still a safe amount of distance before my exit

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Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?
You’d better cool it off before you burn it out
You’ve got so much to do
And only so many hours in a day

You’ve got your passion, you’ve got your pride
But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

Slow down, you crazy child
And take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile
It’s all right, you can afford to lose a day or two
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?

Billy Joel, “Vienna”

I had a work event tonight, and when it was over I found myself with a strange amount of energy. Usually these things leave me completely drained and wanting nothing but Netflix ‘n couch, but tonight I was a’rarin to go and tried to round up a bestie or two to go get drinks. Alas, my energy was not matched by those around me. “Exhausted,” “Studying for an online Masters,” “Visiting a friend who just had a baby,” and “Deathbed sick.” The one time I’m not stuck at work or home with severe FOMO and everyone is busy or dying. Figures.

My husband was busy (also “Studying for an online Masters”) and as I left work, I suddenly made a right instead of a left and decided to go for a drive. (Not suddenly as in skirted across three lanes of traffic, but suddenly as in the idea occurred to me at a time when there was still a safe amount of distance before my exit, and I used my turn signal and was respectful to other drivers. I had to put that in here.) In making a right instead of a left, I took the “long way” home – a good 40km of straight highway driving out of my way in a circle across the other side of the city. It was nighttime and a delicious 78F, and I cranked up the music, opened the sun roof, put down the windows.

Billy Joel’s “Vienna.” Grace Potter’s “Stars.” Snow Patrol’s “Run.” Foxes’ “Youth.” I drove the way I did when I was nineteen and borrowed my roommate’s ancient Honda to drive to the ocean at midnight, singing along to the sirens of the early 00’s – Alanis, Tori, and Fiona. (If I ever have triplet girls….) I couldn’t remember the last time it had been just me, in a car, listening to music so loud it felt like bathwater, warm and everywhere at once. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been in a car with no specific destination or time frame in mind, when I wasn’t rushing from one thing to another. I drove past landmark Abu Dhabi superlatives – everything ending in –est. Largest, fastest, roundest. I drove past the airport, past the flat we first lived in when I moved here, past the Irish pub, and over the bridge that connects the island city with the mainland country.

We are in a weird, suspended period of time. Leaving a country is never anything graceful or well-executed; no matter how hard you try to plan it out, it’s clumsy and done in fits and you’ll inevitably wind up with a carload of perfectly good shit to be given away for free because you couldn’t sell it online. Leaving a country means living with imperfection and accepting that, at the end of the day, as long as your loose ends are tied up it doesn’t really matter what the mess looks like.

This is also that weird period of time when everything begins to take on a new glow. Are we sure we’re ready to leave? Maybe there are more opportunities here that we’ve missed out on, or maybe we didn’t try hard enough to make the most of things…small arguments with friends are quickly dismissed when you realize that your time with them is limited, and everything becomes romanticized and could be “the last.” The last time we order sushi delivery from our favorite restaurant. The last time we go see a movie in the plush theater. The last time we drive up through the desert to Dubai. Two years ago, it was all sparkling new’s and frustrating firsts and now it’s bittersweet lasts.

Only these lasts are a bit more permanent. Leaving your home country is sad, but you know it’s  your home base and that you’ll see everyone and everything again. You know, at any time, that you can go back. Repatriating is different, because it’s entirely likely you may never come back – even to visit.

In another month, most of these “To Do’s” will be done. We’ll be crossing the final things off the lists (hopefully) and our flat will be packed into a million boxes. We’ll effectively be homeless and I will be unemployed, but both will be hopefully brief and parenthetical as we settle into a new life back in Baltimore.

But tonight it was just me driving along, jamming out and heading home. Tonight was just a Wednesday workday, and I’d arrive home to greet the cats and the husband and rinse out my travel coffee mug from this morning. And then, buoyed by my iTunes muses, I’d find myself out on my balcony with a glass of wine and tapping away at my laptop to write out all of the thoughts that had crossed through during my long drive home.

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