I have been in St. Louis about 6 months now. 3 or 4 months ago, I adopted a cat. I made this decision that will live into my 40s after reading an article on the Everygirl.com about "A Beauty Editor's Morning Routine" or "How to Perfect Your Morning Routine" or "How to Make the Mundane Details of Your Life Weigh on You" or something like that.
I don't remember much about the article except that it mentioned "feed the cat" as something that happened right after "wake up." That stuck with me. I never imagined I would want a cat, but I was unmoored, and had been for a while -- living out of a suitcase, living out of a car, moving to a new city -- and I wanted to be moored. I wanted to wake up, then feed the cat. I wanted to stop thinking about myself and my personal development and my uncertain future long enough to scoop a little turkey pâté into a dish for a furry, small-brained dependent.
I adopted the first cat I met, a very large, semi-feral creature named "Chewbacca." I changed his name to Chuy, although Will calls him "Chewbac Obama." Chuy had a bit of a biting problem. For a while I worried he wasn't happy, and that he wanted to be back in Florissant, MO next to the Chinese take-out place where they found him. I tossed around the idea of driving into the Missouri countryside to find a nice farmer who would let Chuy roam free and dig rice out of cardboard containers in alleyways, like nature intended.
But slowly Chuy adjusted to his new life of naps and head scratches and regular meals. He has brought us lots of joy. When at rest, he arranges his body in a way that looks exactly like a rotisserie chicken. Let me tell you: it is hilarious. Every morning when I wake up, I scoop a little turkey pâté into his dish while he rubs his head on my feet in a pathetic show of groveling. He still bites a bit, but in a sort of gentle, apologetic way. I feel moored.
Of course, now that I have anchored myself here, with a lease and a job and an animal and a human, I have started to get antsy. I find it hard to sit in a cubicle for 40 hours a week to do a job I am ambivalent about. I find it exhausting to hide the fact that I am reading the New Yorker for 25 of those hours. I feel my career is starting elsewhere, without me. According to the Internet, all my peers who want to be writers are already, somehow, mid-career. Remember Ruby Tandoh, from the Great British Bake-Off? She is 1. absolutely magical, and 2. the author of 3 cookbooks. She is 24. (She also wrote this article back in 2016 about disordered eating and "wellness" culture that I find so smart.)
I am not comparing myself, per se, which I know is futile and misguided. I am also not a baker, so I don't know why I chose Ruby Tandoh as an example of success except for the fact that she is a person whom I genuinely admire. What I am saying is: am I doing enough? Am I standing still when I should be moving forward? Why did I adopt a cat that does not travel well instead of moving to a big city and succeeding in a more real way? This is a trap I fall into again and again: that clawing feeling that if everything isn't right in my heart and my mind and my life, I should change something. I should move, I should quit my job, I should put on a face mask and lay in my bed and breathe deeply until I'm calm. I have started to suspect that this kind of thinking is a very tricky variety of bullshit.
I have started to think that the next phase in my travels is staying in one place, at least for a little while. I have started to think that I don't need to streamline everything, I just need to look around me and see what is. Do you know what I mean? This kind of thing is especially confusing with all the language floating around right now about "feeling your feelings" and "self care" and "embracing your imperfections." Somehow I internalize those messages as another mode of self-perfection, which is an admirably twisty type of fucked up.
What I am saying is this: at the moment, Nirvana is unavailable to me. I am in a gray-brown, drab cubicle. I recently got in trouble for being repeatedly late to work, and I am holding my breath that my boss doesn't come out of his office to see that I am getting paid $19/hr of taxpayer money to write a very long personal blog post. I don't feel particularly good about any of that, but I also no longer feel the need to immediately craft it into a part of a personal transformation. I spend a lot of my week under florescent lights.
But also: I am making enough money to pay for my apartment, which is 2 blocks from this job that I am lucky to have. When I get home, my cat and my boyfriend will be chilling together in a cute manner and I will say "hello boys," like I always do. There's an elliptical and a treadmill in the basement that I can use for free while I listen to "Work, Bitch" by Britney Spears, a song I tell myself I like ironically.
Everything I have done for the past couple of years has been impermanent. I haven't dug in anywhere, and everything has been a stepping stone to the next thing. They have been beautiful, freeing, very fun stepping stones that I wanted. But now I have arrived somewhere, and I adopted a cat, and he doesn't travel well, so I think I'm going to stay in St. Louis long enough to look around me at the life I have here.