12 July 2009

Reflections on Moving (again...)

I have moved a lot. I wasn't sure how much, exactly, so I counted how many (first column is #/ given calendar year):

1 - 1982, Fowler to Lafayette (with family)
2 - 1987, Lafayette (to Germany for the summer, then back home) to Milwaukee (Marquette)
3 - 1988, Milwaukee, home for the summer, back to Milwaukee
3 - 1989, Milwaukee, to Farleys in the suburbs, to first apt downtown
1 - 1990, to second apt downtown
1 - 1991, to third apt downtown
3 - 1992, Milwaukee to Regis campus to apartment in Downtown Denver
0 - 1993, Denver, no moves
3 - 1994, Denver to Tom and Liz's to Wrigleyville
3 - 1995, Wrigleyville to Wellington to Roger's Park
3 - 1996, Roger's Park to Monticello to Nagoya, Japan
2 - 1997, Nagoya to Issha
4 - 1998, Issha to Milwaukee (2) to Los Angeles
1 - 1999, Los Angeles to Long Beach
0 - 2000, Long Beach, no moves
4 - 2001, Long Beach to Milwaukee (2) to Honolulu to Manoa
0 - 2002, Manoa, no moves
1 - 2003, Manoa to Honolulu
0 - 2004, Honolulu, no moves
2 - 2005, Honolulu to Los Angeles (2)
0 - 2006, Los Angeles, no moves
0 - 2007, Los Angeles
1 - 2008, Los Angeles to San Diego
1 (and counting) - 2009, San Diego to NorCal

Yipes. When you write it down, it's really a lot. That's 39 times, and since I'm housesitting/ couch surfing this summer, that means at least 40 by the end of the year. 40 moves in 22 years. And this is the first move that I didn't choose to make, and maybe that's why it feels so different - but I'm getting ahead of myself.

When you move as much as I've moved, stuff can make you nervous, and even the most thoughtful, perfect gift will - not may, but will - at some point need to be wrapped in a dishtowel, or bubble wrap, or newspaper, and stuck in a box, and put in the trunk of a car, or on a truck bed, or in the back of a U-Haul, and moved.

I've moved by U-Haul, car, pickup truck, plane, taxi, and subway (and those last two modes I can't recommend). More often than not, I've moved in stages - some boxes here, some stuff in the car, some boxes there, lots and lots of stuff given away. For at least three of my moves, I distinctly remember standing in a mostly empty apartment and pretty much just losing it, saying "anything that's not now on the truck isn't going. Grab what you want."

I've given away a futon, chairs, a heavy wooden desk, a microwave, lamps, bookcases, CD's, clothes, wine glasses, maps, a coffee table, a surfboard, a bicycle, and lots and lots of books. I've purchased at least 5 ironing boards, including the one in my storage unit now in San Diego; I've had multiple sets of pots and pans, and dishes, and silverware; I've had more kitchen towels than I care to think about. Sometimes I will go look for something that I gave away two or three moves ago, and sometimes things turn up - mugs from a biergarten in Germany that I see in a friend's freezer door, a Holstein coaster turns up on another friend's home office, a picture frame is sitting on a former colleague's desk - but I don't ask for them back. I'm glad they are being used, and I'm sure as hell glad I don't have to move any of them again.

So this summer I moved again. I left an apartment I could afford in a city I enjoyed when I was transferred to a place I could have moved in the past - twice - and I've declined. Housing costs are nearly twice as much here in the Bay Area than San Diego, but my work load will nearly double, too, so at least there's some symmetry there.

I know, I've heard it all: "You can't really be whining about moving to Northern California, can you?!" and "You're going to love it here!" and "You'll wonder why you didn't live here before." Well, to which I can only say "Yes," "We'll see," and "unlikely."

Yes, my brother and his wife live here; yes, my awesome cousins and Uncle and Aunt live just over the hill in Santa Cruz and Monterey; yes, I have a lot of friends here, including some who I've known since 1987, and some who were good enough to put me up for the summer (while I look after their cats); yes, it's liberal and beautiful and civilized and "everybody loves it," I get it - but it's not home, and it's not where I want to be.

It's significant to know that SoCal IS home and IS where I wanna be, and I'm grateful for that. I thought I was done moving for a while, or done moving cities, anyway, and I thought that maybe San Diego was the solution for a year or two or five. But circumstances overtook me, as they have for millions, to much worse effect.

I can't control the transfer, or the crappy economy, or the consolidations in SoCal, so here I am in NorCal. Wasn't easy getting here, though. This was my worst move in years.

I didn't schedule a moving truck; my roommate did. I didn't get any boxes until my roommate lit a fire under my ass about it. I didn't start packing until I had to. I didn't schedule the walk through by the previous apartment managers until my roommate lit a fire under my ass about it. (Are you noticing a pattern?) I really didn't want to move. Not that I have wanted to move every other time I've had to do it. Friends can talk about arriving at my doorstep in Silverlake to help load the truck and finding a room that still needed to be boxed up, and housemates in Hawai'i can talk about me not getting things done until the last minute, but this was different.

Of course moving is inherently stressful - the logistics, uncertainty and expense are all demanding - and seeing all of your stuff in one spot, again, is deflating and humbling. We're taught to acquire stuff in this culture - perhaps more so as males, as a way of showing our success in the marketplace and thus the world? - and when you see all your stuff in a few boxes, well... it can give one pause. Of course stuff isn't a proxy for success, whatever that means, but it does take some deliberate reframing to feel good about a move under the best of circumstances, which this wasn't.

I've been telling myself all of this for months. I know I should feel more grateful - that I have a job in this economy; that I've been asked to move to a place I don't hate where I have loving family and friends; that Dianne and Barbara are still my two Senators; that I've landed on my feet despite the terrible economic conditions - and I'll get there, I will.

In the meantime, I am kind of hoping for a terrible fire to sweep through my storage unit in San Diego, in the middle of the night so no one would get hurt of course. I'd miss my bike, and some of my books and pictures, but there's nothing there I couldn't live without. Nothing.

And maybe that's the point I need to get to - that the difficulty of this move had nothing to do with stuff, or what I was going to keep, donate, or set back by the curb from whence it came. Maybe the point is that it's time to be home, and where my stuff is has nothing to do with that.


CFox said...

I've never added all of mine up, and am thinking about it now (procrastinate? me?), but my most memorable moving moment was in TX, when we thought we finally wouldn't have to move for at least a year. We had our PhD's, were in a cool rental... all good. Then we had a house fire and moved 3 times in a year. That sucked.

Celeste said...

That's a lot of moving. Yikes. I too know from moving many times. Sadly, there is no room left in my brain for new phone numbers and postal codes. I filled out a form once with the street address from one place, the postal code of a second, and the phone number of a third. That's when I knew it had all gone too far. Still, I foresee a few more moves before that elusive permanent address is found.