It was a typically warm and sunny spring day in the San Francisco East Bay when I hoisted myself into my rig with padlock key in hand and backed out of the grassy knoll I’d been calling home for the past two weeks. I’d been enjoying the safety of living in the backyard of the in-law apartment I’d rented for two years and slowly transitioning from my old life to a new one – so full of unknown adventures and uncertainties. My landlords, Larry and Gayle had graciously offered to let me stay in the backyard as long as I needed to. But I was getting restless; it was time to fly the coop.
As I positioned my RV toward the locked gate at the other end of the yard, I looked over at Capone who was trying to get settled into his new bed in the passenger seat and said, “here we go buddy…Are you ready for our new life?” He stopped trying to make sense of his new perch and role as co-pilot and looked over at me with that look dogs always give their people, who insist on having human conversations with them. A look that says, “you know I can’t understand a word you’re saying unless the words “treat” or “walk” are included, so why do you even bother?”
As I rolled to a stop near the back gate, padlock key still firmly pressed in hand, I stepped out of my rig and turned to look at Larry and Gayle’s house attached to my tiny former abode one last time. The two years flashed through my mind; from when I first moved in, loving the new city and the idea of being 15 miles closer to San Francisco, to the friends I’d made and lost, the two men I’d dated and broken up with and my solo trips to Greece and on the John Muir Trail.
I reflected on how that chapter of my life led me to this point; two years ago I was thrilled to be back in ‘civilization’ after living in a further suburb of San Francisco for thirteen years. I was filled with excitement at being back in a place where I could hear the subway trains running on a still night. Where I could get Vegan, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese or Mexican food within a mile of home, and take the subway into the city to attend a lecture on Economic Policy at the Commonwealth Club or go to the Ballet.
Where I finally made friends who fit me (or so I thought, until I found out they didn’t fit me at all. A long story for another day perhaps.). And where I met and dated what should have been my Prince Charming. The wealthy attorney who loved me and offered me everything I could have ever wanted for the rest of my life. The man who bought me expensive gifts, took me on 5-star vacations, dinners at exclusive clubs and restaurants, and World Series Play-off games (we were in Hawaii for the actual World Series, so he sold those tickets for a ridiculous amount of money). I finally found a man who wanted to take care of me and offer me every material comfort I never had – or had to work my ass off to earn.
I tried to make it work. Oh, how I wanted it to work. But I had to be honest with myself – and with him; I didn’t love him. And in retrospect, I realized that life – his rich and (relatively) effortless life – wasn’t for me.
Dating him made me realize that my life isn’t meant to be easy and cushy. I’m not built for decadence and excess. I am of the earth. I am meant to immerse myself in nature, challenge myself, get dirty, sweat, and fall down (both literally and figuratively). I am meant to live a life full of challenges and adventures and all kinds of experiences. Money takes that away. Money white-washes life’s experiences. No. My life, at least for now, is meant to be lived in a 23-year-old rig that could break down at any moment with just a few thousand dollars to my name…anything else would be far too boring!
So as I looked upon my landlord’s glass house on the hill – a perfect representation of the life I was leaving behind, I swelled with happiness and contentment. I practically skipped down the hill like a giddy schoolgirl, peeled the padlock key out of my palm, unlocked the gate, heaved myself back into the driver seat of my home on wheels and slowly rolled out of the backyard, straining my ears to hear every hum, roar and squeak the old rig made as it hobbled onto the city street. Please don’t’ break down right now. Please. Please Please. I pleaded with the universe to not let it die before I even had a chance to embark on my new life.
Once on the other side of the gate, I jumped out, ran to the house to store the key in a safe place then slowly walked back down to the fence, wrapped the thick rusty chain around the gate and clicked the padlock in place; forever locking me out of my old life. As I drove away, my monstrous RV lumbered down the steep street toward I-80; my road to freedom. I went through my mental checklist of everything I’d done to prepare for this day, worrying: do I have everything? Have I done everything that needs to be done? What am I forgetting?
I’m not sure the reality of my new freedom hit me right away, but I was fully aware that everything I owned (except my car which is in storage) was tucked away behind me. Holy shit, what have I done? This is crazy. Ludicrous. Who sells everything they own at 48 to live in a 23 year old RV with their 11 year old dog and limited cash in the bank? Where will I sleep tonight? I’ve done some crazy shit, but have I really lost my mind this time???
I smiled. Yes, maybe I have lost my mind. But I’m sure I’ll find it somewhere along the way…