And you bounce between finding ease and enough calm that everything is level and natural, that nothing needs to be anticipated because anything can be weathered.
And the other side: that first day of school feeling, that first moving yourself out of the house after the house and its contents have shifted from California to New York to California to Colorado to Maryland to Washington to... what amounts to another home. Wondering whether saying this or that will be met with a bit of estrangement, whether you'll be known for all your mixed colloquialisms and odd timing.
It's kinda like playing a role, but it's all improv for you and set roles for everyone else, but you know you can pick it up, if you listen enough but not so much that you're still leaning in with open ears when everyone is waiting on a word from you instead. But that's where the real frightening thing has to step in - that giving up, maybe it's a bit of faith or trust but really it feels more like finding the edge of certainty and knowing there's nothing unconsciously familiar about you and any sort of place or people, so put those ears to use and perk up lest you be discovered.
It's all a bit dramatic. But it always feels like that. Maybe less fear, a bit less overwhelming that it was from the ages of single digits, but also remarkably similar, a distilled essence of being somewhere you're not from, amongst people whom you do not know, soaking in the mineral marrow of a culture which is at once remote, the red state, the grand ol party, the denim buttonups; but also very hip to the best ways to spend money and attention, the short shorts on men with high haircuts flopping all Andy Warhol over the temple, rotating beer menus, all fresh and organic and yoga pants on as many whisking legs as there were in the place that you still pretend to know best, and which you pretend knows you, which you wear like an old t-shirt with lots of holes and no real presentation anymore but you won't ever throw away because nothing smells or feels as much like what you imagine home to be as its fraying edges do.
There's this third option: it's hard to know how it works. You have to know what you know and then forget what you know. Pick up the new uniform and feel yourself in it, brush aside the impressions that well up in you when you look at it, the bouquet of sameness or difference, 'It reminds me of' and 'I saw this once', none of that matters. Letting the slate be blank. Moving forward without yourself. Moving forward with only, really, yourself, and knowing that comfortable old costume isn't you or even where you're from or where you've lived and learned the dialogues of life, but just another garment.
You do wonder though what comes after the costume.