, there weren’t many drugs around – a few here and
there, spilling off the army base – but mainly, it was drinking. And for that,
I am grateful. But, in New York? It was a buffet of ways to murder myself
slowly. And I had zero capacity to turn anything down. I knew it was a ticket
to the bottom, and I really didn’t have that much further to go.
So, San Francisco. I coordinated with my friend out here.
Let the Cousin know I would come to visit him in Ohio before I hopped on to
Route 66 – the cool way to go – and got gone. I bought the Lonely Planet guide books for California, and Coastal California,
and Route 66, and simply followed that map the whole way down. I arrived in
Santa Monica on April 25th, 2006, stuck my feet in the Pacific Ocean
(on this side of it) for the first time, and headed up north to San Francisco.
I arrived that night in time to induct my friend into my
nighttime tornado as she showed me around via a few bars. Two weeks later, I
got sober.
I had no intention of this, mind you. It didn’t at all occur
to me that I was heading West to leave a life I’d known for many years in
exchange for one I knew nothing about. I didn’t know that I would eventually
fix my teeth, live alone, go to graduate school, actually audition and be in a
few plays.
I just knew that SF was better than NYC for me.
6 by 6. Six years ago. I don’t know why I chose “by 6,” not
sure what it’s “by,” – perhaps “2006” – but 5 x 5, I get.
Five by five is the catch phrase of TV’s Buffy the
Vampire Slayer
’s character, Faith. Which I
suppose is an apt name here at the moment. When things are good, in answer to
how are you, when life is not filled with monsters and demons and chaos, Faith
replies that she’s “Five by Five.”
My life is no longer filled with monsters and demons and
chaos. There are bumps in the night, and scary creatures that lurk still, but 6
years have taught me how to deal with, talk about, and work through those fears
and scary patches.
Over this past weekend, I have run into, at complete
coincidence, people from communities as variant as school, Jew, and recovery.
On the street, in a taxi, on the bus, on BART. I am “a part of.” I am a member
of. I am not a lost little pigeon anymore – I have community, and several at
that. I have been surprised and humbled as I’ve realized this weekend how many
friends I now have – people I now know. I arrived knowing one woman marginally.
And I’m learning how to “break on to Broadway,” or whatever
my current vision equivalent is, with the grace, fortitude, and support that I
never would have dreamed I’d have. For a dork, lost, wild, alone, sad, chaotic,
pipe-dreamy me, well, five by five doesn’t even feel adequate. 

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