Packing up and leaving town a moving experience

MOVING FROM San Francisco to New York for a new job didn't seem like such an audacious choice when I first agreed to do it; it was a no-brainer. I got to trade my dead-end customer support gig for a management-track position. And my boyfriend, whose writing job is portable, agreed to move with me.

But I've signed up for another full-time job, you see: "person who is moving." And, while in my previous job I only had to deal with other people's minor insanities, now I have to deal with my own.

What was I thinking, inviting 30 people to say their goodbyes to me by coming over on the weekend that I was packing up the last of my stuff, including the chairs? I've never seen such an assortment of people from all the layers of my life in one place, and they all had to stand in the kitchen, fending me off as I

foisted cookies and doughnuts upon them.

I had to battle my own pack-rat tendencies while packing. Am I trying to impress future generations with those old math tests? Do I really need gas bills from 1999? Detritus from the past, the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life, isn't the right material to make an anchor; why do I clutch it?

And I couldn't help but be morbid when the move-out cleaners came to remove all traces of my tenancy. If I made a physical impression on the Bay Area, if I left a tangible legacy, it was the dirt they cleaned from my apartment. Squirt, wipe, scrub, they erased it.

In the garden, we paid our last respects to my goldfish, Betty. She was the first and last pet I ever had, and a good one. I'm moving away from her grave, along with every other memory I've made here in the last eight years.

I'm moving away from a mouse, too. I heard one intermittently squeaking and shuffling in the kitchen over the past few weeks, but I was too tired or busy to freak out as I had a few months ago. Is that progress?

The day I panicked over that mouse was also the day I crashed a car for the first time. I wrote a column a few months later, telling you that I hadn't driven since, and many of you wrote to encourage me to get back on the road. Since then, I have driven a car on city streets and even on a highway. I still hate driving and even riding in a front seat while a car is on a highway, but I can stand it.

So I'm making headway on my own little insanities; the big leap of the cross-country move and job change bring my phobias, insecurities and superstitions to light. I'm afraid of death and of forgetting and of being forgotten, but all of those things will happen anyway.

My last night in San Francisco, after my bed had been packed, I stayed overnight with a friend of mine. Her cozy, lived-in home was a welcome relief from my looted apartment. She showed me some commentary she was writing on the Book of Job. In brief, the Book of Job goes like this: Job is a good guy and doing pretty well, but then, through no fault of his own, he experiences terrible suffering. He asks God for an explanation. God replies, "Where were you when I created the universe?" and lists some of the more fantastic items on God's resume.

We could see a few possible explanations for God's response. One: God is nuts, or just changing the subject since he doesn't come off too well letting his loyal devotee get thrashed over a bet with Satan. Two: God is doing the parental "you'll understand when you're in my shoes" argument, minus the possibility that Job ever will actually get that chance. Three: God is saying, "Life is awesome! Have you checked out this universe I created? It's amazing! Think about the amazing stuff, not just your own suffering."

I'm creating my own universe, full of amazing opportunities and adventure. That's what happens when you make the audacious choice. And I'm glad of it, and of the work I'm doing on mastering my stupid fears. But it's hard work, and I'll be glad when it's the seventh (or 28th) day, and I can rest.

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