THE CABIN DIARIES: TRAPPED
Dear Cabin Diaries,
I think often of moving to another city to start my life over. I want a job in a different field, and I admit: sometimes I want a new, less grumpy/more outgoing boyfriend. I am also just excited about the possibility of new natural scenery. I would miss my friends dearly, but I would visit them often and I believe I would make new ones. Is this selfish thinking? Impulsive maybe? Is the grass always greener somewhere? I've been in this town for over 13 years and have a great job, but it's not my forever job, and I'm beginning to feel trapped in my relationship, and well, here, in this town.
Thanks for your advice!
I hear you. I know these feelings. While there is not an easy answer, I’ll tell you what I know, and—as always—link you to some people who know more than I do.
In my own life, I’ve had the feeling you describe again and again. The thought of moving somewhere new and starting fresh appeal to us humans, I think, on a very deep level. Our love for “story” runs deep. We are raised on stories, be it through television, books, movies, tales from relatives, etc. The desire to write our own story, for many of us, is very strong. And of course, while we are writing our story daily, the desire to rewrite our story when we end up somewhere boring is even stronger ... because boredom and unhappiness seem like opportunity for change. For something better. For—yep, you said it—the greener grass on that elusive other side.
Here’s what I know: as adults, making new friends is not easy. It’s possible, and we do it all the time, but the only thing that equals time? Well—it’s time. If you have friends who you’ve loved for years and years, you won’t have friends that good again until some decent years pass in a new place. You’ll make friends, of course. But that late-night-wine-sesh, shoulder-to-cry-on, clothes-sharing, boy-talking crew you might have? It might take a while to replace that. In fact, it might never happen. I’m speaking from experience. 6 years ago, I moved away from my best friend in the whole world. And I still miss her every single day. There are many different types of friendships. The deep-comfort ones are incredibly valuable and are immeasurably precious and rare.
I had a boss once who warned me about this “condition” of which we are speaking. She had a word for it that I wish I could remember. “The thing is,” she said, “is that even if you move to a new town, you’re still the same person, so all the same problems come with you. It’s an expensive solution that doesn’t really work.”
I’d also like to say, however, that wanting to enjoy your life doesn’t make you selfish. Not at all. If you don’t ensure that your life is enjoyable, no one else will. That’s the cold hard truth. Even the most loving boyfriend could never do it. We have to do that ourselves. You have to do it yourself.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s get to the heart of the matter: you don’t like your job, and you kind of don’t like your boyfriend. (I spoke to another reader about job stuff in this letter. Did you read it? If not, please do). She, too, said the exact same thing: this is not my forever job. Because I’ve already addressed this issue, I won’t get into it too much here. The bottom line is that the rest of your life starts today. Forever is now, as weird as that seems.
I’m guessing your job and your boyfriend take up most of your time. Meaning they take up most of your life. Meaning you aren’t fully ensuring that your life is enjoyable.
I don’t have too much information here, but I will say that compatibility is a thing. In relationships, we have to first say what we want. In a perfect situation (so rare), our partner will then say “yes! I can give you that,” or “I’m sorry, I’m not capable of giving you that.” What happens more often, though, is that it’s hard for us to say what we want, and it’s hard for partners to know if they can give it to us. And if they can’t, that’s a really hard thing to admit. It sounds like you need to begin this quest with your man, but first you need to begin it with yourself. What do you want? In a relationship? In a job? In a town? Write it down in your journal. If you don’t have a journal, this would be a good time to start one. Take your time, and sleep on it all a few times. Once you have your list, look around. Do you already have some of these things? A lot of them? None of them? The list will help clarify things for you.
For extra support, I recommend picking up the book Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, or tuning into her podcast with Steve Almond—Dear Sugar. They run the gamut of relationship questions in there, and they both have some good thoughts on it. Hearing other people’s stories will help you.
Again, I encourage you to examine your life where you are, first and foremost. Address what’s knocking at your door right now before you pack up and move. Listen to the whispers, and don’t silence them. The whispers will tell you where to start and where you need to go. It sounds like you might need to dig in and do some dirty work in your relationship and your chosen work life. Changing or leaving one or both of these will be tremendously hard, no matter how you slice it. And if you need to change one of these enormous things, you will likely be much better off in a town where you are surrounded by your friends of 13 years.
Once you are on track with creating the life you want, the geography will fall into place. The whispers will get you where you need to be. It will require great courage, but like Anna Lovind writes in this article, “Fear is not a roadblock. It’s a roadsign, showing you where your current borders are. It’s an invitation. A point of entry.”
Write down what you want. And then once you write it down, you have to tell it to the world. And to people who love you. And that can be really scary, and it can change things.
All the love,