I will be moving out of Missoula in a matter of months, leaving this cozy mountain town with streets I’ve walked hundreds of times, for work, for brews, for the warmth of people I care about. I feel torn between elation at escaping so soon and mourning because I feel like I have half-assed living here. Leaving places half-lived, things partially seen, people not fully explored, makes me feel like a sloppy person. I am not. I am usually meticulous as Hell.
I moved here in May 2017 because Logan got a good job and that’s what you do when one of you gets something promising. We were excited to spend a year together, finally. Montana in the summer is like nowhere else, and we couldn’t wait to find a home, move in, buy some tubes, float the river, and just exist in the ways you get to when you are around your person for more than a few months at a time.
I quickly realized that while I vaguely knew people here, it was hard to pin them down and also terrifying to do so. Mostly non-profit acquaintances, people who had done lobbying at the Legislature, or people I knew from college. I felt ashamed to reach out and make friends because I was unemployed, broke, and still finishing my thesis. I was a messy trifecta of half-done, in-progress things that really mattered to me. I was not sure what was going to happen, if we were always going to be this broke, if I was always going to get interviews and still never land a job, if my thesis edits would ever really, truly be done.
Despite the struggles, Missoula felt so full of promise, and people here seemed happy, settled, or had at least found something that made them feel content enough to stay, and I eagerly looked for those feelings or motivations. I looked in bars, on the shores of rivers, in bakeries with black coffee, in art galleries, at live music shows, on long walks as dusk tinged everything in blues and purples. I caught glimpses of them as I listlessly meandered around town, jobless and ashamed, lonely but too proud to reach out to people I kind-of-knew,
wanting needing somebody to tell me, as they looked me in the eye, You are going to be just fine. Missoula is a shit-show for the unemployed. Most of us are working two jobs. The wages are notoriously terrible. You are going through something we all have.
The problem is that if you don’t reach out to those kind-of-knew people, you don’t ever give the opportunity for anything to arise. In my introverted-ness, compounded by personal challenges, I hid. Everybody I sort-of-knew here seemed content enough that it felt horrible to ask them to leave that space and come, however temporarily, to my little plot of guilt and fear.
After that, once fall and winter came on, I felt okay, and my awkwardness and lack of friends were quieted because in the span of three months I had defended a thesis I was proud of, said goodbye to British Columbia and grieved a bit, and landed a job that seemed like it would fill in a lot of holes that had been present mentally. That proved to be wrong, but the point is that I felt okay with having this other gaping hole of relationships persist, because you can’t have it all, and I had more than I had in a long, long time. A wonderful partner, a job, a house, a Master’s degree. Why get greedy?
I still felt like I needed to seek that feeling, though. That seeking, to this day, has given me lots of beginnings, almost no middles, and one ending that will occur soon.
I have pondered and turned these ideas of place, of settling, of bonds that make you want to stay, until they went from a rock with bits of dirt and detritus clinging, to a smooth stone that I can put in my pocket, rubbed down and worried to no end. There was never enough time here. By the time spring rolled around, I was mentally preparing for Logan to depart as his visa was expiring soon. A big change that would have us both not having much figured out, just a fierce hope, sheer determination and one Canadian work visa between the two of us, because neither of our countries could house us both. I mourned after he left- it was a shock to have our house emptied of him, our happy yellow house with apple trees, where we valiantly battled wasp nests, drank wine on the porch, read books in bed, were broke and happy and curious together. So, once again, I folded inward, adjusting to this awful newness.
Anyway, I guess this is an admission in some ways. I am bad at putting down roots. I have moved every two years since I was eighteen, just in time to find the people I imagine could be worthwhile and leaving just before the layers of friendship set like so many layers of stain on bare wood, protecting and illuminating the right qualities. I feel so torn departing, relief flowing through me because this challenging period of my life will be ending, but also feeling like a jerk because I feel like I didn’t make enough happen. Missoula is a beautiful place, with soul and meaning. I will reflect on more of that in further posts, but I feel strongly that what I discuss here contains some of my biggest regrets, so I need to abandon them here.