The other day, Sean and I interviewed a local chef for an article I was writing—well, I interviewed him and Sean photographed him, which really meant that we both got to leave work early and have someone feed us sauteed baby quail at four o'clock in the afternoon. (And I'm leaving this job again why?) On our way back to the car afterwards, we started talking about how there were so many restaurants in Charleston we hadn't yet been to in the three and a half years we've lived in the city, and Sean said "We could just stay here and eat. I'm sure it's not too late for you to withdraw your resignation. We could still turn back!"
He was only kidding, but of course it is too late. Yesterday marked the last Monday in a long time where I'll wake up and get that awful oh-god-is-the-weekend-over-already? feeling, before hauling myself out of bed and into work. Next Monday, of course, I'll be hauling myself out of bed and into the airport, but that'll be a lot easier to deal with, if only because they have coffee there. (Can you believe they don't have a coffee pot at my office? The only other place I've worked without a coffee pot was the place run by Mormons, and that was understandable. The boss bought people lunch a lot to overcompensate.)
I started out this month just having pockets of worry---you know, at the usual times: around midnight, when I couldn't get to sleep, or 4am, when I'd wake up again in a panic. Now, though, with only three and a half more days of work left, a book manuscript due on Friday, a party to host on Saturday, a suitcase to pack on Sunday, and a plane to catch on Monday, I'm finding that those pockets have turned into one long epidosde of FREAKING THE HELL OUT. I didn't help my situation at all yesterday when, in a brief moment of confusion about my COBRA benefits, I put in a request for an independent health insurance quote on some website, and since then have been bombarded with e-mails and phone calls from smooth-talking insurance salesmen who leave me long-winded messages in syrupy, dulcet tones, saying things like "I am COMMITTED to helping you OUT, Miss Burns. Please CALL ME." I've been having the interns put them through to my voicemail, but one day soon I'm going to pick up the call and say, "IF YOUR PLAN WILL GET ME SOME XANAX, YOU'VE GOT MY BUSINESS."
About this time last year, when I thought I was depressed for a week but it turned out it was only PMS, I booked a flight to L.A. to visit my brother. I could do things like that then, because I wasn't saving up desperately to make my escape (though goddamnit, considering I've now been wearing my two-week contact lenses for a month and a half in order to conserve money, I certainly should have been.) At the time, I thought I hated Charleston: couldn't stand its conservative politics and its oppressive humidity, was irritated by the fact that we never got the good movies or the good bands, that we didn't have an H&M or an IKEA or a Trader Joe's nearby, that everyone drove a Hummer with a W sticker on the back, and not the kind that said "W: The Worst."
I thought I didn't like my life here, but now I can't remember what I was complaining about. Of course, there are still things about the city that I don't like, but as my time here is winding down, I see them less. These days, all I see are the things I love about Charleston: the amazing architecture, the wealth of history, driving over the bridge in the morning with Simon & Garfunkel on loud and the sun clear and bright, and not quite hot enough yet to annoy me. I love the everpresent "y'all," my newfound appreciation of pimiento cheese, drinking G&Ts on someone's porch as the bugs just start to come out. I love that Lovely Neighbor Stacy will run up to borrow a stick of butter---yes! so neighborly! like borrowing a cup of sugar!---and that Thespian Libby and I will meet in the landing between our apartments when we're both doing laundry and she'll get my cats high on catnip. I love that Pretty Coworker Elle keeps buying the wrong shade of lipgloss for herself, a shade that just happens to be my shade, so that every week she comes in with a new product for me, and in return I'll make her a sandwich at lunchtime, which we'll eat at our desks while reading The Superficial and talking about how weird Jessica Simpson's boobs are looking these days.
When I was at boarding school, the headmistress used to deliver these homilies at Monday morning assembly every week; they were normally sweet and anecdotal, usually based around something her three year old daughter had done or said, and often with some underlying message about how nice girls like us should behave. The only one I really remember contained the usual talk about these being the best days of our lives, which we, of course---wracked with worry about exams and zits and boys, cursing the fact that we couldn't wear nail polish to school---disregarded as old fuddy-duddy nonsense. But then she said "don't wish time away," and she said it with such urgency that I sat up and took notice. I had three years of high school left then, and of course all I was doing was wishing time away, waiting for a period in my life when I wouldn't have to study for a test or write an essay, a period in my life when I might live near my family, or at least with someone whom I loved as much, waiting for a period in my life when all the stuff that seemed to matter just wouldn't matter anymore.
But of course, you never reach that period, do you? And all I've been doing over the last three and a half years in Charleston is wishing more time away, waiting for another escape route from something I've become used to and tired of. And now I've finally decided to make that escape route for myself, and on Friday I'm going to take the first step toward using it. And sometimes, at three and four and five o'clock in the morning, I wonder if really, truly, in my heart of hearts, I actually want to do it anymore.