I think winter is officially over – the first one in this new place that gets much more extreme winters than any I’ve ever experienced before. 

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Thanks to Geoff I stayed pretty occupied – and when it WAS really cold, he had a fireplace.  I also think this was a milder winter than most, though we did get some pretty big snows (and I was snowbound for awhile a couple of times… but… I’d stocked up well before the snow started, so I was prepared).

But now it’s barely in May, I think (hope!) we’ve gotten the last of the “surprise” frosts, and I’ve gotten my front flower bed under control.  That’s been quite a surprise – there are all kinds of things coming up in there.  Honestly I thought I was going to have a lot of planting to do, but I think it’s going to be full – though I might transplant some of the Iris that I found growing in the field behind my house.  I don’t think it’s going to need much more than that, plus the 13 bags of mulch and 16 edgers that I purchased for it. 

I know… it’s stupid to spend money on a place I’m renting but I really wanted it to look nice in the front, and it was all less than $100 so whatever.

In the back I’ve put together a raised bed, filled it with soil, and am going to be planting a vegetable garden this summer.  The first I’ve had since I lived at home.  I really can’t wait until everything starts growing and producing – it’s going to be amazingly nice to be able to step outside my back door and pick the pepper I need to make a stew, or to pull up the onion I want to make one of the many dishes I use them in.  I’ll put some green beans out there too.  And cucumbers.  Maybe a cantaloupe plant. 

Even better, though, is that being outside like this has given me a really good excuse to exercise more in ways I’ve not pushed myself in a long time.  I’m happy to report that my knee is absolutely fine – this is really putting it to the test. 

But the best part?  Okay this is going to sound weird, but when I moved here I had many goals – most all of which totaled getting my life back together.  Doing things differently than I did in Tampa.  I mean yeah, I had a network there, and yeah I had/have friends there.  But I wasn’t such an integral part of the community that people would miss me when I wasn’t around for a few days.  And I’ll admit – at the time, that was really fine.  I liked the anonymity.  I liked having my little network of people and then just being able to retreat when I was ready to go home.  But when the shit hit the fan in 2020, I realized what a detriment that really was.

Because if something HAD happened to me, then no one would have really even noticed until it was long since over.  I didn’t feel safe anymore and, suddenly, the security that came with being anonymous was a liability. 

Granted, I could have probably built that network in Tampa if I’d tried… but… after everything, I also wanted a new start in a new place. 

So when I finally got here, and I got everything unpacked (which I’m STILL working on – though now it’s not so much unpacking inasmuch as it is actually getting enough stuff to fill the new place), I started working on the second half of that goal.  I never wanted Geoff to be the key – I needed to build that network independently of him.  But because he and I spent so much time together, it kind of slowed the progress. 

Still, though, it did let me get my foot in the door.  For example – when I went back to the bar that he and I used to play trivia at every Wednesday night (except now I go on Tuesdays because it’s “Keep the Glass” night and I’m filling out my barware with fantastically weird, branded glassware while also filling up my passport – because I will not leave this town until I get my name on a plaque on the wall), after a month of not being there, the bartenders not only remembered me but we caught up.  It’s like “Cheers” or something.  They know who I am, they know what I like, and there’s always a new recommendation for me to try.  What’s better – if I’m gone, they wonder where I’m at. 

And then there’s the neighborhood I moved into.  Admittedly I haven’t met many of the adults in the neighborhood, but the kids have kind of made my yard theirs.  I can’t really say why, since I intentionally placed the veggie garden in the back so that it covered their old sand pit.  But there’s a little girl a few houses down that seems to have adopted me.  The other kids have followed suit.  So when I’m out there working, they want to HELP.  What I figured would be a three hour job to spread all the mulch, for example, was knocked out in about 30 minutes.  They knock on my door to bring me flowers and give me hugs.  And to bring snakes over.  Which is weird, but adorable.  (I tell them to just put them in the flowers.. miraculously – and thankfully – the snakes are always gone when I come back out later.)  And then there are the adult neighbors that brought me over five pounds of frozen beef to cook with.  (I’ll be offering them some vegetables in exchange, if they grow… and of course, if they want them.

I mean, it’s little things – and I’m not nearly as integrated yet as I’d like to be, but I also got wind of a writers guild that meets on Sundays here that I might start attending.  And honestly this place is small enough, and the people are friendly enough, that it’s EASY to integrate.  And I really can’t discount the fact that I’ve done this before – in Florida – on a much larger stage.  And I did it successfully.  Maybe not to the extent that I’m trying to do it here, but during Florida Part I, my apartment really was like Monica’s from “Friends” – people were always over there.  So I kind of know what I’m doing. 

Still, I’m fairly comfortable in the knowledge that if something happened to me tomorrow I’d be missed. I’m not as anonymous as I used to be.  And you know what?  That’s perfectly fine with me, for a change.  I have nothing to hide.  I think, really, I never did. 

I guess that’s the biggest breakthrough (so far) in the last year of my thirties.  I’m actually fine just the way I am, being who I am, and I don’t need to worry about hiding that from anyone.  Or proving that to anyone. 

And that’s the most liberating of all.  Liberating to live where I want, liberating to travel wherever I want, whenever I want (thank you, remote work), liberating, most of all, to be who I am – without regret, without apology. 

And, speaking of which, an adventure is imminent. 

Stay tuned… next week’s post comes from NYC.