When I moved to Chicago I was scared. I only brought a few essentials: books and shoes, anger-coated confidence. I was a stranger in a strange land, so I proceeded with caution. I harbored no expectations and packed very little fear. I meant to make a living not a life, but time is partial to entrapment.

The beginning was the hardest. Friendships were few, new, and foreign. Teaching was nuanced and overwhelming. Patience was fragile and frail. I signed up for two years but stayed for twelve.

Twenty-one to thirty-three. Moons and mountains, through snow and storms. Winters of discontent and summers of great expectations.

When I moved back to Houston, I was scared. Friends and confidants had long since departed. I worried that I’d made a mistake—moved too fast, left to soon. I worried about our relationship: premature commitments and more great expectations.

Love is not a marriage.

I brought everything back that I could carry: memories of moons and mountains and storms. Memories of loss, of death and dying. All the fear I could carry, all the hope, all the shame. It spilled over and swaddled me and carried me home.

You have to build it.

You have to start from the bottom and think through everything that you’ve learned. You have to analyze and evaluate: measure twice, cut once.

You have to re-engineer relationships: understand where you left off, determine how to get re-started. You have to remember who you were and what amends must be made. And if they’re made, will they be accepted? And if they won’t, will you?

You have to build it. As if you were brand new to the city. As if you were too green to know the mistakes you could make, the potential for consequences. You have to build it. You have to build it with the same energy, more energy than what you had before and with an even greater desire to put the pieces back together.

And with greater purpose and thicker skin.

You have to decide.

You have to decide what you want and what you will do to get there. And what you won’t do and why not. You have to decide which moments matter and which people matter (if not all of them). You have to decide what it is you need and if that will make you happy. And if it won’t, you have to decide why not and whether that matters.

You have to decide when you will decide and under what circumstances.

You have to decide.

And then you have to build it, brick by brick. Racks on racks on racks. Stacks on stacks on stacks.

A link. A tool. A place. A home. With windows and doors.

Capable of opening and closing.

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