I have a long history in this city.
There are people here who I started high school with, finished undergrad with and have worked with for years - since the days when I was still buying pencil skirts from Plato's Closet.
One of the things I realized in the aftermath was that I had never taken the time to figure out who I was before committing to someone and, because of that, I didn't know who I would be now that I was on my own. So, I started reaching out to the people around me whose friendship I had always wanted but had felt afraid to ask for. Some of those people, I hadn't spoken to in years.
It is a strange thing to sit across from someone who knew you as this quiet, shy, bookish girl and say the words, "I recently got divorced." There is a fear that, in that moment, you are going to have to watch their idea of you die slowly as they process what you've just said. There's another fear that maybe, if their idea of you changes, so will your idea of yourself.
It was comforting to reconnect and find that those friendships really could be restored. I wasn't just seeking friendship, though. I wanted something else too: to remember who I had been, before.
I had spent years purging old things from my apartment (I don't have a single t-shirt from the four summers I spent working at Camp WJ) and distancing myself from past me until there wasn't much evidence that she had ever existed.
I thought that in meeting these old friends, who had only known that version of me, I could figure out how I had gotten to where I was and who I might be now if I hadn't made all of the same choices.
This is a sad and painful thing to consider but I know that if I hadn't, I would still be looking longingly at, as Cheryl Strayed calls them, the ships that didn't carry me.
In learning who I wished I had become, I discovered who I might now want to be.
By donating old things and replacing them with wedding gifts, I thought I could walk away from who I was, like the past had never happened. I had even changed my name, something I swore I would never do, to make it clear that I was no longer who I had been.
But, I am her. I am every version of me that ever was and will be.
Staying in this city, where I have that long history, has helped me to accept that our stories are written in ink - we don't get to erase and start over. You can read old chapters, but you can't change them.
You just have to keep writing.