This week, you are traveling east, back to a place you left for hopes of a better one, which, whether you found it or not, (and you’re not sure, but you think so), you are leaving anyway. Your stoicism looks good except for the cracks, the tremble in your chin, and the fact that you have trouble swallowing. You say, “See you later!” instead of “good-bye”, and hope noone knows your sadness.

The states between the two stretch wide and press close, somehow at the same time. You want everything: to get there, to go back, to have the drive go on forever so you never have to choose. Miles of mountains and no water, and you try to picture how it would be to live here. To raise a family in a state that makes you feel so small.

And then you arrive, and you’re in another new apartment, trying to find some joy, and if not joy, comfort, and if not comfort, resignation. Instead, you feel a sense of loss, of the person you were when you left, only a year and a half ago. Maybe now you are better, or at least maybe now you know more, but you are surprised to miss who you were, or who you think you were, and you are dismayed that you can’t find your old self again in the streets and the people and the places that dared continue in your absence.

You miss the sound of the boats that floats to you on the breeze. You miss the distant seagulls, the mist, the blessedly cool cradle of night. How the city grows wild, how you always wondered idly if someday no one would be able to hold back the blackberry brambles and the mulch and the heavy-hanging branches. You miss the idea of the closeness of the coast, you miss that “going to the beach” actually might mean a beach, sand and bracing salty water and a tide. And not a lake.

But you’re here now. Comfort or not, you’re here now. You dig through the boxes for the things that will make it feel like home, the candles and the soft blankets and the teakettle and the spices.

Everyone says, “Give it time.” You wonder how much time you should give it. You are often impatient. You often want things you can’t have, so you pretend you don’t want them, because it’s easier that way. Or that’s what you’ve been telling yourself, anyway.

Maybe, hopefully, you will find your feet here again. The worst that could happen is you don’t, and so you’ll just keep moving. You try to remind yourself that this won’t mean you’ve failed, that you’re just living, the best way you know how.

As much as you thrive on discomfort, on the high, on the adrenaline of new challenges, this seems like an old challenge you know all too well. So you do what you’ve done, what you know, what you must: you pour the tea. You pull the chair to the table. You picture your shadow, there with you, offering comfort, keeping you from being alone. You settle in for a long night.

It’s hard to not feel as though I’ve failed. I wanted to take a risk, to have an adventure, and I honestly did not think I would look back much. I hoped I wouldn’t? I often wonder what was wrong with what I had, why I left in the first place, and the “wrongness” wasn’t so wrong as it was the same, and I felt the same, and I wanted to feel different, to stretch myself. And, if that were everything, I have, definitely, stretched.

I wanted a writing community. I got that. Now it is faltering, broken, unsteady. I hope, as we scatter, it will rebuild and remain strong.

I got a taste of wet, snowless winters, lavender growing all year, wild, thorny bushes, flowers blooming in February. There is also lavender everything: macaroons, lattes, hot chocolate, cookies, ice cream. There’s the scent crushed from the buds under my feet. God I will miss the lavender.

I found food here: so much food. I could eat for days: lavain and dumplings and pain au chocolat and slurpy noodles and jolting espresso. I learned to love an Americano, something I thought was always too bitter for me. Now I drink it like it’s holy.

I found air that always smells so green and alive. Knowing there is always growing gives me a hope I never experienced in snow, which nothing seemed to live through. I just barely did.

I found a place, a city, that I love, that it hurts me to leave. Seattle carried so much want and need and hope. I even found a few people whom I love very much.

I guess what I didn’t find (yet) is community: that all-enveloping support from all sides, the years that are put in to friendships and intentional space. I could probably get it here, eventually. After years. But, why wait when I already have it, when I can feel the power of it even from here, just from reaching out and saying, “I’m coming home.”

I worry, though. I know that when I return, the first few months will be glory: summer and friends and lakes and re-learning all my places. Then what? When fall and winter come, will I feel just as restless? Will I want to leave? If I leave again, can I ever come back? How many chances do I get in a life?

I’m trying to think of it less as “going back” and more just as “going” and “bringing” and “sharing” the things I’ve learned and “reveling” in the things I’ve missed and “giving” my energy to the people I love and whose love I cherish. I don’t want to return to Minneapolis and try to “forget” Seattle ever happened. At first, I did. After NILA announced its closing, all I wanted was to forget, to pretend I’d never even heard of Whidbey Island. But that would be doing a huge disservice to the NILA community, to this year of growth, to this opportunity I took.

I love Seattle. I am already thinking how I’ll miss it. I love Minneapolis. I’ve already missed it for way too long. Somehow, in some way, there has to be room for both.