When I got the email from Leandra asking me to join Man Repeller, I was writing in a coffee shop in San Francisco. It was February 28, 2016, 4:22 p.m., and a minute earlier, I was sure the email would never come. I was working in human resources at the time, 26, living with my college boyfriend of five years. And the idea that everything could change—that the listlessness I felt in my every nerve was worth examining—had taken on the patina of childish delusion, to be entertained only on nights and weekends. So when the email came, I braced myself for disappointment.
“Essentially, we’d have you come in for a 4-week contract in anticipation of bringing you on full-time for the junior editor role,” Leandra wrote, dismantling my understanding of our exchange, which I thought was about freelance contributing.
Junior editor role? Junior editor role. After I finished reading, I read it again. Then a third time, my eyes darting to my boyfriend as if he could have sensed the tectonic shift that had just occurred. He stared at his computer, unmoved. I breathed. I read the email one more time, then texted him: “Want to head out in 10ish?” He agreed. Those next minutes are difficult for me to think about; the emotions so intense that recalling them feels like staring into bright light. I know I sat very still, my breath slow and heavy like I’d just won the lottery. When we walked out together, I gathered my wits to say it: “Leandra emailed me.”
We both knew what it meant: quitting my job, moving to New York immediately, leaving my life behind, including him, at least for a little bit (or so we thought). But for what felt like the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t the least bit indecisive. We both knew this was it; the change I’d been working toward, even if my efforts had sometimes felt aimless. I can’t remember if we hugged or screamed or jumped up and down, I just remember the sun on my face as the words holy shit ran laps around my head.
We’d planned to drive down to Mountain View to visit my parents that afternoon, and stuck to it. My family dog had just died and we wanted to check in, share memories of Rocky’s weird little limp and penchant for napping on throw pillows. But as we drove down the 101, I started crying for a different reason. I’d just been offered my dream job—a way out of a career I didn’t want and a life that made me feel empty no matter how nice I made it sound in journal entry pep talks—and all I could think about was fucking it up. I had no idea fear could sit so close to getting what I wanted, but then I’d never wanted anything as badly as I wanted this. The idea that I couldn’t do it or didn’t deserve it appeared as quickly as the euphoria.
I looked out the window, thought of Rocky and San Francisco and everything that was coming to an end, and knew my life was changing forever.
There are a handful of moments in my memory that approach the emotional intensity of that day—sneaking up to the announcer’s box of my high school football field the night before graduation; sobbing in my Honda Civic when I decided to break up with my first boyfriend, unsure I’d ever be loved again; a bus ride to IKEA, of all places, to set up my new life in Brooklyn, a rush of happiness so acute I felt high. Each one is marked by a sense of turning; an understanding that my life was splitting into two parts. A before and after. An end of one era and a beginning of another.
Our memories are strongest when our emotions swell, which is why these scenes stand out to me in such sharp relief. But even more than that, these were moments when the ruthless passage of time stopped for me. When all the uncertainties and chaos fell away to make room for a lucid dream: There are only good things to come. My heart will never be this broken. Everything’s going to be okay. Each one was its own temporary form of insanity—a confidence that I’d unlocked some version of me or the world that would finally be permanent. It’s hard to resist the notion of “forever” in those heightened states; its promise is too appealing. When I’m sad, I’ll be sad forever. When I’m in love, I’ll be in love forever. Infinity, no matter how delusional, can be comforting like that. At least then we know what’s coming.
Maybe that’s the closest we ever get to “forever” in life—a series of thinking we know then realizing we don’t and then thinking we know again. We gain confidence and then lose it, fear new challenges and then tackle them, only to repeat those cycles all over again. It makes sense that we’d cherish moments where all that falls away, where we can delude ourselves into believing we’ve beat the inherently transient system. As kids we want best friends forever. As lovers we want rings and contracts. As depressives we want a world that’s irredeemably doomed. I guess we’re all chasing our little forevers. Grasping in the dark for something solid to hold onto, even if it’s as harrowing as grief or as overwhelming as getting what we’ve always wanted.
It’s been four years since I got that email from Leandra. Four years since I quit my job, broke my lease and relationship, and booked a one-way ticket to JFK. It’s accurate to say my life permanently changed that day, that who I was and what I had back in San Francisco was fading to black, making room for something and someone I wouldn’t have recognized. And even though the years since have been the best and most formative of my life, packed with so many intense emotional vignettes it would take a whole book to recount them (and might), another change has been tapping me on the shoulder. I recognize it most for the throat-catching mix of thrill, fear, and heartbreak it inspires.
Last week I resigned from my full-time role at Man Repeller. I’ll be leaving in early March. The confluence of emotions I’ve experienced since deciding to go freelance—like nickels in a garbage disposal—have reminded me a lot of the ones I felt four years ago, when I voted for myself in spite of the parts of me that believed I wasn’t worth the gamble. Luckily I’ve learned by now that I was wrong and that I am, we all are. Safety and certainty aren’t so comforting when their maintenance requires the quieting of a deeper calling. They’d never stay constant, anyway. I’ll probably keep forgetting and remembering that forever.
I have a couple more stories going up before I close up shop on my byline, but I wanted to use this chance, as I finish this on February 8, 2020, 1:07 a.m., age 30, to say thank you so much, to you and to Man Repeller, for giving me one of my favorite forevers. I can’t imagine a better way to honor it than to use it to build a new one.
Graphic by Lorenza Centi.