She bought herself a chainsaw. An electric one. To cut and untangle the old dead branches around the bottom of the Monterey Cypress hedgerows in the yard behind the cottage. Tree work. Until she’d traded intellectual labor for physical in Oregon, she didn’t appreciate how empowering it is using her body to accomplish a task. How much physical self-sufficiency makes her strong and centered. How it shows her that she exists in the world.

Years in academia accelerated a learned overfocus on the mind. That overdetermined intellect worked to complicate the taken-for-granted. To weave intricate arguments from the filigree of elevated language. It’s taken nearly four years to untangle her knotted life. She’s learned that when her life is concise, like it is now–when the treadmills and conveyers belts of schedules and plans and other people’s expectations no longer glorify busy–she knows exactly where everything else ends and she begins.

She now has much of what she wished for in the middle of so many nights. She is no longer self-conscious. She can adapt to shifting circumstances like a mf. She no longer feels the need to pretend she’s an extrovert. She prefers non-instant gratification. She loves her body, and it’s hers, for her purposes. She’s not ugly anymore, inside or outside. She doesn’t front—she just is. She doesn’t mindlessly orient toward what she believes people want or expect or demand her to be.

For the first time since leaving and now returning home, the possibilities are crowding out the pain and fear in her mind and body. She fell into another world she wasn’t at all sure she could escape. She did escape, though, like she escaped her family’s world decades ago.