You’ve got your bags packed and you’re off. A truck full of a life that used to be scattered all over the place is now full to the brim with nothing but the past rattling around in the back, latched to the side or skidding about the bottom on wide turns, hoping for the future.
The first move, the one when you’re really out of the house, that’s a big one. You find yourself with the things you left behind before, now trudging along forward with them. Before, they were like deposits of yourself, little idols of permanence you used to weight your memory in the spaces of your childhood. But there comes a time where you’re to gather up all of those anchor points and will yourself a new future and a new existence.
And I think occupation happens the same way each time – you walk through the quiet spaces of a place, not knowing anything about it – but you feel immediately as if it’s your own. There’s no moment when you think of the Other, when you imagine it was once inhabited by someone’s conscious thoughts – no – it’s yours now. And there is that smell of newness and that memory of displacement that comes into you. With nothing on the walls and dust on the windowsill trapped under skunked paint and the loudness of a world that has and will go on without you, you wonder how it is someone makes a home. What are the intricacies of placeness and how do we string together those good feelings of Being?
You wonder this for a time and you touch walls in each room, you excuse yourself from your sleep regimen to sit alone in the kitchen, still as a sphinx. You look out a window, moon beams unfolding against a wall that’s not yet learned to absorb the tones of your voice and you see yourself in this space in the future – you imagine the wakings and sleepings that will occur some time from now.
I wonder why we need to do that – what is it in us that pushes us to imagine us then?
Maybe it’s the whole game we played when we first considered moving. Maybe it’s the illusion of transition unfolding itself all over again, flickering in front of our eyes this shadowvision on the wall of the world we’ll never really see. And all of the sudden, the slow hours that accompanied arrival, the minutes that dragged when you first wandered from new corner to new corner blend into now. It’s like Christopher Nolan describes dreams – you never know how you got there, you just show up in the middle and accept it. That’s the way moving goes. You just understand that where you are is now where you are and the newness fades and your life is your life.
You’re wrapped up in your own humanity so much that you don’t know how it happened.
All of these aspirations you might have had for community go away and being present seems to be the only viable option. I wonder what happens in those blurred moments – when we skip from the discomfort of a new world into the steadiness of structure. Is it a coping mechanism? Is it like adrenaline? Does our body know that we can only handle this feeling of being alone and new for so long?
I used to tell high school seniors that the most important moment in college is the moment when they realize, for the first time, that they are unequivocally alone and no one is there to help them.
I’d tell the story of how I was working in New Braunfels and took my lunch break at Jack in the Box – I don’t even remember what I ordered. No one answered my phone calls and the small quasi-German town south of San Marcos seemed like a three thousand miles away from anything I’d ever known. I sat there and realized that no one on the planet knew where I was. No one knew how to reach me.
That’s a big thing for a young person to swallow. But it’s Good and True and it becomes life – it becomes adulthood.
Those moments must happen for us to push forward.
Maybe those moments let us know we’re ready. And one day, a load of chemicals from some gland get dumped into our bloodstream and we have the urge to wander, to conjure up a different destiny, to move and build a new place we’ll report to each day when the sky darkens.