When I was seventeen, I flew to Seattle to stay with my aunt in lieu of attending a program at Oxford that had accepted me but was too expensive for us. I took long walks around the block on the phone with my parents, starting to cry when my mom said she missed me. I felt keenly the strange difference of an atheist’s home. My aunt had just lost her job, and I barely knew her, and so for three weeks, I lay on the floor of my room reading first Moby-Dick and then Vanity Fair and we searched for things in common and she began to teach me to cook. At the end of a dinner party, a friend who hadn’t really spoken to me suggested we read a particular Seattleite’s food blog. I clicked over and read about the restaurant that would open the week after I left, and began to read the archives, and began to go farther back, and began to dream of being like Molly. When I returned after my freshman year of college, I begged my aunt to take me to Delancey. She was skeptical; I, besotted.
Four years later, I sat on the floor of my year-old apartment in Vancouver, eating Thai takeout and drinking an unmeasured but wonderful cocktail out of a mug: orange juice, Aperol, and two-day-old prosecco. Had I planned to mimic Luisa Weiss or Molly Wizenberg or even Julia Child, I reflected, I would have moved to Paris. I felt kinship with those heroines, but I had picked Vancouver.
I moved to Vancouver to do something bold and new. I was tired of Philadelphia, or rather, of nineteen-year-olds telling me “You must leave to grow up.” I knew leaving college was going to be hard, but I didn’t know it was going to make me feel so immature. I got to Canada and curled up in a ball and wept for eleven months. I told people that I’d love the year in hindsight: all the reading I got to do; the beautiful, beautiful streets I walked up and down and the strange, new views; the freedom of anonymity and lack of responsibility; the flexible job with regular, reasonable paychecks; etc. etc.
I didn’t love it in the present, though. I was so, so sad. Six months in, I knew Vancouver wouldn’t, couldn’t work. At the end of a year, I dissembled my entire apartment, stacking books tightly in cardboard boxes and swathing every wine glass and framed print in yards of tape and bubble wrap. I flew home. And then, three weeks later, I flew to North Africa, to disorient myself more.
Every week, I feel a bit more like a character in a novel, or the author of a blog. I feel like I’m gypping the world: today, my story sounds cool, but I’m not at all cool. I’m terrified of strangers, and insecure with friends. I’ve never been on — or been invited to — a fun spring break vacation, and I can rarely force myself to sit still to read novels for fun.
Somehow, though, my life has begun to sound like a book, or a blog. I’m becoming a real person, a brave person, an adult, a person with a story. Going places and doing things. A real person. A real person.