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Secret Life of a Nerd Girl: They Ask Me My Plan…

a blogumn by Gudrun Cram-Drach

maineAt the time of this writing I have been living in Maine for 40 days. No floods but we did have an ice storm, and 14 inches of snow dumped on the first day of winter. Right now it’s 16 degrees outside, which means I probably won’t leave the house today, but that’s okay because I have nowhere to go, not yet.

Before I came “home” to Maine, I was in Los Angeles for 6 years, and before that New York for 11. It’s amazing that it’s possible to explain away half my life with that sentence. The experiences, jobs, friends, high-points and low- are mine alone, and to others who don’t know me so well, what matters is the big brush strokes. New York City, art school, work, Los Angeles, grad school, work, activities, or boyfriends they might remember passing through my life. I know I do it too. I allow my knowledge of others to be reduced to a few facts and figures: “so and so is still in Arizona at veterinary school, her boyfriend moved in, but they had to get rid of the dog.” Ok, thank you, I feel fully informed.

When I lived in other places I never referred to Maine as home. Wherever I was, that was home. I hated feeling like I was away from something I was supposed to go back to, it implied that my life had less value, or worse, hadn’t started yet, because I was in the wrong place. Mainiacs have a thing about leaving Maine: don’t do it.

But I can’t deny that I grew up here, I move around this house on auto-pilot, dodging, without a thought, the corner of the dining room table, and ducking under low ceilings. I do know my neighborhood like the back of my hand, I see people I recognize from high school crossing the street, and my parent’s friends haven’t aged a bit (relatively speaking). It only took a few weeks to readjust to winter, and I’m not even bothered by the amount of walking I’m doing in slush and snow. I’m actually enjoying it.

When I see my parents’ friends, people I have known as long as I can remember, I am a living update of myself. They ask me my plan and I can forget that I am more than the brush strokes. The details of my life beyond being in Maine fade into a blurry stew, and I experience a concentration of identity: I am the product of my mom and dad. The creative, disorganized, idealist girl who please-god-will-someday-find-a-husband-and-settle-down. The granddaughter typically seen 10 hours per year, the former candy striper at Mercy Hospital, and the one who made all the art on the walls. The boiled down version of my life story is, “I just came back from LA and now I’m in Maine for a bit. I’m going to France next.” This is what I tell people, and often-times, it’s enough.

In the past, after a long visit (but never this long) to Maine, I returned to my real world and had to reconnect with my independent self, as if she’d been stowed away for safe keeping. This time I have no real world outside of Maine, nowhere to keep her, so she stays with me. It’s the first time I’ve lived and interacted here as an adult, and when I leave for France, the experience will be different. My future world is an abstract plan of promises and plane tickets, with more questions than answers. In France, I will be the foreigner encumbered by cultural differences, the search for feelings of home will be a challenge on which my independent self and I must work closely together to find our footing. But for now, in Maine, with the wind blustering and my toes like ice, it’s cozy, and good, to be home.