I Don’t Know How To Say Goodbye So I Wrote You This Instead

Seven months ago I was living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in a sixth floor walk-up apartment I’d found all by myself, with three roommates and a mouse and a view of the Chrysler building out my bedroom window. I was in an almost-three-year relationship with the first girl I really loved who loved me back and we said things like “forever” and “when we get married” and it felt like the truth. I was working as an editor at a magazine in midtown and my parents were proud of me. Two of my best friends had just moved to my neighborhood and it felt like everyone who mattered was no more than a subway ride away. Everything was going according to some sort of vague plan I had about how to be a twentysomething person until one day I woke up and knew I was doing it all wrong. That is how I have described it to everyone who has asked. “Everything was really great until one day it wasn’t.” Lots of people ask. Where I come from, it’s strange to leave New York when you have a job and a girlfriend and an apartment. I was supposed to feel lucky, and for a long time I did.

It really was a sudden shift. I started to wake up feeling anxious. I’d fall asleep next to the glow of my computer and in the morning I’d grab my phone to check Twitter before I got out of bed. I hated these habits but I couldn’t stop; part of my job was being online all the time. My responsibilities at the magazine multiplied and changed and going into the office every day started to feel like drowning. I stopped trying and felt angry at myself. I started getting ocular migraines and when I went to the eye doctor he assured me that lots of people end up needing glasses because of the strain of staring at a screen all day. I wondered why I had to stare at a screen all day. The muscles in my right forearm started hurting all the time, and a girl in my writing workshop warned me not to type in bed because she had and now needed to sleep with a wrist brace for her carpal tunnel. I tried to picture what would make me feel happier – more money, a new job, more recognition? – but none of it sounded good. What if Gawker hired you? What would success look like? What would it feel like? None of the supposed answers to “success” seemed appealing. I worried that digital media was not the place for me. I wondered what other people my age did in other parts of the country, other parts of the world. I tried to figure out what I actually wanted. I missed things I’d never had.

At first the doubts and the questions were small and quiet, so I just pretended they didn’t exist. It is a poetic scientific fact that it is easier to stay than to go: inertia. But then one night at the beginning of May I went to see Cheryl Strayed, one of my favorite authors, read at Public Assembly. I stood in the back by myself and wept as she read from the title essay in Tiny Beautiful Things, a book made up of advice columns she had written as Dear Sugar for The Rumpus. It is a letter to her twentysomething self, filled with bits of wisdom and advice and reassurance. Less than a minute in, she read: “You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough… Be brave enough to break your own heart.”

I didn’t stop crying while I waited in line to have her sign my book, and I tearfully apologized when I finally stood in front of her, clutching my copy and a tissue. “Don’t be sorry,” she said. “Crying is the most human thing.” “I know, but you’re not supposed to cry in New York,” I hiccuped. “That’s okay,” she said. “I’m not from New York.” I nodded and willed myself to stop crying long enough to speak. “I’m not either,” I said. “And…” Be brave. “I think I have to leave…and it kind of sucks.”

She looked up at me with such kindness as I twisted my mouth into a knot and tried unsuccessfully to blink away all my tears. “You know, it won’t suck forever. That’s one thing I can promise you: I promise it won’t suck forever.” I nodded, and she took my hand and said, “Close your eyes and let yourself see the beauty that’s to come.” She squeezed my hand and let go and signed my book and I thanked her and left the venue, still crying. I started sobbing in earnest when I got outside and started walking north toward the East River. I walked all the way to the pier and sat on a bench overlooking the Manhattan skyline, and only then did I allow myself to open the book to the page she had signed. “To Vanessa,” she wrote. “Wishing you beauty on the journey.” I took out my journal and wrote in all capital letters: “WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE.” But I put a period at the end of the sentence, not a question mark. Because I already knew.

A few days later I wrote to the Autostraddle team in one of our daily emails – emails I had been receiving for almost a year at that point – and shared my feelings, per usual: “guys fyi you heard it here first, the likelihood that i will quit my job, leave new york, and move to a farm sometime within the next 12 months is pretty much 100%.”

I wrote lots of emails about all of this to lots of friends over the next few months. I wrote to Gabby and Katrina in June: “I want to be traveling and moving and seeing new things and I don’t want to be at my desk all day and I want to be outside and see parts of America I’ve never seen and I promised myself I would take risks in my twenties and I stopped taking risks approximately three years ago and I don’t want to wake up and be 50 and wonder why I didn’t do the things I always said I’d do.” Katrina wrote back: “I’m really proud of you. Far too many people sit around at their desks feeling all dead and weird inside because we’re supposed to feel like we’re so lucky to just have jobs and feel dead and fucking whatever. It’s so sad to see this happen, especially to queer people who are supposed to know that there’s so much more to life than what we grew up believing…I’m proud of you for taking risks and doing what you want, and I hope it’s everything you’re dreaming, and if it’s not that, I hope it’s something equally eye-opening and different.” Gabby wrote back, too: “…you don’t want to wake up 20 years from now, hunched over from staring at computer screens, full of deep seated lines in all the corners of your mind and skin that are filled with all the places you’ve never been, loves you’ve never had and all the things you wished you had done…i love you. you got this. fly high, baby.”

I broke up with my girlfriend, quit my job at the magazine, let the lease on my apartment run out, and told all my friends I was really truly leaving New York again. Then, at the end of August, I did.

This is the part of the story where everything gets tricky, because while leaving is hard it’s actually easier than figuring out what happens next. I am used to leaving. My parents left South Africa when I was four and then left Canada when I was 10. Seven years later I left Boston to go to school in New York, and then I left to study abroad in London and then I left again to spend a year in Israel. When I called one of my close friends from high school this summer to let her know I was planning to leave New York again, she didn’t sound surprised at all. “Frankly, I was shocked you’d managed to stay put for so long.” I’d been in New York for just under two years this time. It’s true, I get itchy feet. The sexy name is wanderlust but when you move past the desire to the hard parts of leaving it doesn’t always feel sexy. Another close friend who gets the same itches described it like this: “My heart feels like it beats in places I don’t know, so I have to go there and find it, ya know?” I do know. Some of us must be wired differently. It doesn’t matter how much I love a place or the people there who make it home. And I do, love the people, so much. I miss every person who has ever meant anything to me. But in spite of that love, I pick up and go, over and over and over. I’m not looking for something better; if that were the case I would never leave. I’m looking for something new. Stories. Adventures. Pieces of me I haven’t found yet and won’t ever find if I stay put. So even when it’s hard, I always go.

I’ve spent the past three and a half months plotting to go, properly. When I left New York I moved back in with my parents in a suburb close to Boston, to clear my head and work as a part-time nanny and save money and figure out what I mean when I say I want an adventure. I have spent a lot of time questioning if I really am being brave. I’m scared. What if I’m not brave or interesting or smart? What if I’m lying, what if I’m boring and lazy and a bad writer? What if this was all a mistake?

Now it’s December and I don’t feel like I’ve figured anything out. But I promised myself I’d be gone by January 1, 2014, and I’m going. I have a plane ticket to Israel booked for December 30, and after that everything is a question mark. It’s unlike me not to have a plan – the only thing as consistent as my tendency to leave is my absolute obsession with orchestrating what comes next – but I have decided that 2014 is both my year of not knowing and being okay with not knowing. I’m going to see what opportunities come my way. I’m going to say yes. I’m going to find beauty on the journey.

Which brings me to the part where I leave you. Because yes, leaving everything behind means Autostraddle, too. Part of what prompted this particular urge to go is the feeling that I’ve got to get away from the wires and the waves and the anchors tying me to computers and deadlines and things I can’t touch. I’m not taking my laptop on this journey. My mom is insisting I take a phone for emergencies but I don’t want to stand in coffee shops praying for wi-fi. I want to meet new people face to face and erase things like “SEO” and “pageviews” and “TweetDeck” from my memory, at least for now. A person who means a lot to me once explained that she deleted her Facebook for some time to heal her brain. I don’t think technology is bad and I don’t think we should denounce it all, but I do think as we keep adopting more and more of it we’ll start realizing we need to actively cleanse ourselves of it from time to time because it does change our brain in ways that can hurt. Or maybe we won’t all have to do that, but some of us will. I do.

I’m stepping offline for a little while. I will stop updating my Twitter and my Tumblr and I’ll let my gmail inbox get unruly and also, most relevantly for this particular essay, I will step down from my position as Straddleverse Editor and I will stop writing for Autostraddle for some time. And when I tell you that there are tears running down my face as I type this, please believe me, because when I say this community means more to me than anything else in the world, I am telling the truth. So many things have changed since I decided to leave New York earlier this year – almost everything has changed, actually – but that remains true. That will always be true.

When I found Autostraddle I was so lost. I thought I might like girls but I questioned myself constantly because it wasn’t something I had known about myself forever, and I didn’t think I had been born this way. It felt more like a decision, or a choice, and I didn’t know if I was allowed to make it. Who was I to call myself queer, with my long hair and my floral print dresses and the laundry list of men I had kissed and dated and fucked and loved. I read the site for months before making a commenter account and even then I signed up as “V,” not “Vanessa,” because I was scared someone I knew in my real life would see my comments and laugh at me. Not because I was gay – I come from a liberal town and went to an extremely queer-friendly university – but because they would say I wasn’t. I didn’t feel like the old me but I wasn’t sure what the new me looked like either, and I definitely didn’t think I had any agency in creating her. But I did. We all do. “I didn’t evolve, I changed,” Riese once wrote, in my favorite essay she has ever written. It’s true. I changed into the person I am, and it is entirely because of this community. And now I am going to take that person out into the world, and it is entirely thanks to all of you that I am brave enough to go.

I feel so privileged to have spent the past year and a half getting to know all of you. When Rachel, Laneia and Riese wrote to the new contributing editors in July 2012, offering us all positions at Autostraddle, they said: “You have something to offer the readers — it’s your job to figure out what that is and then do it justice. We’re so excited to see how you choose to use your space at Autostraddle!” I worried at the time, wondering what exactly I had to offer the readers. Autostraddle was a space that had given so much to me; how exactly would I give back?

Taking on my beat as “community cheerleader” and eventually becoming Straddleverse Editor happened organically. I love people, and I love connecting with inspiring humans, and I love love love cultivating the incredible community that we have. I don’t know what it’s like to be the community editor at other websites, but it doesn’t feel as though my role at Autostraddle is just another job. Maybe that’s why it feels impossible to quit, unlike my day job at the magazine which felt very easy to leave. Autostraddle is my home, my family, my community. Autostraddle has allowed me to become me.

When I say I have learned so much about being a person from every single one of you, it doesn’t feel hyperbolic. My Straddler On The Street interviews inspired this adventure. It was after speaking with Jillian that I got it into my head that I could go farm, and Thea made me feel like not knowing exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life was okay. Juliet encouraged adventure. Grace urged me to seize the day. Lex inspired me to stay creative. Jaime made me consider visiting the South. Julia forced me to reevaluate my perceptions of my own body. Tiara validated my ideas about maintaining one’s self in a relationship, and just recently Connie reminded me to stay present and focus on enjoying the now, because we never know what the future holds. You have all taught me so many lessons.

I am grateful to Riese, Laneia, and Rachel for letting me write this, because I wanted to say goodbye. I didn’t want to disappear on December 30 and leave you wondering why I left, or if I’ll ever come back, or why I so rudely ignored your email submission for Straddler On The Street. I’m leaving because I have to, I’m coming back one day because I already know I’m going to miss you, and I’m not ignoring your email – I still want to interview every single one of you, and if you can wait a while, I promise I will.

I don’t know how to say goodbye, so I’m gonna skip that part. I’ll say thanks instead. Thank you, Autostraddle community, for helping me become a person who is brave. I love you, and I’ll see you soon. In the meantime, I’ll be wishing all of you endless beauty on your journeys. You deserve it. We all do.

Profile photo of Vanessa

Vanessa is a queer feminist writer, NYU grad, crush monster, and Jewish Grandma In Training. She has a radical brain, a mushy heart, and a million floral print dresses. She's currently on a big adventure but she'll be back one day, pinky swear. In the meantime, she can sometimes be found on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 198 articles for us.

157 Comments

  1. Thumb up 8

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    Oh, lady. Breaking my heart and mending it. Saying that you’ll be missed = understatement.

    I remember that you once mentioned wanting to journey south. When you get back from all of your kibbutzing (is that a verb? it is now.), please do.

  2. Thumb up 6

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    your adventure sounds perfect, even if you don’t quite know what it is yet. i can’t say i’m not jealous that you’ll escape the endless, often meaningless digital ebb and flow, but your choice to step back is an inspiration.

    in lieu of less-than-threes: love love love

  3. Thumb up 8

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    Oh don’t mind me, I’m just a puddle of tears on the floor over here.

    I really just don’t have words to describe how very much I will miss you or how much I adore you or how massively I appreciate you. <3

  4. Thumb up 4

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    “Some of us must be wired differently. It doesn’t matter how much I love a place or the people there who make it home. And I do, love the people, so much. I miss every person who has ever meant anything to me. But in spite of that love, I pick up and go, over and over and over. I’m not looking for something better; if that were the case I would never leave. I’m looking for something new.”

    Vanessa I love you so much and am so excited for you and your journey!

  5. Thumb up 7

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    I regret a lot of things, but high on that list is that I’ve kind of squandered my twenties by not letting myself adventure, by trying to stay safe and comfortable. I look back at the last ten years and wonder how things would be today if I’d ever really gone out on a limb, if I’d ever just quit and run off and not had a plan.

    What I’m saying is that I’m very jealous of you, even the fear and sadness that has to come with leaving. And while I don’t know you, really, I’ve come to believe that you are an amazing and beautiful person. Everything will work out for you, and I’m looking forward to the day you come back with stories!

  6. Thumb up 8

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    Vanessa, I will very much miss reading the words that you so beautifully write. I feel that I can relate to you, and I hope to one day figure myself out and find success in life like you have! Hearing about your experiences has truly inspired me and especially “I was scared someone I knew in my real life would see my comments and laugh at me. Not because I was gay – I come from a liberal town and went to an extremely queer-friendly university – but because they would say I wasn’t” sums up everything I am going through right now.

    Good luck with everything and congratulations on following through on what you want to do!

  7. Thumb up 4

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    SO LOVELY!!! Although I don’t know you IRL and have only been hangin’ ’round these parts for the better part of a year, I am smiling to think of all of the optimism you will be spreading on your journey. You’re also empowering me to step a tiny toe line closer to dropping my entirely creepy facebook addiction. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to leave AS but at least you know it’ll be right here waiting for you with wide, lady-loving arms.

  8. Thumb up 13

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    A really wise woman shared this with me once and I think it’s relevant:

    “You are a child of the universe,
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

    The biggest of hugs to you, Vanessa.

  9. Thumb up 5

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    was in serious denial about this, v. and will continue to be until it’s happening/probably after it’s happened for a while, too.

    you’re an absolutely fantastic human and i’m v jealous of all the people who will get to experience that while you’re out there healing your brain/finding pieces of your self/heart.

  10. Thumb up 14

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    “My heart feels like it beats in places I don’t know, so I have to go there and find it, ya know?”

    I have been staring at my computer screen all day, fucking off, not doing work even though I have a pile of emails and lists and things I SHOULD do so, yanno, I can get a paycheck. I have been absent-mindedly trying to put a finger on what this feeling… this lack of feeling, really, is.

    And when I read that sentence (and the rest of your article), I burst in to tears and all the questioning.unhappy-but-happy-but-not.wonderment.what-the-fuck-am-I-doing came pouring out in one big mascara-ruining sobfest. I still don’t know what I’m doing, but this is the first time I’ve allowed myself to stop thinking about the “HOW?!” and just acknowledge that feeling.

    Thank you. You are stardust, and you’re going to make amazingness wherever you go. xxxo

  11. Thumb up 6

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    As someone trying to figure out her next steps in life, this felt both really difficult and really important for me to read. You are so brave and I wish you the best of luck on your adventures! I have always loved reading your articles, and can’t wait to do it again someday in the future.

  12. Thumb up 7

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    I love you, Vanessa! I’m so proud of you and to know you. I can’t wait to hear all about the adventures you will enjoy.

    Also, I will miss your words on this space and patiently await their return.

  13. Thumb up 4

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    You’re simply amazing, Vanessa. The way Cheryl’s work helped you to get on with LIFE is the same way AS has helped me. It looks like you’re handling your shit so I’m sure another supportive comment from someone you may or may not remember from camp will get lost in it all..BUT IM SO EXCITED FOR YOU! I’m crying because your beautiful work will be missed a metric fuckton but I’m sure your queer adventures of owning life will be published or posted somewhere, hopefully within the Straddleverse:)
    Xoxo

  14. Thumb up 7

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    You are so courageous and beautiful in absolutely every sense. You are doing you. That’s what life is about, and I’m thrilled to see what yours becomes.

    Thank you for everything you’ve done for this community. It seriously wouldn’t be the same without you at it’s epi-center, showering us with love and validation and the sincerest feelings with your megaphone of love.

    I love this. I love you. You are a talented writer with a big heart who stands for loving and living radically. Your heart is solid. Follow it and you will end up where you need to be. You’re going to be amazing, baby.

  15. Thumb up 6

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    Vanessa, I just wanted to let you know that you have been such an important person to me in this Autostraddle community, even from far away. I have been to a few of the speed-dating events where seeing you twirl about in flower dresses put me at ease (I’m also super femme and sometimes feel as if I don’t belong); you have a unique and important voice. Thanks for helping make Autostraddle home for me. Best of luck on your next beautiful journey.

  16. Thumb up 5

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    I am so happy for this article! Sad that you are leaving, but oh so very happy that there is another human in this world who feels the same as I do. I’ve recently moved back to my home city after college, expecting new opportunities because it is bigger, my family is here, and all my friends seem to live here now. But… I feel stuck, I don’t know what I want to do with my degree, I’m not sure I want to hang out with some of the people I call friends, my recently ex girlfriend but still my best friend seem to be in a rut, and I’m moving again….4th time in 6 months. I’m antsy, and I just need to do something different, something not like me. And this article has made me feel like it is OKAY! to just change everything, and say goodbye for a bit and figure myself out. I agree 20something is a period to take risks, and I’ve become boring. THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH for sharing your story, I feel a sense of peace rush over me knowing I’m not alone.

  17. Thumb up 3

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    Vanessa I love you and this is beautiful and I’m so happy for you and I just wish you everything you could possibly want in this world. I feel like i understand everything you’re saying, because i’ve felt so similar.

    Last year I was in a job that I was supposed to be grateful for, a good job, a steady job with government benefits and really good pay and all of that jazz, but it was killing me. I was dead inside. So I finally made the decision to quit my job and leave. I went on a road trip around the US and didn’t really know what I was searching for or what I was going to do after that, but it meant everything. It changed everything. For the first time in a long time I felt like a real person again. And I really hope you feel the same thing. The clarity something like that brings is like no other.

    Good luck. We will miss you SO MUCH.

  18. Thumb up 5

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    I love this piece. It spoke to my heart and gave me ways to describe my feelings so eloquently. Tears began flowing here: “You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough… Be brave enough to break your own heart.” and the sobbing began here: ‘My heart feels like it beats in places I don’t know, so I have to go there and find it, ya know?’ You captured your feelings so beautifully yet they translate to my heart effortlessly. This is the gem for me: “I’m not looking for something better; if that were the case I would never leave. I’m looking for something new. Stories. Adventures. Pieces of me I haven’t found yet and won’t ever find if I stay put.” I will keep this piece tucked away in my heart. Thank you for being brave, vulnerable, and most of all following through. May our paths cross in a distant land. Be well.

  19. Thumb up 4

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    Thank you for writing us such a lovely goodbye piece. Like everyone, I’ll miss you a lot. The stuff you said about being queer not necessarily being something you’ve known your whole life and the worry that other people will figure it out and judge you not ‘queer enough’ to join in or that it’s less real somehow is something that I have really struggled with for ages and hearing my exact feelings articulated so beautifully by someone who, in my eyes, truly belongs in this community and someone whose writing I really look up to means a lot. Such a lot. Thank you for all the amazing articles and good luck! The best kind of adventures are the ones where you don’t really know how they’ll play out! x

  20. Thumb up 9

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    As someone who did break away in her twenties – quit my job, left NYC with no prospects, didn’t really have a clue what I was doing – I am so proud and happy that you’re doing this. Personally, I failed miserably. And I wouldn’t change a damn thing. IN FACT, I wish I had done it more. More adventure, more unknown, more travel.

    I add myself to the list of people who don’t know you IRL, but will miss your presence on this site and your words. Beautiful words from a beautiful person. I look forward to them again one day. In the mean time, enjoy your life!

    One of my favorite quotes is attributed to William G.T. Shedd, and I think this sums all of it up: “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”

    <3

  21. Thumb up 1

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    Vanessa, I don’t know you but I think you’re a truly brave and strong person. I can relate to so many things you’re saying. You’re taking a big step. Something other people might never ever do in their lives. And it’s an exciting step! I’m happy for you and I admire you! Thank you for sharing this. I wish you all the best in the world.

  22. Thumb up 1

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    Well you could always get a simple, no frills phone(ie only thing it can do is make calls and maybe text) to appease your parents and for that just in case scenario.

    This is a eloquently worded article as always, and you will be missed on your time away.

  23. Thumb up 2

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    This was as beautiful as it was hard for me to read. I can relate to many things you wrote, I’m still trying to figure out what I really want, what I’m really looking for, and I hope someday I’ll be as brave as you are right now.
    Thank you for sharing this, and as The Doctor once said (hello nerds;)), you are not running away from things, you are running TO them. So, just go for it.

  24. Thumb up 4

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    Mama V,

    I’m reading this at work and I’m trying not to cry but I just had to excuse myself to the bathroom because my boss’s desk faces mine and I needed to let some of the emotion go.

    Thank you for writing this. And thank you for posting it now. And thank you for reminding me that I’m being brave, not lazy, and that itchy feet are ok.

    But mostly, I just want you to know how much I love you and how proud I am to know you.

    All the love as you continue on your kick ass journey.

  25. Thumb up 6

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    I feel like such a geek for crying because someone I haven’t met, that lives somewhere I don’t, is going somewhere else but such is life. Vanessa, your presence here made me feel welcome and not afraid to be myself. I am so sad that I wont be seeing your posts brightening up my days but I am so SO happy for you to be following your heart and starting your adventure. Wishing you all the best. x

  26. Thumb up 2

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    Good luck, Vanessa. I hope you find everything you’re looking for. I’ve moved almost every 2 years for the past 10 years, so I know how hard it is to say goodbye, the doubting you’ve made the right choice, the difficult farewells, but everything ALWAYS gets better once you get settled where you need to be. I promise.

  27. Thumb up 3

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    I just want to give you a really big, warm, sincere, cyber hug from a stranger and I want you to know that nothing you do will be wrong, because even if it’s hard, you’ll learn something and be better for it. Have a safe journey my beauty, I envy you!!! xoxo

  28. Thumb up 1

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    This is so wonderful and I love it but at the same time so sad. Straddler on the Street was my favorite column, and I look forward to the day you will write it again! Good luck on your journey, and kudos to you for having the courage to follow your dreams.

  29. Thumb up 2

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    I’m new to this community, but you almost brought tears to my eyes.

    I think 2013 was the year of leaving the old behind, I know it’s been that for me and a lot of other people I know. 2014 is the year of renewal and new adventures ;).

    YOU are brave and it’s ok to leave, we’ll miss you for sure, but the stories you’ll have and the new perspective, the new life will be amazing to share with us too. And if you don’t come back, that’s ok too. You got what you needed from the experience and we all did to.

    You are loved Vanessa, have FUN girl!!!!

  30. Thumb up 2

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    I think I can say with confidence that you have impacted more lives through your writing on AS than you know. If and when you return, your experiences will only leave you more enriched and you’ll likely have a whole new crop of humans to inspire. Take care.

  31. Thumb up 6

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    Well that hit me like a ton of bricks. I have to tell you that my first instinct was just sobbing. After that, I realized, although we had a short time to get to know each other at camp, I moreover think of you as an ethereal motherly goddess whose internet presence I am mourning. I am unsure how to feel about this. I feel at an incredible loss, but I also find it problematic in the same way that you find your constant connection to technology problematic. My mourning of your internet presence feels dehumanizing to you – like my brain has morphed you from a person into a persona. As a writer for AS and a PERSON, you (along with all of the other writers, contributors and readers) are an anchor and an integral part of this community. I am also so very proud of you, Vanessa, for following your heart and reminding yourself of the importance of your personhood. I am incredibly excited to hear about what you find on your beautiful journey. I feel honored to have met you and I cannot wait until the universe brings us back together again. AutoLove and all Mine xo Christine

  32. Thumb up 8

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    I cried on the M101 Crosstown bus while I was reading this, so you’re not alone in crying publicly in New York. Autostraddle writers have a weird way of writing what I need to hear without me knowing I need to hear it before it happens.

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    You are such a brave, capable woman. I am so sorry to see you go (for now!) But I am also so incredibly excited for you to begin this new stage in your life.

    I hope you find adventure and peace and everything you need out there. And we will be right here waiting when you come back. AS truly won’t be the same without you <3

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    Oh My God Vanessa. You are so brave and strong and I relate to your story so much. It echoes my own story almost identically- I also left New York and moved to the midwest, and then I left my corporate job in the midwest to live and work on farms across Europe, and now I’m nannying and trying to figure out who I am, trying to find my place in this world. It’s so hard to leave, but once you do, it is so, so incredibly worth it.

    I’m another one of those readers who doesn’t know you personally, but you are one of my favorite voices on AS, and I’m really going to miss the humor, passion, and love you bring to this community. But I’m also SO happy and excited for you. Wishing you luck on the amazing journey ahead.

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    this was wonderful. i’m unspeakably glad that you can put into words for me the itchy feet, leaving love, adventure, doing things for yourself, etc.

    you make humans feel less alone in this world. it is a gift and you are a true artist.

    sending love and solidarity.

  36. Thumb up 5

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    I do not know you, but just how Cheryl Strayed’s words touched you at the right time, your words have touched me, too.

    My heart itches, too. I am also a queer twentysomething year old, with a girl that I have been with for 2 years, and we’ve spoken of marriage, too. Another coincidence is that we are planning on moving to NY by January.

    Another coincidence is that I am feeling the exact same thing you are feeling and it is terrifying. I will wait a bit longer because I still need my NY experience.

    I backpacked alone for 2 months in Europe at the age of 19 and it was bliss. The unknown, the new people, the new places, the new philosophies, the lack of technology. Just YOU. You and the paths you decide to take- whether you take the 2:30pm train to this country, or the 8pm overnight train to this other country, it is all up to you- and either choice can change your life drastically (in the best of ways!)

    You are free, you are you. Enjoy this new life with open arms, and let it help you grow.

    It is okay to be nervous, it will only make you that much more proud of yourself once you have overcome those butterflies in your stomach. Be free, but do not be careless. Love. Be happy.

    Best of luck, Vanessa <3

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    This essay supports my theory that New York City is a sort of funneling-place for all those who wanted more but were too uncertain about what that means to choose any path in particular. I picture millions of people falling asleep to their computer screens thinking “one day… one day.”

    I’m glad that you made one day this day.
    Good luck on your adventure, Vanessa.
    I’m glad I got to meet you at A-Camp.

  38. Thumb up 2

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    Have an amazing adventure! I’m so glad I got to be interviewed by you. I hope you continue to learn and grow and find new things.

    I promise to defend the realm of the straddleverse community under your tiny elephant and floral print banner.

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    Oh Vanessa. Sending so much love your way. I’ll miss reading your words while you’re away, but it’s going to be so worth the wait for the stories you bring back.

    You are such a brave person. This community is lucky to have you. I hope you find everything you could possibly want or need. Be safe. (But not too safe. You know what I mean.)

    Best of luck with your adventures.

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    I’m wishing you all the luck in the whole universe as you set off on your journey. As the old traditional Gaelic Blessing says,”May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand. “

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    Although this is my first official post on Autostraddle, I’ve been a long time fan. Vanessa, you’ve written so many articles that I’ve bookmarked. Your courage, and witty frankness helped me come out to my friends, my family, and finally the internet. All things come to a close, as they say, but my closet is wide open because of you, and this community’s contribution to creating a safe, queer-positive space. Thank you so much.

    Now it’s time for me to go cry a river of feelings with the Sad Lesbian Playlist Grace just posted.

  42. Thumb up 1

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    Y’know, I’ve been walking around all day super-bummed and I needed a good cry, but nothing was really coming. This post did it, so thank you. :)

    For real, this is beautiful and I’m happy that you’re going adventuring but sad that you’re leaving but hoping you’ll tell us all about it when you get back. The best of luck to you. Cover the world in floral print.

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    Yay for adventures! I hope you have an amazing time following that trail of elephant fart popcorn wherever it may lead you. And as sad as I am that you are leaving (which is very, very sad), I’m going to be that much more overjoyed when you come back, and I am already looking forward to that day :)

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    So many things you’ve said here feel relevant. It is always encouraging when I get to read about someone brave enough to leave. It gives me hope that I can find that bravery in me.

    I love this community for how connected it is and because we get the opportunity to thank y’all for the impact you’ve had. So thank you, Vanessa.
    I wish you safe adventures full of finding yourself…or finding the whatever it is we all seem to be searching for.
    I hope your new year is truly new. Good luck!

  45. Thumb up 2

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    The selfish part of me is crying because I’ve only just gotten to know you and process how fantastic you are and appreciate the unrelenting support and positivity you bring at even the slightest mention of stress in someone else’s life. The rest of me is crying because I feel exactly what you’re describing, and I’ve been trying for months to work up the courage you have. I’m proud of you, if that’s something I’m allowed to say, and I’ll be among the many who wait eagerly for your first dispatch from the world. Whenever you feel it’s time to send it. We love you until then and beyond.

  46. Thumb up 3

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    The very best thing you can do for all of the people you love in your life is to take care of yourself. Go after your dreams! Find your passion! Live your life on your terms! Own it, every damn bit of it, good or bad! And most of all, never be afraid to try, and to fail. For in our failures we find what we truly want/where we want to go. As sad as I am that you’re taking time away, I’m so very excited for your adventure! I’m honored that we met, and I had the privilege of being a Straddler on the Street!

    For a brief moment in time, we walked side-by-side on a snowy, slippery, breathtakingly beautiful mountain. Occasionally the trail was difficult, and we didn’t exactly know where we were headed, or what lie ahead. What we did know is that we weren’t traveling alone. We were in the company of others as incredible as ourselves. And that was enough. Thank you for sharing that moment with me, and I look forward to meeting you on the trail again someday! Love and hugs Vanessa! <3

  47. Thumb up 2

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    VANESSA.

    You are so brave and smart and lovely.

    Meeting the wonderful human behind all of your beautiful essays was definitely one of the highlights of A-Camp for me. You are so genuine and caring, such a vital part of this community.

    I know that you’ll do great in whatever endeavors your future holds, and I hope that someday I’ll be as brave as you.

    Thanks for everything you’ve given Autostraddle <3

  48. Thumb up 2

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    I took a peek at this earlier today and the writing caught me almost immediately, but I wasn’t able to finish it. I confess complete surprise and shock at the rest. I’m so sorry to see you go. I remember sitting with you in the first van to camp, and seeing you around 3.0 running Straddler on the Street, mountain edition. I remember thinking I would have time to talk to you someday. I guess there will still be.

    I want to thank you, from the very bottom of my heart, for all your work on Straddler on the Street, which to me, in its organic, unassuming, naturalistic way of framing the people who come here, has seemed like a realization of the best possibilities of the site. Thank you for your idea. It will be bittersweet to see it go on without you, but thank you. You’ve done wonderful things for the community.

  49. Thumb up 1

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    i have always had these “she’s just like me!” moments with the things that you write as a fellow feeler. while i don’t feel that way about the sentiments in your post today, i think that’s because we aren’t all the same but we feel all the feels in our own way and that’s what makes it all our own journey. you will be missed- enjoy what the world has to offer!

  50. Thumb up 4

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    Is it awkward to say you’re my favorite without ever having met you? Your writing inspired me in a million different glittery floral ways. If you end up in LA on your many travels, please email me bc I’m pretty sure we are best friends who just haven’t met yet.

    And now I’m ugly crying at my desk while listening to the FROZEN soundtrack and I’m making myself so uncomfortable!

  51. Thumb up 2

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    You know that feeling where you don’t know the person personally but somehow they touched your life and all of a sudden it’s saying….Let’s just say good night not good bye so it’s not over. God speed, woman. GOD SPEED and wherever you may go, know that there are Straddlers who love you.

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    I don’t think I believed/accepted that you were really leaving until today. I’d read this when it was in drafts but it was too much for me to process right then, and I didn’t know it was going up today and then it did and I got upset ’cause I didn’t feel “emotionally prepared.” Ultimately it was a multi-layered failure to prepare because I was also not emotionally prepared for how emotional I’d be. I mean, I’d been openly in denial for a while, and I guess that coping mechanism makes sense, I’m a huge fan of denial. But this made me cry so much. I realize that you are coming back, and relative to the human lifespan, you’re coming back pretty soon. But also you’re going, like you’re really gonna be gone, unreachable, all of that — and it’s just so much. You give me life, and I say that as a person who thinks “[x] gives me life” should only be used ironically. You give it to all of us. The funny thing about you being the one to need a break from the internet is the fact that you are really fucking good at the internet. You’re so good at it, and such a good writer. You have a voice. The sheer number of words you have to share with the world every day, and the feelings you go through — so often it reminds me of me, back then. And I’m also drawn to the part that doesn’t remind me of me at all, which is your effortless extroversion and supportiveness. You’re a special snow-woman, Vanessa.

    I kept thinking that you’d change your mind — that there were little things that happened over the past few months, things that came into your life or changed around here, like maybe you’d just keep putting it off and putting it off and we’d all pretend like it was still gonna happen even though we’d all know that it wouldn’t, but then I realized that it’s me who does that these days — putting a thing off because I don’t know what “ready” looks like — not you. But it wasn’t always me, because I wasn’t always a 32-year-old tethered to this community/family where I first met you, trying to figure out where my personal life fits in to all this — hell, I got itchy to run away when I was 15 and I kept at it for so many years before slowing down, and a few more years after that before sitting down, and so I’ve been sitting now for a while. I had to run for a really long time to find a good place to sit down. And when I say “place” I don’t mean a geographical location, I mean this place here. And as much as I want to keep you here with me and as much as I’m always disappointed to hear that the world doesn’t revolve around me after all, it hit me like a punch in the heart that letting you go, encouraging you to go, even, is the best way to love you. Because you want this and you’re going for it, and you’re a runagayheart, and you will learn and grow and write and find so many things. When you come back, me and your other two moms and all of us will be here here, desperately wondering how you felt three minutes ago. Write a lot, okay? Write it down.

    I really, really, really like you a lot,
    Riese

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    Vanessa,

    Seven months ago I had just finished school, looked around at my life and said “what next?” I booked a plane ticket and signed up for a year long program in Israel with the full intention of staying, making aliyah, and serving in the army. As I begin to see the end of my year long program in the distance I also begin to see the daunting paper work to go through in order to become a citizen and join the army.

    For me moving to Israel was one of the best decisions I have ever made. And I am sure that this country will do wonders to your soul as well, and I would like to say to you בהצלחה. Even though you may be leaving the autostraddle community for a while the community will not leave you. I can think back to the first of my seven months, before I had started my ulpan, the frustration of figuring out every day life in Israel, opening a bank account and getting a cell phone plan all in my broken Hebrew. And I remember all the bad days that had followed. But what had made it all doable for me was the community I had made. Just remember that when you have your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, and you will, and they will seem so much worse being in Israel than in North America, just remember that you have the support of the autostraddle community, both b’aretz and b’chul.

    Wishing you the best <3

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    Vanessa, like you I’m terrible at saying goodbye. So I will just say thank you; your articles were always wonderful and you will be missed, truly. I’m reminded of someone who once said “We say ‘Have a nice day, why stop there?'”, so despite it sounding ominous (it’s meant with the best of intentions), have a nice life, Vanessa.

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    This makes my heart hurt in so many ways. “My heart feels like it beats in places I don’t know, so I have to go there and find it” — I didn’t realize that’s how I felt, but it is exactly how I feel, and now I’m reevaluating all my life choices because of this beautiful essay. We’ll miss you so much, Vanessa, but I hope you find a new piece of your heart on your next adventure <3

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    Vane, u’re so brave… “You know, it won’t suck forever. That’s one thing I can promise you: I promise it won’t suck forever.” Most of the “starts” are difficult, getting out of your comfort zone and stuff like that but u already took the first step and I’m sure everything will flow after it. xoxo.

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    I don’t think courage is something we are born with, but something we have to create. And you’ve done that. You’ve made a lot of scary, yet rewarding decisions, and I wish you all the adventure and laughter (and even a few tears, to make the good stuff worth while) on your journey!

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    Sweetheart! It is Maria the therapist from Seattle! We talked about you doing all of these things, like actually all of them in our interview! Congratulations! Have such fabulous adventures being a person away from technology and adventuring. The world is so big! It wanted to meet you for so long and now you are going and doing it. Big femme smooches to you. We are all sending you off with such love and appreciation. Be well and let us know how you’re doing every 6 months or so. xoxoxoxo.

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    Thanks Vanessa for being you. Thanks for sharing the thoughts that so many of us think but seldom say out loud letalone write them down. Thanks for being so open, vulnerable and free. I too, want to travel, see the world. I am waiting to hear if I will be in Berlin next year. I’ve been in NYC/Ny my whole life and am dreaming, waiting and excited to be free. I know that all the answers are in me, but new scenery will change me. cheers to being, seeing and doing all that you want. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!

  60. Thumb up 1

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    Vanessa, I wish you so much luck on your adventures! Thank you so much for articulating the things I’ve been trying to articulate for a long time. I’ve truly been a fan of yours this past year, and will really miss having your words on here. One of my favorite posts of yours, about how Buffy taught you about your queer girl self, has really been coming to mind for me lately. With that post you made me realize that it was more than okay to never “find myself,” because I’ll never have just one self anyway, and I breathed a sigh of relief. With this goodbye post you’ve made me feel like what I need most in my life right now is to take a risk and run away on an adventure! I mean, I’m turning 25 next month and I need a radical change… I don’t know what shape that adventure will take just yet, but I’m going to start by reapplying to Birthright. It’s a relatively safe risk, but maybe a good place for me to start. I wish we were friends in real life, so we could brainstorm our adventures together. Is that weird?

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that you’ve really inspired me, and you continue to, and I want big and wonderful things to happen for you on your journey. I also hope you write it all down. Carpe diem!

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    Vanessa, you are so brave and I’m so proud of you that you’re looking for that something more out of life. I hope you find it and then some. Maybe you could write about it when you get back to inspire others who want to do the same.

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    “I thought I might like girls but I questioned myself constantly because it wasn’t something I had known about myself forever, and I didn’t think I had been born this way. It felt more like a decision, or a choice, and I didn’t know if I was allowed to make it.” I know that these lines aren’t really the crux of the piece, but I just had to say they hit home/related to me more than anything I can remember –I’m a year into a relationship with a girl I love so much and yet I still cannot stop questioning myself, berating myself, drowning in that anxiety: am I allowed to make this choice? Am I just some kind of fraud? I would love to just let myself be and honestly be at peace with myself, more than anything, really. Vanessa, your words here have been so deeply soulful, empathetic, and reflective. Your writing has always struck me and soothed me by its remarkable openness, its clear comfort (even curiosity!) with the fluidity, uncertainty, and transformative capacity of human experience. This openness to both creating and receiving life in all its multiplicities and complexities, to me, represents what ‘queer’ can mean in its most liberatory sense. I don’t know you personally, but I believe that you will take your particular queer worldview with you wherever you go, embracing whatever it is you learn and the transformations you yourself may take. All the best of luck in your upcoming journey, it’s scary as hell but trust that you will be a better person for it.

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    I know there are already 5 million comments, but I could not believe it when I read this – you could almost be describing my situation. I JUST arrived in New Zealand a few days ago, after moving home in order to travel, and I have little to no plan, which is kind of unusual for me. I can’t really believe how I just flew over here with only a vague idea of what I’m doing, and decided to just figure it out when I got here. It is both terrifying and liberating, so I feel you! I was so depressed at home that I really couldn’t figure things out before I left, so I just left anyway, and I already feel better. I also feel like I wouldn’t have made it here without the encouragement of this community. My A-camp cabinmates really came through with some words of encouragement and wisdom when I was depressed and considering canceling or postponing my trip. Sometimes you are just stagnant and lost, and you have to just go! This is so relevant to my life – thank you for making me feel like I am in good company!

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    I Love You and I wish you So Much Beauty on Your Journey! I’m crying and it feels great because it’s human and I feel connected and I am grateful for that.

    Some of my most recent rememberings that You might like to carry with you or let go of or remember or not on your journey:

    – Just for today I do not worry, I am not angry, I am grateful, I work honestly, I am kind to all beings, including myself.

    – We forget all the time. But life isn’t “for getting.” Life is “for giving.”

    – Miracles are natural

    – When the plan doesn’t work out, welcome a new plan

    – Love your sadness, it won’t always be here

    – Intuition is the ear of the Soul

    LOVE LOVE LOVE
    BE A SPIRIT JUNKIE!
    XOX

  65. Thumb up 1

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    Sobbed my way through the end of this.

    Your love for this community is beautiful and infectious, and every article you write brings a smile to my face. You are such a warm, bright, beautiful person and the world out there needs to be introduced to you. Have wonderful adventures, but please come back to us one day, as we’re going to miss you terribly.

    And thank you for all your lovely words.

    <3

  66. Thumb up 7

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    hello hi everyone oh my god i don’t know where to begin again. this keeps happening! you all just make me feel so loved. okay let me try to say some things cause i don’t want you to think i didn’t read every single comment here and i’m not gone already and oh my god okay so. i am really glad some of you were crying when ya read this cause that means i wasn’t the only one weeping to myself as i read all the comments you left for me on monday and tuesday and today! i don’t even know how to respond. for the record, i already loved you all so much and now my heart feels like it could just actually burst into ten thousand pieces and fly away and live with all of you. seriously, thank you. your support is incredible. even in this scary part before i’m actually gone, when i’m doubting everything and gchatting chelsey ten times a day asking if i made a mistake and crying to cara most nights and lying in bed wondering what the fuck i’m doing, you have all made me feel very very brave. so just in case i don’t get to responding to all of you, know that i am grateful, and even more certain of my love for this community than i was before (and i was already pretty fucking certain). you are all such beautiful souls. thank you, thank you, thank you. a million times thank you. <3

  67. Thumb up 2

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    Vanessa, there are already so many people pouring out love for you and pouring out encouragement and also pouring out feelings of “I relate to this article very personally.” So I know my comment won’t be at all unique, but… I’m totally impressed with everything you’ve done and everything I’m sure you’re going to do.

    And I really needed to hear something like this – because I feel I am my best self and I learn the most when I go and do brave and bold and “stupid” things that are different from what’s expected… but I also pressure myself a lot about being financially independent, so that my family can be proud and I can have agency – and I have no idea how to do that while doing the things that I’m passionate about. It freaks me out, especially the fact that I don’t have a plan. And so your words really resonate right now and you inspired me once again to focus on what’s important, embrace uncertainty, take risks and jump boldly. Because I’m sure that’s what’ll land me in a place where I’m happy, and everything else will fall into place.

    Thank you. I wish you all good things. I look forward to meeting you again in the Straddleverse someday. :)

  68. Thumb up 1

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    I am so excited for your adventure, Vanessa! Of course, I am sad because I Iove reading everything you write and I will surely miss it (I was really sad when you left New York because I loved seeing you at Autostraddle events and you’re one of the first Straddlers I’ve met and you’re just so amazing and nice and it’s so easy to tell you all my feelings and I just love you so much) but, I am so happy you are going on this journey! I cannot wait to hear about all your adventures when you return! <3

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    I resonate so much with this piece! “When I found Autostraddle I was so lost. I thought I might like girls but I questioned myself constantly because it wasn’t something I had known about myself forever, and I didn’t think I had been born this way. It felt more like a decision, or a choice, and I didn’t know if I was allowed to make it. Who was I to call myself queer, with my long hair and my floral print dresses and the laundry list of men I had kissed and dated and fucked and loved.”

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    this is a little late but OMG, Vanessa, your essay made me cry and i don’t even know you but you are one of my favorite writers ever and everything that you have ever said on the internet really gets to me on a deep level. i have really appreciated your contributions to this website! and also tbh part of the reason i super wanted to go to the next a-camp was to meet you and secretly make you my real life role model. i hope that can still happen at some point. but i hope that whatever you find on your own path is fulfilling for you and i wish you all of the best.

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    I’m behind on the times with this one, but I had to comment because there are so many parallels in this beautifully written essay with that what has been going on in my life right now (even down to our names, and the fact that I go by “V.” However for me it’s not some secret moniker, that’s just what my friends call me. Anyway, I digress).
    To sum up my own experience- I went away for grad school and returned to Portland, OR. I’ve called that city home for 5 years, and I love love love that city- it has everything a gluten free vegetarian queer urban-gardening outdoor adventurer/circus freak like myself could want, including the most amazing community and cheap rent and ohmygod the food… But it also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. I’d been working in restaurants and coffee shops for 10 years, and I’d had enough- this is why I got my masters degree. But when I got back to PDX and continued to survive on my dwindling leftover student loans while working at an unpaid internship, it became apparent that I was quickly sliding back into the claws of food service industry and I freaked out. I made a series of really hard decisions, which included ending a 6 year relationship, packing up my life, saying goodbye to my friends and my dog and my home, and I left. Now I’m (also) back in a Boston suburb, living with my parents at the ripe old age of 29, and still wondering if I just made the biggest mistake(s) of my life. Some days I feel liberated and excited knowing that I could go anywhere from here, and some days I’m paralyzed with anxiety and grief and I’m afraid I’ll get stuck at some temp desk job and hate my life.

    So, what I’m trying to say is, I get it. I feel like these types of narrative are ubiquitous throughout our generation. Thank you for sharing your story and reminding me, and everyone else, that we are not alone in our experience.

    Good luck on your travels. Maybe I’ll see you out there one day.

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    I too am behind the times, and just read this while listening to the perfect accompanying 8tracks mix that was made (how did I not know until now that Autostraddle has an 8tracks???). My heart is simultaneously exploding and destroyed by how much I identify with everything in this essay, and I have felt for pretty much my entire life that moments will come where the universe calls me to leave the places that are Home for something new.

    May the road rise up to meet you, Vanessa.

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    Inspiration. I feel something like how you felt months ago when you made your decision to leave and I am making the decision to leave now. Not forever, I just need to see different things everyday for a while. I’m really looking forward to figuring out how I can do that. I know you won’t see this for a while, but that’s okay. I hope in your spirit you recognize that your action has inspired.

    Thank you.

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