I recently transported a big chunk of my life (piles of books, shoes, a whole lot of kitchenwares) from New Jersey to Colorado. And even though a big move can be jarring and confusing, on the whole the process has gone a lot smoother than we expected. From the actual and eternal drive out here, to navigating a new place, to feeling repeatedly stunned every time I look out and see the snowcapped Rockies in the distance, there’s been a lot of newness to soak in during the past two months. Which, by the way, I can’t believe is the amount of time that’s already passed.
This time last year, I was reflecting on 2014 and all the things I’d learned while I was twenty-seven years old. Now, I’m thinking about all the things that have happened while I was twenty-eight and the huge changes that have happened in a relatively short amount of time. Three hundred and sixty-four days later and I am in a whole new place, figuratively and very, very literally. Location is by far the biggest and most obvious shift, but there are other factors, good and bad, big and small, some by choice and others not, that have also transformed along the way.
Physically being in a new place was a choice. We weren’t sent away by dire or dangerous circumstances or a job transfer that we didn’t have the luxury of turning down. We didn’t lose everything and have to start over. Instead, we made a conscious decision to pack up our belongings, reroute our mail, say our goodbyes (or “see you laters,” as I insisted) and make our way out into the world, together but alone.
What we can’t choose, necessarily, is what comes next. It’s only natural to expect a little loneliness in the journey. Even though I moved away with the person I vowed to spend my life with and we have the luxury of constant contact with all our friends and family through texting and emails and Facebook updates and endless streams of photos, I have also chosen to do something that feels a little strange, still. We’ve chosen to be in a new place, a place that will continue to feel new for what I’m guessing will be a long while. We plucked ourselves up out of our first home and our comforts, up out of a place I have always known to instead be in the unknown, the actual wild, the open space of possibility.
The second we put this change out into the world, time moved at a rapid pace. There were moments when I felt like I was watching calendar pages being torn away 90’s-movie-montage-style. I could actually feel the minutes tick by. This thing we were building up to, spending our summer planning on, it was all about to happen. Before I knew it, everything we owned was in a 16-foot rental truck, waiting to be driven halfway across the country. I barely slept at all that night. Partly to blame on the sinking air mattress we used, sure, but even still I found myself staring up at the ceiling in the darkness of our bare apartment, exhausted but more awake than I’d ever been. We were back where we started: empty rooms and walls with nothing much else to call our own. Just a place to rest our heads at nights. After all that time, now it was almost all behind us. I felt something other than sad. Almost a sense of denial, a disbelief that it could all change that fast. Had it all changed that fast?
"Home is where one starts from." - T.S. EliotTweet It!
At other points in my life, I didn’t realized the connections I had until I’d yanked myself away from them, willingly or not. Whether it was shortsightedness or general immaturity or just a life lesson that has to be learned the hard way, there were times when I went into decisions recklessly, without much thought toward what would happen next. This time, however, I knew what I was giving up. It wasn’t any easy choice, but it also was one that I’m already confident was the right one for us.
"Searching boxes underneath the counter / on a chance that on a tape I'd find / a song for /someone who needs somewhere / to long for." - Homesick, Kings Of ConvenienceTweet It!
While considering this life change and covering my entire world in bubble-wrap, I thought a lot about the concept of home, of creating a haven-like space for yourself in the world. I thought about how only just a few years ago, it was normal for people to grow up and live in the same place they were born. It was expected, hardly even questioned. To end up elsewhere was unusual and unlikely, considering everything that you risked losing in walking away. Familiarity and the built-in comforts made staying simple. And those who did make their way elsewhere usually ended up “back home” later in life where they would still find their parents, siblings, most of the friends they’d known since childhood.
But things have changed. These days, we’re taking our time figuring out where to end up. With the combination of fluctuating job markets and whether or not we can even afford to stay where we are, many times following opportunities elsewhere holds much bigger promise for us. But I think because of our get-up-and-go mentality, our generation’s hankering for newness at every turn, we’ve lost something that our parents and grandparents had: a built-in system and a place that really felt like belonging. Instead, now we grow up counting down the days when we can be somewhere else. And while that says much for our sense of adventure, I’m not sure it helps us when it comes to our sense of home.
In this sense, we’re a confusing bunch, my generation and me. We behave as if we don’t really want roots, to feel grounded, to have a solid foundation under our feet. On one hand, it’s because we’re too busy chasing change. But on the other, we crave connection and community without putting in the time, without sticking around long enough to make it happen. We want the long processes to be instant and we want everything we own to fit in a suitcase. And there’s obvious positives to that way of living. But then we wonder why we never really feel connected anywhere.
I believe this is partly because we’ve accidentally turned on the idea of feeling “settled down” and have equated it with being the same thing as settling. But I think an important distinction needs to be made and we need to establish some bases and give ourselves a place to which we can return. Whether it’s a place that’s ever really been home or not isn’t really the point. It could even be an internal place, or a favorite spot in your current city. It’s probably a really different thing for every person if we let ourselves think about instead of fear that concept. But I think we all need certain elements of fixture and routine to keep our feet on the ground, even if it’s something we’ve been ingrained to really resist.
Since I’m currently Exhibit A for The Millennial That Picks Up And Moves, I’m not sure if I have a leg to stand on when I express my belief in digging deep into a place. It doesn’t have to be where you were born. It doesn’t have to be where you stay forever. Home can move with us, sure. Home isn’t always physical. It doesn’t have to have a written address. Part of the beauty of having a sense of home is knowing it’ll be there when you get back, even if that just means getting back to yourself.
There’s a world I want to see. And considering my short twenty-eight and 364 days of experience on this wild, enormous and teeny-tiny planet, there’s still so much of it that I know nothing about. And even though my generation is trading the white picket fence for more stamps in our passports, I think there’s a way we can feed our urge for adventure without uprooting ourselves every time. Travel often, after all. But after you’ve done that, find a way to come home again, even if the only way to get there is the longest road you've ever taken. Piece together your own sense of place. Own it wherever you are and wherever you end up. Weave into it your memories, your hopes, your childhood, your future self. Figure it out as you go, bring back parts of your journey, welcome others in, love them fiercely. Dig deep.
Helen Williams is the Community Love Director at Holstee. She is passionate about cooking and writing which pair well together on her vegetarian food blog, green girl eats. She's strives, every day, to be less sorry.
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