My memories of that time remain vivid: the electrifying but silent lightening storms in the distance, the clouds that closed over the evening sky the way eyelids close over tired eyes at bedtime, and the solitude of not knowing a single person when I arrived at Denver International Airport.
I lived in Boulder for six months while I worked at the ABC affiliate in Denver my senior year. That job was all part of NU’s cooperative education program where students alternated stints at real jobs for a semester or two with classes. The idea is that at the end of five years, students graduate with about two years of actual job experience. It was one such job opportunity that led me to Colorado when I was 21 years old.
In addition to getting actual journalism experience as I assisted reporters on a variety of stories, I also worked at Nature’s Nectar, a juice and smoothie bar in Boulder just off the Pearl Street Mall. As a result, I downed countless shots of wheat grass juice and smoothies loaded with bee pollen, spirulina, and wheat germ. I sipped pints of beer and ate vats of artichoke dip at Oasis Brewery. I smoked a cigar on the roof deck of the West End Tavern. I ate a lot of deep-dish pizza at Old Chicago and learned that the best way to eat the crust was with honey drizzled on top. There was Josh & John’s Ice Cream on the Hill. The Rusted Roots concert at Red Rocks. There was the SCOOT shuttle bus that looped riders around town for a mere 25 cents. There was live music at the Catacombs Bar, nighttime hikes in the Flatirons, and numerous salads from Alfalfa’s grocery store. There were also gallons of strawberry chardonnay in the storage unit of my rental on 22nd Street at my disposal. My absentee roommate who was learning the wine business in Valarde, NM told me that I could drink as much as I like. And I did.
Those were probably some of the happiest months of my life. Even though I was alone. Yes, I was sometimes lonely. But I was, without a doubt so very, very happy. I made new friends, explored the state's vast natural landscape (which was a sharp contrast from Boston's city streets), I embraced the laid-back lifestyle (which included unshaven legs, smoking pot occasionally, and realizing that the joy is the journey). “The Best of John Denver” was often playing on the CD player and “Rocky Mountain High” became my theme song. I altered the words a bit and sang them often and freely:
I was born in the summer of my 22 year, coming home to a place I’d never been before. Left yesterday behind me, might say I was born again. Might say I found the key to every door. When I first came to the mountains, my life was far away. On the road, hanging by a song…
While I was alone and single, I was able to prove to myself that I was a strong, independent young woman. A capable woman. A good person. Those were all things I questioned about myself after exiting an emotionally abusive relationship that lasted three years. I was learning to be me again as I navigated through an unfamiliar town. I was relieved to learn that I was very able to keep myself busy, safe, content. I was me at last. Me at last! Me at last! Thank God Almighty, I was me at last!
Living in San Francisco for those nine months last year remind me of that time in Boulder. As I ease into live on the Peninsula full-time, once again—15 years later—I’m given the opportunity to begin again as I inch away from my broken marriage. To leave yesterday behind me. To be find the key to ever door in my life. To open those doors if I choose to do so. I begin this next step of singlehood with my very own place. My own space, filled with my own things, offering me a personal sanctuary as I move through the next phase of this massive life transition. Social Worker Friend has gently reminded me that the only way to get past a difficult life event is to go through it.
That is exactly what I’m forced to do. Go through it. I’ve realize that living in San Francisco for eight months served as a respite, a break from the immediacy of the split with my ex. But it really didn’t offer a chance to heal. I didn’t go through my transition. Living in San Francisco in my little rented room was a diversion. A glorious diversion from the trauma in my personal life. I relished the opportunity to be in denial. Each Saturday I drove away from my problems and went into the city for company. I gripped its energy. I gazed at its trees. I sipped its decaf soy lattes and danced down its sidewalks. I dated its single men and studied in one of its universities. And then on Tuesdays after class, I returned to the broken home I shared with my children and the bulk of my ex’s belongings.
It was like a comma in a sentence, a slight pause in the enormity of the separation. But I wouldn’t have done it any other way. So, if my time in San Francisco is the life-equivalent to a comma, then my new rental in San Carlos is the equivalent of hitting the return key. A fresh line in my life, in my story. A opportunity to discover myself once again, just as I did in Colorado. A beginning. A clean page, free of typos. At least for now.