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  • Writer's pictureJessyca Stoepker

Happily displaced

Moved out? Check. Moved in? Check. Job started? Check!

Since my last post, I’ve leveled up in the adult world.

When I grabbed the keys off of my neighbor’s porch and first opened the door to my new apartment, I was overwhelmed with disbelief. This place is really mine!?

After struggling to find housing for several weeks, I had trusted my new boss’s lead on this studio, which he had only heard about through his girlfriend, Connie, in the house next to it. With only a brief glance from the ground level outside and a couple low-quality pictures from a lady I didn’t know, I took a chance and jumped on it without even meeting the landlord in person. So, opening that door and seeing the gorgeous wood floors, granite kitchen, wall details, and unexpected extra space brought me so much happiness—I was grinning from ear to ear!

My mom and dad marveled at the place as well, taking pictures of the beautiful view of Little Traverse Bay out the window and of their beloved child all-grown-up. They helped me move in the big stuff: my bed and frame, my rusty old trunk, the dresser and mirror I bought off a friend, a couple shelving units, and two chairs. I took them to Twisted Olive, one of the elegant restaurants next door, and we had an oddly-timed lunch at 2:30. My mom told me later that she had cried a little on their way back downstate—less out of sadness and more out of her happiness for me, she said via text.

The rest of the weekend was mine. I unpacked, sorted, organized, ate, and drank Cabernet. I explored a little, shopped, tried to thrift some furniture until I became obsessed with the task. I napped and decorated and went on walks. I got takeout at Thai Orchid a few blocks down. I set up my internet service after jumping through the usual eighteen hoops. I wrote a poem or two; I wanted to write hard all weekend, but something just felt not right. I shrugged it off.

It seemed so easy. I was thriving! It wasn’t until I exited the Meijer Saturday night that it hit me. After spending much too long navigating a foreign store layout, I plowed through the automatic doors with my shopping cart to emerge into suffocating darkness.

It made me come to a full stop on the sidewalk. The air was thick and humid; there were few lights and fewer people. I suddenly lost everything I knew about where I was, why I was here, how I was alone. For the first time, I felt utterly displaced: I didn’t belong here, but I was supposed to be here.

That feeling slowly passed as the night wore on (the ice cream might have helped). After thinking through some personal feelings and anxieties, I reassured myself that I was safe and made the right decision. The next day the feeling transitioned into more of a purposeful mindset where I was fully aware of my location and possibilities and strength. I felt free. There is so much to do up here, and no one to hold me back!

As you can see, I was having mixed emotions. Perhaps in response to suddenly being eager again and to extend my good mood as long as possible, I took a blissful bike ride Sunday afternoon--one that turned into a sweaty 20 miles round-trip to Harbor Springs and back on the Little Traverse Wheelway. I swam in the harbor there, called my mom, and told her about the antique show I stopped at earlier that day. I meal-prepped for the week when I returned home, singing to The Killers and feeling on top of things.

My cousin Sierra surprised me with a visit Sunday night around 9:30. She was the first person to see the studio mostly finished, and she squealed with excitement for me. We spent a solid three hours talking at my new kitchen table, first catching up and then diving into several deep family issues that clarified a lot.

We’d also bring up lovely snippets of childhood:

“Do you remember Mary’s old house?”

“What was Grandma’s second husband’s name?”

“Remember that time when I broke Kendra’s egg? She still holds it against me.”

“She always made us drink vitamin D milk, and the boys had a plastic yellow bunkbed that smelled like pee.” Though humorous and heartwarming, it was during that conversation that I realized how much each one of my relationships in my life has changed, good and bad. I realized many of those had reached a tipping point; this build-up of microaggressions, drama, career changes, secrets, deaths, illnesses, and age-related factors that had progressed gradually for the past several years was now crashing like the crest of a wave. It was going to be loud.

I also realized how much I loved Sierra and her family. It’s uplifting to be able to connect with someone as both a loyal family member and a joyful, sarcastic friend. You don’t hide anything, and you feel the most yourself.

It was much past midnight when she left, and my first day at work was the next morning. I went to bed after another hour or so of calming myself down, sighing with acceptance of what had happened this weekend and what was going to happen next.

Yes, I am displaced. But I am also happy.

Yes, I have a family and a history and people that I am missing dearly. But I am also untethered and galvanized and beckoned to explore. I’m ready for my new life. I hope you stay tuned to hear about it!

Until next time,


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