When I Go Back

Adjusting to city life has been very up and down. The ups are lovely – reconnecting with friends, remembering beautiful pockets of community, being closer to family, feeling lucky to have a great house and a sweet job, having take-out as an option... but the downs are hard to shake. And while there are a lot of "temporary" factors playing into the downs (grief and covid, primarily), I just really miss my dang farm. So much.

The city is expensive. And noisy. And full of tension between "us" and "them". My good old friend, Vague Existential Anxiety, has nestled in my guts once again, and I find myself feeling like I'm lost in space. I've come to think of the city simply as "the machine". Finding small reprieves in self care, green spaces, hobbies, recreational fitness (UGH), projects... all they're meant to do is distract us from the tedium of feeding the machine. The grind. Sedentary lifestyles of staying still for 8 hours straight and then trying to undo the consequent physical and mental damage... posture, diet, circulation, muscle cramps, eye strain, carpal tunnel, overdosing on social media, having so little time at the end of the day to find or feel contentment... "wellness" is dangled like a carrot in front of our faces constantly, the promise of "balance".

Having seen the other side, and lived a life where I finally found real contentment and balance, the city just feels so grotesquely predatory and senseless now. It's a machine. "Start a business! Contribute to the economy! Make more money! Take amazing vacations! Build your online presence! Reap the rewards of popularity!" I hate it. What's the point??? Everyone is treading water, many are drowning, and those who are lucky enough to have financial security are... bored. It's all so damn hollow.

This isn't to say I escaped the machine entirely when I was on my farm, but I was at least far enough away from it that it didn't piss me off constantly. I could walk out my front door, stretch, do whatever weird exercises or tasks I felt like, yammer away at my animals, throw stuff, cut stuff, burn stuff, plant stuff, and no one was watching me. No one was judging me. No one was putting my character in a corner because of slight non-conformities. I could just *be*. And yes the work was hard, and there was still plenty of stress, and I know it wasn't a smart place to stay on my own with two kids. If anything had happened to me, if I hurt myself or got sick, we had no backup. The life I built out there was BIG - the business, the crops, the maintenance - it was meant to include a partner, and managing it alone was not sustainable, or safe.

But when I go back, I'll know exactly what I need, and how to do it right. There won't be any more questions around "maybe I'm just romanticizing country life?", "maybe it will be too hard for me?". When I eventually find another small patch of paradise, either on my own or with a partner, I'll be in a better place financially and career-wise, and all the beautiful bits that I fell so deeply in love with will be there. The crisp quiet sunrises. The silly clucks and coos of my chickens. My plants. A personal relationship with the weather. The glee I took in tiny surprises and victories. The indifference of the landscape, and the deep satisfaction I found when I learned I could truly take care of myself, as well as the little worlds around me. Community and friendship will still be there, and I'll go to it when I need it, but the micro symphonies around me will be mine to observe and tend. And I know that's where peace is.

So I have a new five year plan. I'll do my best in the city, use the assets I have to make solid choices, and do what I can to leave where I am better than I found it. I'll focus on my girls, see them graduate, and make sure they're well equipped to make good choices as they step out into adulthood. And then I'm OUT. I'll find a spot just big enough, build my gardens, raise my animals, write, putter, and live that simple, all-encompassing life that makes me feel like I'm actually living. Like I'm actually breathing. Like I'm actually well. Having that to look forward to makes feeding the machine a little bit easier.

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