Taking Flight

July 19, 2013

A defining moment for me occurred on a plane, flying from Boston to Edinburgh, on July 4th, 2010. Although it was more of a non-moment, I guess.

The night before my flight, I’d decided to go out. Using extensive powers of rationalization, I convinced myself that I’d want to sleep on the plane anyway, so a hangover would actually be a GOOD thing to have – better to be exhausted than wide awake! Of course, this rationalization was all in the service of my delusional desire to see a guy I was into. Of course it was. I was 23.

I’d met this guy a few weeks earlier at my favorite get-blackout-and-dance spot, a tiny club in Cambridge that played soul music on Saturday nights. I’d liked him because he made fun of me, which prompted me to make fun of him, and on the night we met my friend and I were out until 5 AM, drinking with him and his roommate on their nearby roof deck. It was exhilarating. Much of what we talked about was how cool he thought he was, and that he didn’t want a girlfriend; I told myself (and my friends) that all I wanted was a casual hookup thing, so this was perfect. Then, I drove myself crazy waiting for him to text me.

On the night before my trip to Scotland, I texted him incessantly until he relented and agreed to meet up. It was the end of the night, and I met him at his apartment. Once there, it was clear that he wanted me to leave, but it was too late – it was 4 AM, and I had no way home, so I meekly asked if I could crash on the couch. I woke at 6 to find him up and ironing, and he cavalierly wished me a great trip as I hurried to the door, cold and exposed in my short summer dress and clutching my tiny going-out purse.

I walked from his apartment to Mass Ave, and found a cab driver in Central Square. He looked sorry for me. When I realized that the meter was over-running the amount of cash I had, I told him to pull over; he took pity on me and drove me the rest of the way home free of charge.

By all accounts, this was an embarrassing night. A night of real rejection. I mean Jesus, let’s recount: I’d worn a short dress and gone after a dude, gone so far as to GO TO HIS HOUSE AT 2 AM, been rejected EVEN AT THAT POINT, slept alone on a couch, and then had looked pathetic enough to be given a free ride by a fairly down-and-out cab driver. This was an EMBARRASSMENT. And I should have felt miserable, and full of self-loathing.

But I didn’t. On the plane the next day, on my way out of the US for the very first time, taking a trip I had paid for entirely by myself, I really felt ok. And I wrote in my journal: “I think I’ve made progress because I don’t feel that bad.” This was a turning point; only a year before, a night like this one would have had me writhing in shame for weeks, whenever I recalled a glimmer of what had happened. But this time, I took it in stride. In some weird way, though I’d spent a night de-valuing myself, I had started to know my worth.

I went to Scotland alone, and though I stayed with friends there, I did much of my sightseeing alone. I was single. I was single because I’d ended my college relationship the year before, because that guy from the bar hadn’t wanted to hook up with me, because I hadn’t met anyone I liked on okcupid. But I no longer felt single because of ME, because I wasn’t good enough. I thought about this as I leaned my head against the side of the tour bus on my solo trip through the Scottish Highlands. I enjoyed my own company. I took pictures of my reflection in the window against the rolling green hills. I felt ok.

My memories of the trip are somehow silent but colorful. I went for a run through a graveyard in the early morning and looked out at the city – I could see all the way to the ocean. Maybe I’ll move here, I thought, and get my MFA at the University of Edinburgh. Maybe I’ll meet the love of my life then, or later. In London, I spent the day walking. I didn’t know where I was going, I just walked and walked, running into landmarks along the way. On my way back to my hostel, I stopped in St. James’ Park and sat against a tree for a while. I was lonely, but I felt ok.

When I came home, I made a facebook album of my pictures – it was 2010, after all. I called the album “Changing Skies.” It was another year or so before I left that phase of my twenties – there were more blackout nights and ill-advised hookups and a million okcupid dates to come – but fundamentally, I’d found a little footing. I liked myself now, at least.

Here it is in its glory, on Medium.

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