As a rule, I’m not good at vacations. There’s always too much to do, and I never get to it all—so I’m stressed and tired, and the eventual return home is kind of a relief. I figured a week in New York would do it: by my last night, I’d be eager to fly back to Los Angeles. But I’m not. I miss LA, and I’m happy to call it home, but I don’t want to go just yet. I feel a deep sense of longing to start back at the beginning and do it all over again. I want to stretch out my time here. I want, somehow, to go home without ever needing to leave.
I’m being maudlin. I can’t help it. I’m overwhelmed, and I feel silly even trying to articulate it, but writing is the only way I know how to deal.
It’s not that I’m happier in New York than I am in LA. If that were the case, I’d accept it (however begrudgingly) and do whatever it took to move my life here. I’m fairly confident LA is the right place for me, but this vacation was one that I desperately needed. There’s something about being able to present oneself in a different, unfamiliar context. New York is not new to me, but this trip gave me a chance to push my boundaries and embrace the unknown.
Most of that was internal, and when written out, it likely sounds unremarkable. I’m going to remark on it, anyway! Because I have a hard time with uncertainty, it was important to me that I let a lot of this trip go unplanned. I resolved to fill up my time but to not be overly structured, to accept that I couldn’t do everything (or even, you know, a tiny percentage of everything) because that’s absurd. There’s a way to make the best of your time without making the most of it, if that makes sense: once I grasped that, I felt the familiar panic slip away.
Just going on the trip was a feat. If you only knew how many times I’ve made rough plans to travel and then found reasons not to go. Because it’s easier to just stay at home. It is maybe the easiest thing I know how to do. Up until the night before I left, I kept thinking, what if I just don’t? It wouldn’t really matter either way—aside from pissing off some of the people to whom I had obligations and very likely my parents. Sometimes I’m gripped by such amorphous fear that I want to sink into my couch. Anything but breaking it into its disparate parts and confronting each individually.
Fear of flying. Fear of being away from home. Fear of being alone. Fear of public speaking (more on this in a bit). Maybe it sounds silly to you—it sounds a little silly to me—but going to New York, particularly after so many aborted trips in the past, was symbolically huge.
Public speaking was a big part of it, probably bigger than I was willing to acknowledge before I left LA. On Sunday night, I performed onstage for the first time since middle school. (Summer theater camp plays. That hardly counts.) I’ve resisted the urge to perform because few things terrify me more. One of the most exciting things about being asked to do this show was facing that dread head-on. And as the trip approached, it got stronger—less nervous excitement and more, “You’ve made a huge fucking mistake.”
I don’t want to make it sound as though every moment leading up to Sunday night was filled with anxiety. Because it wasn’t—at least, no more so than usual. This whole trip for me was about accepting a certain level of unease. I might suck. Failure is always an option. But that’s no reason to run, or to close your eyes and wait for it all to pass.
Anyway, I didn’t suck. I had an amazing time on Sunday: it was one of the best nights of my life. It was such an important step for me to take—to do something that terrified me and to realize that it didn’t kill me. It wasn’t just manageable; it was thrilling. The past week has been full of other moments like that, less significant if only because they mostly took place in my head, with a much smaller audience. But each step forward against the anxiety (what I sometimes misinterpret as “my better judgment”) was such a rush. I feel like I started the trip off holding my breath, and I’ve been slowly letting it out as the days passed.
And you know, I may always be a person who doesn’t love the idea of a vacation: nothing will ever be quite as comfortable as normalcy. Despite what I’ve taken away from this, I’m still a homebody. A week-long trip isn’t going to change anyone, least of all someone so stuck in his ways, but I’m writing this down because I need to remember. It’s not all turbulence and drawn-out goodbyes. It’s warm hugs and applause and a vague but overwhelming sense that it’s going to be OK. Deep breath. Let it out.