Tonight is Rosh Hashanah, the New Year according to the Jewish calendar. Personally, this has always been my personal new year as well; much like Mrs. Miniver, “[this] was always the first, the real New Year. That laborious affair in January was nothing but a name.” And of course, as with January, I have to consider the past year. One year ago today, I got on a plane at Salt Lake City International Airport. I said goodbye to my mom, and, summoning up my best jaunty wave and smile, went through security. Then, I sniffled just a little, bought some fries, and started my adventure.
A year feels like such a long time. Those 52 weeks, 365 days, 525,600 minutes are an almost unfathomable distance, and yet it feels like it ought to be nearer. Tesseract-like, the time loops back around, and you think: this was not so long ago. You should be able to just reach out, and grab the threads of the past that’s just around the corner (gleich um die Ecke). It was only yesterday, in fact, that I moved into my dorm room, and cried with homesickness, and relearned the simplest tasks. Going to the grocery store, say, or opening a bank account.
In a lot of ways, it feels like I’m in the same place I was a year ago. I’ve moved across an ocean (again), having to adjust to a new life and make new friends. It’s been tough, not least because—much like in Vienna—I think that having lived someplace before means I know it, means I know what I’m doing, means there won’t be any struggle. And yet, every time, I get surprised by the moment where I fall on my face. Every time, I have to relearn the old lesson: there is no shortcut. Moving, and new jobs, and new homes: these things are always difficult, and will always take time. I’ll have to learn where the grocery store is, and figure out how much everything costs here, and figure out what paperwork I’m supposed to bring to which impersonal government office. I’ll have to figure out who my people are—doubly so now, when I’m not a student, and if only out of necessity must start looking outside of my own demographic for the people who are truly like me. I’ll have to figure out when to buckle down and cook and my own meals and when it’s okay to just fold and order a pizza*.
At this point, two months into one place and one year gone from another, I’m starting to find my stride. I wake up on time for work in the mornings. I have my own little routine—green smoothies and NPR and biking to the office. I talk to a lot of teenagers at work, and have to remind myself that seventeen-year-old me wasn’t always the Rory Gilmore of my imaginings. I go out less, and read more, and it all feels pretty much okay. Not perfect, but okay.
There are still times when I wish that I, like Charlie and Meg in A Wrinkle in Time, could gather up the fabric of space and time, and just step across to where I was a year ago. There are times when I think I see a friend, and remember that the person I’m thinking of lives in Vienna, and I feel foolish, or when I catch up on my friends’ news from Vienna, and I feel like everyone really is hanging out without me. Then I have to remind myself of another lesson that keeps looping around, over and over: I have what I want, but it doesn’t look the way I expected. I have a job, and my own place, and my own furniture—just in a different place than I had thought. As for next year, we’ll have to wait and see. I’m sure the changes won’t be quite so severe: less of a pendulum and more of a gentle swaying, like linens hung up to dry on a summer day.
*[As a bit of an aside, pizza toppings are one of those small, surprisingly meaningful ways in which I mark place. In Vienna, a place with some—ahem—unconventional pizza toppings, I always went with a Contadina, which is Schmeck/Canadian bacon + spicy peppers +egg. Trust me; it’s better than it sounds. Here in the States, it’s sausage + bacon + jalepenos + banana peppers + green peppers. I call it The Only Child, because that’s not the sort of pizza you share).