"What are you gonna do for work?" That was the first question just about everyone asked as my husband Robby and I announced to our friends that we'd soon be leaving Seattle to move across the country to his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.
I laughed and shrugged, "I guess I'm just gonna be a housewife!"
I was kidding, of course. Kind of. We don't have children, we've never lived in an apartment larger than 600 square feet, and we both wear a daily uniform of jeans and hole-ridden band T-shirts, probably owning no more than 25 articles of clothing between us. (We had no need for extraneous effort at home.) But there was some truth in my canned joke response — and my friends were right to be concerned.
In Seattle I worked in a busy office for a popular weekly newspaper. I was surrounded by smart, hilarious and unapologetically opinionated people for 13 years, meeting weekly paper deadlines and even faster online deadlines. My job duties seemed to change daily. For better or worse, I was never bored, and I had an extreme amount of pride in my job.
In Nashville, though, we were going to be staying in a family member's temporarily abandoned home, which needed some light fixing up. So instead of finding a new job, I was going to spend the bulk of my time cleaning, sorting and organizing the cluttered two-bedroom, two-bath house, while Robby continued to work remotely for a Seattle company from a co-working space downtown.
When we first arrived in town, I felt amazing. I missed the Northwest, where I had lived my whole life, but I had visited Nashville several times before and had fallen in love with the city — the food, the people, the life-size replica of the Parthenon — and now I was finally here without any expectations. This wasn't a vacation that would be over just a few days later, hurling me back into the familiar pressure of deadlines and 300-plus emails a day (seriously, publicists are ruthless). I was here for good, with nowhere to be. I was free!
I didn't have a single deadline to meet. I didn't have a single meeting to be at. I didn't have to shower and put on pants if I didn't want to (and I never want to put on pants). And I finally had time to make every goddamn recipe I ever pinned on my stupid Pinterest board! Holy shit, what a magnificent, refreshing feeling it was.
Until it wasn't.
The only people I knew in town were Robby, of course, and his friends. And my cat, but that guy had enough of my shit by week one, so he spent his days napping in the room furthest away from me. I went a full month — 30 WHOLE DAYS — without having a face-to-face conversation where my husband wasn't present. It wasn't intentional, but it felt very Stepford Wives nonetheless.
Instead of doing much housework — which, it turns out, I hate — I started getting excited to watch Maury in the afternoons. I napped almost daily. I went to Target several times a week just to be able to exist somewhere familiar. Other days I didn't leave the house at all and didn't interact with anyone other than Robby. When he'd come home from work, the most exciting thing I could tell him was that the guy on Maury wasn't the father after all.
I didn't want to contact anyone back in Seattle, because I didn't want to admit that maybe this whole being-unemployed-in-Nashville experiment was not the best idea. I wanted to maintain the illusion that I was thriving and perfectly happy with my choice to leave an entire career in the dust and start over.
But I started to suspect that something was wrong as soon as I caught myself being excited about renting a steam carpet cleaner. Seriously, it was the highlight of my week. There were these old coffee or soda stains splashed across the beige carpet in the den, and I couldn't wait to see what the room looked like without that eyesore in the center of the room.
Renting that carpet cleaner and getting those stains out were my contribution to dinner conversation with friends. They politely smiled and nodded as I assured them it was going to be awesome.
One night I started sobbing, unprompted, and I started cursing that we ever left Seattle. I cried that my friends had all forgotten me, and I hated the fact that my daily highlights were finding out if some cocky asshole was the father. I missed getting in heated debates about music and candy and politics, and I missed my email chirping every five minutes and I even missed the heavy dread that hung over me as a deadline came and went and I was still nowhere near being able to turn in a draft, knowing my editor could come walking down the hall to check in on me any second.
I didn't even make it two months before flipping out. I had to find friends of my own, I had to get out of that house, I had to have a job, even if it was freelance writing from home. I had to have purpose beyond that carpet cleaner (which actually did a pretty remarkable job on those stains, though).
We can't all be real housewives.