374: I used to be on Remote Year

Wow, you’re back? How was your year?

“It was really good. Best year of my life.”

That must have been fun. Well, a lot’s been happening around here…

Fun. Fun. Was it fun? I guess, yeah. But can it be reduced that much? Is that what a year is worth?

36 hours, 4 planes, 3 mechanical issues, and 2 missed connections later, I finally landed in New York. My mom came to pick me up, helped me load my bags into the car and took off for Connecticut, the final leg of my journey moving ten times faster than the hours before, and somehow, too fast.

I had a lot of energy. A second wind, or a third or a fourth. I told the story of my insane travel day. I glossed over the day that had preceded it, the farewell. I couldn’t talk about it yet.

As we pulled into my hometown my mom veered to the side of the road, parking next to Saugatuck Sweets.

Let’s get some ice cream.

I hopped out of the car and faced the little candy shop, sitting on the river that I’ve always loved and bustling with kids and families and high schoolers with nowhere better to go in such a small town. Suddenly, my legs weighed a thousand pounds.

I dragged myself into the store and stood in line for ice cream. Everything was exactly the same. I had been right here, one year earlier. The same beanie babies sat on the shelves, the candy jars glinted with the sugary crystals of the same contents. Everyone was talking happily in their little groups, kids running amuck, ice cream scooped into tiny frozen towers on top of cones, twinkling tea lights shining down on laughing customers on the patio. A modern Rockwell, frozen in time to me more than anyone else could know.

I cried.

It’s 9PM on a Wednesday night. My mom is nodding off on the couch next to me, and I’m refreshing Slack. Refresh, refresh, refresh.

There’s no news from my world. The world I’ve been living in for the past twelve months, the one I fell in love with.

It’s been three days and I’ve had no plans, not a dinner or a lunch, no drinks on the roof, positive impact events, walking tours, bike rides, “come over and let’s watch a movie”-s, pot lucks, bars, clubs, or busses to dance on.

I’m lonely. I’m bored. I don’t know how to make a life like this anymore.

My beer is getting warm under the beating sun as we stretch out in the park over South Street Seaport. Brittany is the same, and it’s the first time I’ve been relieved to know that nothing has changed.

We’ve both had formative, life changing, tumultuous years, for completely different reasons. We’ve both gotten a little older and a little wiser. Our priorities have shifted, our attitudes have evolved, our goals have moved, but in the ways that matter we’re still us.

Sitting in the park laughing, I’m finally glad to be home. Maybe it’s going to be ok.

I like your attitude, and I like your energy. Let me think about how we can find a place for you here.

It’s not a job interview exactly, but it’s something. It’s a conversation with the HR Director at a company I’ve always wanted to work with.

Their office is in Dumbo. Could I live in Brooklyn? Could I stay?

I search inside for some kind of feeling, but all I can find is the same blankness that has been there since the moment I realized Remote Year was ending.

I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t know what I want or where to go or how to move. I’m newborn, and I’m too old at the same time.

But you could just do it for a year, my mom says. Do you remember how fast the past year went?

I do. It was just a blink.

I find my grandma sitting, agitated, watching TV in the rehab center where she’s been since she fell. She’s 90, and she’s restless. Her mobility is limited but she’s getting it back, walking smoothly with a walker. Her face looks fuller and brighter than the last time I saw her. It’s like she’s Benjamin Buttoning. She’s running out of books to read and TV only entertains her for so long.

I don’t want to be here anymore. Everyone’s so old.

And I wonder where I got it from.

Your brother tells me you’ve been traveling. What was that like?

“I’m doing this… I was on this program called Remote Year.”

The first use of past tense shakes me, and tears prick at my eyes again. I smile and fight them back, unwilling to embarrass my little brother by crying at his pre-prom party.

How did it work? What was your favorite city? Would you do it again? What was the best part? What’s it been like being home?

I don’t know these people, the parents of my brother’s girlfriend. It’s the first time we’ve met, and I want to talk to them forever.

Because I’m new to them, this experience, my remote year, is part of my identity. Unlike the friends and family who expect me to seamlessly return to the life I had before, who knew me already, who aren’t prepared for a shift, these people are meeting the new me. Post-Remote Year Molly.

I feel more myself than I have in a week.

My name is Molly Falco, and I used to be on Remote Year.

I used to move, month to month, with a group of my 53 closest friends. I used to experience new places, new countries, new languages and sights and sounds with a certain regularity.

I used to wake up invigorated, motivated, full of energy to build and create and be inspired.

I used to lament a day going by without a lunch or a dinner with a friend. I used to wish there were more hours in a day, and in a weekend. I used to spend any spare minute trying to learn a language, or go to the grocery store, or a take a Goddamn nap.

I used to sing in bars and go wild when September came on. I used to go to parties with the same group of people night in and night out and never get bored. I used to smile when a friend brought beers to the office, or when I could bring beers to a friend. I used to walk into a room of fifty people and know I was loved by every one of them.

I used to see things. I used to explore. I used to adventure. I used to grow.

My name is Molly Falco, and I used to be on Remote Year.

Now, I’m just figuring out who to be next.