Home: On Coming, Going,
and Always Searching
Those of us with wanderlust worry, more than just sometimes, about the concept of home. What does it mean to be wedded to a place, to be bonded to it and belong to it? Even when you’ve moved 13 times in a decade, you deserve a space to call home, right? If you want one. “How many times are you going to move?” they’ll ask you, incredulous and sometimes laughing, but you won’t have an answer — just a vague, sad sense that someday, hopefully, you’ll stay put. When it feels right.
But that time hasn’t come yet, and so now, you’re planning another move, and you find yourself both filled with dread and eager for the process to begin. This purgatory, this counting down of days, leaves you restless and anxious. At the same time, you are made deeply uncomfortable by anticipating the destruction of the quiet, comfortable space you’ve created for yourself, the home you’ve done your best to make, and so you put off the packing process for as long as possible in an effort to prolong upending yet another safe place, laying waste to another attempt at home.
You take it slowly. One night, on impulse, you remove a dozen dresses from their hangers and begin folding them neatly into an oversized suitcase set in the middle of the room, just so you can feel as though you’ve begun the process. When the suitcase is nearly packed full, its zipper halfway closed, you realize the absurdity of what you’re doing — that three weeks isn’t close enough to your move date to begin to pack like this. And so you unfold them, hang them up again, close the closet door quietly behind you and return to your regularly scheduled life for now, watching Netflix on the couch with your favorite candle flickering in the corner and every little decorative element exactly as you meant for it to be before you decided to leave.
You don’t need to rush things, not yet. Prolong, preserve. Keep everything in perfect working order for as long as you can manage to have it that way.
Slowly, though, in due time, things start making their way into boxes. One night you look around and realize that, without even meaning to, you’ve left open all the drawers in your desk and armoire, and the whole place looks as though it’s seconds away from being emptied forever. Artwork has come down from the walls, leaving behind bent nails and buckled paint, wide swathes of white space that feel clinical, pallid, devoid of the personality you’d tried to imbue them with. Boxes are strewn across the room in various states of fullness, some sealed and labeled and others half-filled as you try to create a system of somewhat-organized storage that won’t leave you scrambling a few weeks from now to find the pieces of your everyday life in the bottom of some poorly labeled cardboard.
It’s not comfortable anymore, and it never will be again — not here, at least — but it doesn’t feel as sad as you expected it to be, either. Everything has progressed at a natural speed, not too fast and not too slow, and now you are 72 hours away from the move, with one foot out the door. Your bed is still made and your wireless still working, but as the hours tick down, these things, too, will disappear. You’ll stuff your blankets and decorative throw pillows into sturdy, oversized trash bags, make do with bare-bones bedding until the morning you leave. You’ll sell your couch to a stranger on Craigslist who arrives hours after she says she will, but at least she arrives at all. You’ll return your modem to the cable company and make do with a fully-charged iPad and an unlimited data plan for your final night in this place before it’s on to the next one.
And then the purgatory will end.
Repairmen will come and freshen it up, make it clean and shiny and new again, and someone else will move in here, someone you’ll never meet. Though they will know, logically, that their home used to belong to someone else, no inkling of you will remain. Someone else’s furniture will take residence in the corners, and their photos will go up on the newly painted walls, and you’ll never see this space again, despite the fact that it’s where you once spent the majority of your time. Despite the fact that you used to call it home.
And home will become someplace else. Home will move with you, and all the places you’ve ever called home will stack up in your memory, a wall of chronologically displayed picture books to thumb through whenever you’re feeling nostalgic or envious or hopeful or just plain sad.
You’ll add this place to the mix, tuck a new volume into your mental bookshelf.
You’ll find a new place to hang your hat, to rest your head, to stow your heart.
Your artwork will find new walls, your rugs new floors, your dishes new pantries, your clothes new closets.
And yet you will use the same word — “home” — for this place that you used for the place before it, and the one before that. How can so many separate spaces bear the name title?
And on that thirteenth move, you will finally understand, both slowly and suddenly at the same time, that home is more than walls, more than comfort, more than your bed in the corner or your tchotchkes on the shelves. Every now and then — more often than you’d like, perhaps — home may be disrupted by boxes slowly piling high at your feet; it might feel just out of reach for awhile, all your worldly possessions lingering in storage where you figure out where the next chapter will take place. But wherever you are, you will be home. You will take it with you as you find your way.
Because when nowhere is home, everywhere is. Those of us with wanderlust, it turns out, we’re lucky that way.
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