Making a Move

(Photo Credit: Christopher Flynn —

In my life, I’ve lived in so many places I can hardly keep track. At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s 28, but in truth, it could be more. For a while there, the number of places I had lived exceeded the years in my life.

Moving is a lot of things, most of them fundamentally not good: stressful, complicated, discombobulating, hectic, expensive. Five weeks ago, my husband and I decided to move to New York City, not for the typical reason of relocating for a job, but for a mix of reasons, principally proximity to family. Since then, I’ve told countless people about the move, many of whom are shocked by the short timeline (we pack the truck in five days), and others who showed grimaces of appreciation for the hardship ahead.

Yet, the pleasure of moving, if you can let yourself experience it, is even greater and more powerful than travel to a new place. If you can set aside the fear of change and all that is unknown and the anxiety about extracting your life from its daily surroundings, smooshing it into a box, and pulling it out on the other side, a physical transformation in living quarters offers the chance to turn your world inside out, and you with it.

Status quo bias is nowhere stronger than in our behavior towards our physical possessions and surroundings. While I know some cool people with exceptional design sensibilities intentionally redesign their homes once a year simply for effect, this is not how most people choose to live. We find the place where the couch and the TV fit, and leave them there until we decide to move out. The kitchen table isn’t something you usually spend time “experimenting” with. Of course, your daily habits also converge around your furnishings. Do you eat in front of the sofa? Do you do work at the kitchen table? Do you put away your clothes every night or leave them in a heap at the bottom of your bed (ahem)? Once you start doing these things a particular way, it’s difficult to stop without taking specific action to reprogram each, individual habit.

Moving offers a master reset on the status quo. Everything from where you put your sofa to where you buy your groceries is under fire. This level of uncertainty can feel threatening and overwhelming. I’ve never had so much empathy for homelessness as in the moments when I feel my physical surroundings dissolve around me. In some ways, it feels like the first slow climb to the peak of the rollercoaster, when your stomach starts to roil, anticipating the adrenaline that lies ahead.

I remember my first roller coaster ride like it was yesterday — the Boomerang at The Great Escape in Lake George, NY. I remember the first ascent, surrounded by screaming teens. Because I didn’t know what to expect, I wasn’t screaming but instead thinking, “What on earth have I gotten myself into?” Five days before my move, I find myself in a similar frame of mind. Andrew and I have lived in this apartment for three years, longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere in my life. When I talked us both into this move on a rapid-fire timeline, I was reassured by my past experience — just throw everything into a box and it will make its way there, one way or another. Three years is a long time to accumulate stuff. For every item I can bring myself to throw away, I find myself confronted with 10 more that must find their way into a box or a suitcase for suitable transport. With 15 boxes packed with books and breakables, I feel as though I have just barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done.

And yet, nothing gives me greater pleasure than imagining the new version of my life that lies ahead. There is so much to reconfigure and redesign. Where will I buy my groceries? How will I arrange my closet? Where will I go to take yoga classes? What traditions will I establish and honor? What friendships will I rekindle and which new friends will I meet along the way?

As with many things in life, it’s easy to get caught up, fearfully anticipating the next negative outcome. But if we trust in the power of God and the universe to deliver us from evil and bring us to our rightful place, wherever that may be, it gets easier to stop worrying so much about the bogeyman and to think more about the virtuous patterns we should prepare to sow, instead.

The next week is going to be a crazy, chaotic mess (and on day 5/365, I’m obviously super excited to have added another daily obligation to my plate). As the Boomerang released, and sent me and my 11-year-old best friend realing at 60 miles an hour, I found myself overcome by hysterical, uncontrollable laughter. Perhaps that was the first moment I felt the thrill of “It’s only fun if you’re not sure it’s going to work.” That first rollercoaster ride seemed to go on forever, and every hysterical minute of it is engrained in my memory.

Even now, surrounded by half-packed boxes and half-unpacked cupboards, I’m ready for the rollercoaster, the hysteria, the euphoria, and I’m sure some nostalgia and misery, too. In spite of it all, I can’t wait to step off to my new life on the other side.

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