7. Not “Marin-Marin,” though.

When I married Tim and moved to Marin in 2001 (note for context, we never lived together, I’d travel on Amtrak from the Central Valley to the Bay Area – about a 4 hour ride), my headspace was pretty muddled. My mom had been suffering from cancer all throughout my engagement, and she wasn’t able to come to my wedding. Three weeks after I married, she was gone. I was lost.

Mom and me at the Amtrak station.

And, my life was moving at a pace I didn’t have real control over.  I didn’t feel I had the actual time to grieve. Not properly. Not the kind of grief that should be rendered for a soul of such absolute consequence. I was incapable of grappling with the pain that accompanies the vast absence that was this loss. This was the first time that I understood that, in fact, proper grieving is a luxury. And, it was the first time I practiced a refrain that has become permanently injected into my heart, a vaccine of sorts against defeat: You find out how strong you are when “strong” is your only option. It was this mantra that carried me through 2022 and into doing AirBnB, actually.

Back to 2001 and no time to grieve: I had accepted a job in San Francisco and I had to begin immediately. So in the space of one month, I married, moved to the Bay Area, lost my mom, started a job in a city I didn’t really know how to navigate, went to my mom’s funeral and generally faked having my head on straight. It was difficult terrain to navigate, and I walked it with tentative feet.

I can count a handful of times when life has felt utterly surreal to me, when I haven’t felt wholly connected to myself.  I write about this sensation here (if you go read it, promise to come back and finish this! Ha ha – look at me, getting all competitive with…well, myself). When I moved to Marin, the culture shift was so topsy-turvy, so disorienting, I felt I’d somehow entered into another lifetime altogether. Perhaps I had…I feel we all have multiple lifetimes in this one lifetime. Don’t you think?

During these early-marriage days, I was learning about Marin, and learning that in some ways, I wasn’t considered a true “Marinite,” because the area I lived in, at the time, wasn’t considered “Marin-Marin.” Where I lived, we had the teachers, cops, nurses, etc., who worked in Marin and SF, but we didn’t all have BMWs, we weren’t really the elite, really super wealthy Marinites who, 10 miles away, the “true” Mariners were.

Me on the steps of our home in the early days, with Tim’s dog, Sammy.

Still – we were in Marin, and it was a hugely different experience for me from all I had known growing up. Suddenly, there was new-to-me diversity – people spoke openly about being gay, something I’d never experienced in my small, conservative town. I came from a strong red county into a strong blue county, and the politics of that shift were somewhat disorienting.

It was a la la time (my term for when things are confusing) – a time where growth, new experiences, excitement, exposure to new people all competed with a somber note in the background that I couldn’t really let surface, a note that reminded me, over and over, that I’d lost my mom.

In the midst of trying to embrace my new life, it turned out it wouldn’t be long until I plunged myself into yet another massive life change. Motherhood was right around the corner.

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