Finding the new me

People say that moving to a new city gives you an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Depending on your circumstances, I think you can probably do that anytime—at least in small ways. Nevertheless, it’s an idea that came up again and again while I was considering my move to Portland. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, specifically, or what exactly I would do. No matter where I lived, I just wanted to be a better, stronger version of myself.

There’s an episode of Scrubs in which Elliot decides that she will no longer let herself be weak and pushed around. She makes an attempt to transform herself, destroying relics of her old childish life and drastically changing her outward appearance. I watched that one yesterday and was touched in a way that I hadn’t been when I first saw it, three or four years ago. True, it’s silly Hollywood stuff that doesn’t bear any specific resemblance to my life. I’ve never quite been the sad sack that Elliot was. I’ve never had the single “breakthrough moment” that she had, followed by some rash behaviors undertaken to wipe away all evidence of a former self. Since I live in the complexity of the real world, it’s been more like a series of small breakdowns, revelations, progress, and partial reversion. There have been one or two semi-dramatic haircuts that I purchased as a reaction to some emotional trauma, after which I vowed to become healthier and improve things in my personal life. Still, there isn’t a single transformative point that stands out in the trajectory of my adulthood.

A simple change of scenery can’t erase one’s emotional problems or fundamentally change a person. But a good friend of mine told me over the phone, last fall, that I seemed different: more open, more bold. I don’t really know how that happened. It could be nothing more than one person’s opinion, but I think he had a point. In my own small ways I’ve been putting into practice the idea of living without unnecessary fear and hesitation. If I didn’t will myself to be strong, the weight of loneliness and a search for purpose might be enough to crush me.

Maybe this post has gotten off track. I was thinking about a loosely formed trivia group that I recently joined. We play against other trivia teams on Monday nights. I found them by responding to a Craigslist ad and showed up the first night not knowing who they were going to be, whether we would get along with each other, etc. I had to turn on my Socializing Switch, which I think has been dysfunctional for most of my life. It’s been working well enough so far. When a quiet moment comes along, though, I start to withdraw and think about my difficulties in connecting with other people. The “teammates” I have met in the last two weeks are great and fun, but I can’t tell if we’ll become friends. I always feel out of place among a group of people who seem different from me. If trivia didn’t keep us occupied, I would probably be too uncomfortable to stay.

For now I’m keeping up the guise of being a sociable person. It’s part of my new plan to get out and experience things that seem worthwhile, regardless of potential discomfort. Early attempts at implementation this plan have proven that there will always be days when I want to stay home, alone, and watch sitcom reruns on DVD. I don’t beat myself up for that so much anymore, because there’s a balance in my life that I didn’t formerly have. At least I’m trying.

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