Monday, October 15, 2012

RVA: A Love Story

Neighborhood RVA Poster

About five years ago (really, it might have been six or seven, but for this story, I'll say five, because I honestly don't know), I met someone who had a small tattoo of the outline of Virginia with a little red heart over Richmond.

"Why?!" I asked [stupidly].

"I love Richmond!"

And lo, I was perplexed.  Because, like, ew.  I liked the VCU area okay and the Fan was adorbs, but Richmond was, all in all, just a city.  And certainly not the best one around (spoiler alert, that was wrong).

Fast forward those five years.  I get married in Richmond.  I live in the Scott's Addition.  I live in the Fan.  I buy a house -- BUY A HOUSE -- in Richmond's Byrd Park, within walking distance to Maymont's free petting zoo.  I have friends.  There are BBQs, there are trips to wineries, there are long walks, there are trips to Texas Beach and lazy days on the river.  I start writing for RVANews, getting to slowly build up favorite actors and actresses as I watch and review plays at different theaters.  I run with my dogs on the trails behind the Carillon.  I walk to Lamplighter across the Addison foot bridge, waiting in a line out the door with other hipsters, hoping to snag a "Katie" bagel if the wait will be under, say, half an hour.  I fight for parking spaces at the South of the James farmers market, and gleefully anticipate food truck court nights.  I anticipate fall and change my morning commute to drive down Grove Ave as the leaves are all golden, perfection in the morning.  I cry out in horror when the WNRN or WCVE servers go down and I'm without my favorite radio stations for a while.  I cheered when I could navigate the Ellwood Thompson's parking lot and cheered even more when they remodeled it, HALLELUJAH.  I see Ed Trask's murals and grin.  I go to the $2 Byrd theater and feel my heart swell when Bob Gulledge rises from the floor playing the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, tiny stars whirling around the darkened red theater, and then dutifiully complain of permanent back pain due to the tiny seats.  I complain about VCU students (damn kids who can't cross a street properly) and my alma mater taking over the city.  I help create a community garden for Byrd Park.  I dream of having a kid and walking them to one of the schools in the morning.  Tumblr creates an RVA office and I'm all, YEAH INTERNETS IN MY CITY YO.  I sit by the fountain/sculpture garden at the VMFA and look down at the city -- my city -- quietly rumbling along in the evening, eating Bev's basil ice cream.

And now, I'm metaphorically sitting on that bench, contemplating everything that makes RVA home.  I'm struck with the idea of how could I NOT want to tattoo a heart over Richmond?  I should tattoo the RVA logo over my own heart.  Because now, I am leaving my dear RVA.

On Wednesday I interviewed for a public library job in Roanoke, VA (about three hours west towards the Blue Ridge mountains).  At first, I went on a whim, as a far-reaching attempt to get a new job with my shiny new degree, thinking, "Well, this won't work out anyway."  And I went away thinking I didn't get it.  Except, then, I magically did.  And the thing is, career-wise, it would be folly to turn it down.  So, long story short, I'm moving to Roanoke in three weeks, and will be living by myself for a few months while Patrick *blub* stays behind with our dogs and house and lets the housemates finish out their lease, he looks for a job in Roanoke, and sells the house.  Our house.

The house is complicated.  Not house-wise, but emotionally (knock on wood, other homes in our neighborhood have all sold quickly; we picked a good location).  This year has been rough, to say the least.  Anyone following my blog knows that since I never shut up about it.  But more than that, we bought the house with so many hopes.  There are, in short, a lot of memories we thought we'd be making here that now...we're not.  We won't ever walk a kid to the Maymont petting zoo.  We won't ever see our community garden grow (well, it will, and we may see it grow, but we won't be part of it).  The bedroom we thought would be a nursery will never be ours.  We will never parent in this home.  Of course, we have plans.  We plan on getting a small "farmette" more in the country, with land, and a rambling farmhouse, as one does.  We have hopes.  There will be good things to come.

But right now, it feels like I'm burying the axe into those dreams for good.  This year has been all about letting go of the way we thought things would go.  Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day and I have to say, last October's loss definitely changed our lives.  Had it not happened, we'd be staying here, absolutely.  I don't like the idea of thinking of that loss as some all-encompassing part of our lives, because we *have* gotten through the grief at this point, we *are* okay more or less, but at the end of the day, it still changed things, and our infertility battle has also Changed Things.  This is sort of like the final act in that, the extreme page-turner, the extreme book-closer on those hopes we had for our Richmond lives.

I will miss RVA.  I will miss the wonderful friends I have here.  I will miss cheering them on in their lives, watching new babies grow, will miss our Game of Thrones nights, brunches, will miss everything.  It will hurt.  It hurts even now.  I will be raw for a while, worse still since I'll be living alone, putting our infertility battle aside for my career, a sentence I never wanted to type.  It's also a new adventure.  To be candid, I've never lived alone as a full professional adult, so it's kind of like....well, I get to do something new.  In a kind of feminist way, it might be really good for me.  Plus as a homebody, I'm going to have to really step up my game and be social in a whole new way.  But bloggy people, there will also be a lot of nights of me and my laptop, I suspect, so knowing the blog world is out there and has my back is kind of comforting.  Thanks, Internet.  I'm also attending the bill Conference a few days before I expect to move, so maybe it'll give me some tips for growing Alt-IF.

I am incredibly unspeakably sad.

But I am incredibly hopeful, too.  Those Blue Ridge mountains are seductive.  So too is the public library (my new job will involve a lot of teaching people basic computer skills, which is such an important aspect of public library work since we're one of the few totally free options out there for people needing career skills, and I felt like the interview panel people were *my people*, one even used the phrase "social justice", I hope hope hope I am happy).

And I'll be back.  I have family here, so I will visit.  Plus, you know, friends.

So RVA, don't go changing too much without me, okay?  I love you lots.  I want to get a tattoo of Richmond, but at the same time, I don't even need to.  RVA has tattooed itself on my heart already.


  1. Oh man I know how hard it is to leave a place you love. Leaving Austin was like ripping a pice of my heart out, but at the same time I am so excited for you. The Blue Ridge mountains have a way of stealing your heart as well. Every time I am in them I feel profoundly that I am home, even though I only really lived in them for two years. If I could choose where to live, I would live in Appalachia. Also living alone for short periods of time can be kind of great too. I was husbandless for two months after we were married, & then again for six months as we transitioned to Scotland - and it was hard (we couldn't visit each other ever) but it was nice to have a few last solo adventures. Plus I have family in Blacksburg, so I'm totally coming to visit you next time I'm there. Anyhow we'll be here cheering you on lady! Go get 'em!

    1. See, as *ever* you are like this huge inspiration to me. It's going to be a strange solo adventure, one I'm both crazy scared of and also really hopeful about. There are a lot of logistical things which are sure to annoy suddenly-"single" me (going to Firestone and not having an immediate second car to take when dropping it off, stuff like that that being in a couple I've taken for granted)...but there's potential for growth too. And hey, professional growth hello. I moved around a few times in my teens so I'm acquainted with the general-ness of leaving loved places, but the leaving of the place where I "adulted" is definitely different. I'm so, so glad it's only 3 hours away from my dear ones. And YES when you're close to me at some point we shall meet and have tea!

  2. I second Lauren's love of the Blue Ridge. I went to college in Lynchburg, and while the town had plus and minuses, the Blue Ridge make me feel at home. So beautiful.

    I am so excited for you and this new job and the start of new adventures, but I know how hard it is to leave a place you love. Here's to hoping for more sweet than bitter.

    1. Thank you! I'm oft-reminded of my favorite poem by Julia Spicher Kasdorf, in which she writes "Living, we cover vast territories." The whole thing is gut-wrenchingly beautiful to me:

  3. oh Hayley, dreams are not something you plan. Those are you goals for the future. Dreams are something that astound you, empower you, enthrall you, surprise you, and scare the ever living poo out of you. Dreams are something our conscious minds do not process or compute. Dreams are when our gut instinct works with the forces in the universe and conspire to WOW us with the unknown, RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR FACES. Then you get silly thoughts like "why not apply for this with my shiny new degree?" and then you get the job.

    My life, although completely boring, ordinary, and nothing spectacular, has become an adventure beyond my wildest dreams. Why? Because the universe conspired and sent me someone special who taught me how to love, and he also taught me how to look at life in a way that is entirely different, and beautiful. Emerson says "When we see beauty, we know it as Truth." My life is beautiful, and that is my truth. It is because I do not make plans or have expectations for life outside of being happy and being with those I love. Every time I get a crazy thought if I cannot do anything about it, I say, "Why not." and I add that into my box, and then allow myself a few moments to desire that thing, object, or idea, as much as possible. I feel the desire welling up in my chest, sometimes, so much that I almost cry, and then I tell myself that if it is meant to be it will be, and I release the outcome and I am not bound by it. I will forget if it is not important, and my heart will remember if it is, and then I will remember it the day it happens. Like, the day after my birthday, Bobby told me he is so grateful we met, and that he loves me, in very romantic, eloquent but simple words. I had let go of that dream, but it was brought back to me.

    I really hope your dreams come true in this new place. I hope it is an adventure, not only in a physical sense, but I hope it is a mental, emotional, and spiritual one as well, where you learn to know yourself in a deeper way. I feel that nature does that - it brings us closer to our inner selves, it helps us separate from our ego, and it inspires us. And the land, the history of the land beguiles you and changes you forever. I like to sit in certain places, and imagine what sort of events happened, 50, 100, 200 years ago, beneath my very feet, what is in the ground, did anything significant happen here, etc. I hope you get the chance to do that in the Blue Ridge Mountains.


    1. I think part of what's so hard is that I know moving here was the right choice, the only good choice, but it's still a really painful one, so it's hard to reconcile the two and be happy with the right choice. I want so badly for things to go well for me and Patrick, that we'll be able to have a family here, that we'll be able to start fresh and be *happy* because so much of our lives right now seems like a long, long uphill climb (cliche, but true). Right now I'm still kind of letting go of a lot of things. I hope eventually, I'll be able to look back and think that all this ridiculously hard stuff was okay in the end, that it was worthwhile, that it wasn't just something we went through for nothing, you know? Sigh. If only the world worked like that, gave you some sort of signal that hey, this totally sucks right now, but it'll be better. *hugs*