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I see you, Mercury: The perils of a #vanlife pursuit

I’m almost hesitant to write about last month, perhaps because writing it all down will somehow make it real. Or, that by writing about it, I’m opening myself up for more bad news, misadventures, and stress. I don’t think the universe works that way, but why tempt it? Can I crawl into a cupboard and wait to emerge until Mercury is out of retrograde?

Yes, Mercury, retrograde, and me. If you missed it, I’m planning to transition into full time #vanlife living. As I alluded to in my first post, the path from apartment full of stuff to van isn’t exactly well-defined. I know the outcome: Van. I know where I’m starting: apartment full of stuff, under lease. Between now and my last post, I’ve made a lot of progress. Almost all of my furniture is gone, with the exception of an entertainment center and the tiniest tv in the world. Every weekend I donate or trash more of the stuff I’ve accumulated. As I sit here today, moving into a tiny mobile box feels more manageable, but on the 15th of February, it felt impossible, and I panicked.

My original plan, to save money, was to be out of my apartment with everything sold by March 1. With my apartment listed for lease, I just figured that all I’d have to do was sell everything, and I’d be easy-peasy apartment- and stuff-free come February 29. But after a week where I took stock of how much I’d accumulated over three years here, and my apartment stubbornly refused to be re-leased (yes, in a week. Patience is not one of my virtues), I realized that it was just too much to try to move tiny and find a van in three weeks while maintaining my job and training for an upcoming Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempt. I pushed my move out day to April 30, and a sense of relief told me this was the right decision; perhaps not the cheapest option as I will be paying rent for two more months, diminishing my savings for a van, but I am under less pressure to divest myself of my belongings in two weeks (dime, donate, or destroy).

Meanwhile, as I peruse van options, I’m realizing that A) It is overwhelming; and B) I’m going to need to save up to get what I want. The simultaneous van shopping combined with all the aforementioned ToDos was too much, so I’ve adjusted my van purchase timeline, too. I’m just going to focus on one thing at a time, and right now, my focus is on divesting. Starting May 1, I’ll spend some time couch hopping and dedicate the summer months to saving and finding a van. My van acquisition timeline is getting a van August 20, when I have to be back in Alabama, ready to teach. Instead, I’m just focusing on divesting myself of my extraneous belongings and apartment. As much as I can, I’m tabling the van search until summer. Between now and then, I just have to get the three D’s done, finish a book, run 334 miles, and stay mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy.

Easy-peasy.

Except, it seemed to me, the universe was violently rejecting my lifestyle change. If I look at it objectively, which writing helps me to do, the things going wrong having nothing to do with moving into a van. Yet, I had started to feel like, by stepping out of the rotation of normal, the universe was violently trying to keep me from interrupting the centrifugal force that is a normal, capitalistic life. The last two weeks of February were really hard for reasons mostly unrelated to my #vanlife pursuit. First, along with Mercury, someone from the past re-emerged to bring me back to the darkest time in my life. For the last year of my PhD and then intermittently for two years after, this person had stalked and then harassed me. However, after April of 2018, when I finally went to the police, I hadn’t heard from him. Yet, one Monday evening in February, I logged in to a social media account to find a message waiting for me from him. My world shattered. Every day since April 2018 had gotten a little easier, and I’d finally allowed myself to believe that it was over and that I could live a normal life again. All of that was gone in an instant, and I immediately was back in that same dark place, fearing what every new knock, email, or social media message might bring. It felt hard to breathe, let alone think to a happy future.

And while it isn’t in my professional best interest to talk about it here, work has been very hard to navigate. The work itself – teaching, mentoring, research, writing – is wonderful. But academia has a way of making even the biggest success feel like trash. They say imposter syndrome is something an individual needs to overcome, but when the system and its actors tell you every day that you are not good enough, that your position here is tenuous, and to stay on guard, it’s hard to find the joy. It’s hard to show up.

Bad news on all fronts keeps rolling in.

I’m worried about my family, feeling like I should be there and not here. I’m beating myself up for not accepting the job that would be closer, in a place I loved, for the prestige of my current institution. It all seems so silly now, when really, all I want is a simple, sustainable life, where I can see my family every weekend, and I can smile without effort.

I turned 37 on Friday, and Mercury moves out of retrograde, soon. I just hope the one or both of those things means that the universe will stop resisting, and things will get a little lighter. The reality is that this is life, and these life things are unrelated to moving into a van. The universe doesn’t care about my (tiny) mobile life. Mercury doesn’t bring back stalkers – stalkers and their pathology of manipulation and harm do that. If nothing else, these struggles have helped to cement that despite the challenges and obstacles that come #vanlife is what I want, and I’m willing to work hard to get there. And so, nevertheless, I persist.

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