Starting Over

Nonfiction by Jane Hertenstein

You're not lost you're here

I know this woman who went and upended her life. Completely. She didn’t have to, but she moved halfway across the country with only a suitcase and bicycle. She left the only city she’d ever lived in as an adult and close friends she’d known for years. Most of her questions had been answered: there was a routine, a rhythm. Even some wiggle room financially. She knew where to vote, what stores gave the best price; she had a library card and had just renewed her driver’s license.

This woman ran headlong during a pandemic, social unrest, into a divided America. She toed the edge and leaped. At age 62.

Without a map, without a credit rating, without a digital footprint. Alone.

While her friends were getting cataract surgery, hip and knee replacements, installing grab bars in the shower, clipping coupons, signing up for Medicare, retiring, settling, winding down—she had a yard sale, gave away her belongings, finally just boxed the rest up and put it out for trash.

And, for what? An uncertain future? Likely losing her place in line for the Covid vaccine. Exchanging a prescribed life for a detour, a grid system for a tossed salad of street names, she zig-zags with no sense of true north.

Step by step she sets out trying to learn a new city, picks up groceries, files a form for change of address, applies for a library card. The sun is warm on her face as she turns in what she hopes is the right direction.

Starting over.

Jane Hertenstein is the author of over 90 published stories both macro and micro: fiction, creative non-fiction, and blurred genre. In addition she has published a YA novel, Beyond Paradise and a non-fiction project, Orphan Girl: The Memoir of a Chicago Bag Lady, which garnered national reviews. Jane is the recipient of a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. Her latest book is Cloud of Witnesses from Golden Alley Press. She teaches a workshop on Flash Memoir and can be found blogging at

Photo by Eileen Pan

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