Anyone who has had their heart broken will recognize the emotional contours of Abbi Jacobson’s post-breakup cross-country road trip. There’s the brisk self-talk (“I’ll go where I want to go, buy what I want with the money I’ve earned, order whatever takeout I want with disproportionate sodas”); there’s refurbishment (“I should try meditation”); and there’s the baseless yet somehow plausible suspicion that an ex has not only moved on but also that “her day-to-day is jam-packed with boundless joy and she’s never felt more fulfilled or satisfied.”
When Jacobson — co-creator and co-star of the television hit “Broad City,” in which two 20-something “weed kweens” meander toward adulthood — finds herself chronically overworked and gutted from the dissolution of her first real relationship, she hits the road for three weeks. The result is “I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff,” a sweetly wistful collection which includes her hand-drawn illustrations.
She admits to no goal, save “finding time and space in which to be still and think.” And think she does. Heading toward Austin, she mulls over her severed relationship with an unnamed woman. “All the uncontrollable smiles, the pings in my stomach. . . . All the tucking of hair behind ears, the singing along to terrible songs in the car. The stupid dancing. And more laughter. All the times she smiled.”
Jacobson’s efforts to bolster her courage as she travels alone are touching. She busily crafts to-do lists to establish order, among them a “Rules of Conduct”: “Do not listen to Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me.’ Ever. Don’t even think about this song.” She fights her own inner narrative that a man on a solo road trip is “viewed as a cool loner,” while a single woman alone is seen as pathetic.
She is also a keen social observer. “I’m not a fan of ‘abruptly,’ as it’s almost never a good thing,” she writes. “ ‘His cancer ended abruptly!’ ‘Then abruptly, they realized their love was meant to be!’ Nope, it’s always bad.”
Older readers, however, may feel like Gandalf the Grey when encountering words such as “anyways,” or an excursus into the joys of snail mail. “Even owning stamps seems bizarre these days,” she writes. “Imagine going to grab brunch with friends, and someone says, ‘Hold up a sec, I have to pop into the bodega and grab some stamps. Everyone would be like: ‘For what?’ ‘Bodegas have stamps?’ ‘Also, what are stamps?’ ”
As Jacobson continues her journey, her thoughts unspool. She broods over past mistakes, such as her indifferent treatment of her mother’s kindly post-divorce boyfriend, who died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm when she was an “angsty teenager who never gave him the time of day.”
“Memories fascinate me, how they gain or lose weight over time,” she writes. “Always fluctuating, just like our bodies, becoming lighter or heavier the more they need attention.”
She also surveys her professional insecurities, which will be familiar to many women: a reluctance to celebrate her successes, a fear of saying no, discomfort with telling people that something was not done correctly (“there’s a quiet epidemic of women taking and absorbing the blame for other people’s mistakes, because of some inherent attribute deep inside us, constantly trying not to be difficult”).
Like a road trip, the book wanders pleasantly along. Jacobson reads Susan Sontag essays in Austin. She texts something she has just seen to co-star Ilana Glazer as potential material: “girl with flip-flops tucked into one strap of tank top.” She gets her aura read in Sedona, Ariz. In Utah, she stands in a grassy field at night and stares at the stars.
Other moments are more pedestrian. One night, she draws her hotel shades and watches “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” (Her entirely reasonable question: How was Julia Roberts’s character a respected and feared food critic by the age of 27?)
One of the messages underneath “Broad City’s” nimble slapstick comedy is that vulnerability is strength; it’s the message of this book as well. It’s not much of a spoiler to report that Jacobson doesn’t come to any grand conclusions but does find what she needs: the realization that she is going to be okay.
Jacobson asks more questions than she answers, which is as it should be. En route from Asheville to Memphis, she mulls over what she terms The Big Questions. “Why does the pen they give you to sign the check or the important document never work? Why does it work for them when they take it back and try it themselves?” “Why do so many people hate women?” “Is there a point in time when you stop feeling like you’re eighteen?”
There’s an easy answer to that last one, anyway: Nope.
Jancee Dunn’s latest book is “How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids.”
By Abbi Jacobson
Grand Central. 320 pp. $28.