I started packing today. I’ve done this 14 times before, but I still get emotional — sad. Home is the place where you can hang up old ticket stubs and creased love notes, and it’s OK — it still has meaning. But every time you take them down to pack, you worry that they won’t find a new home. You worry that things will change — that you’ll lose the context which made these things poignant.
Last winter, I drove to my old house in Kansas and, through the window, I saw our staircase. I ran up those steps thousands of times; I know exactly where it creaks. But I couldn’t go in; I can never go in. The feeling of going up those steps was agonizingly familiar, but it wasn’t mine anymore. This meaningless memory was a symbol of what I could no longer have.
That is why, each time, it is sad.
It’s not about home, though. That’s not what I long for. This is about safety. It’s about knowing that, when you sit at your kitchen table, you’ll know exactly how it will feel. It’s the assurance of a gravity, of a sunrise, that makes life somewhat ordered.
But I think the moment a child becomes an adult is when he realizes that life is not ordered — that safety was an illusion. Growing up, you usually assume that wiser people are doing what is best for you. Then at some point you realize that people are flawed, and the parachute on your back disappears. You’re forced to acquire your own safety — things that make us functional; things that we know are mirages. So we create things like routines, keepsakes and a home.
I’m moving for the 14th time in 23 years. Each time, my world has felt disorderly. In three weeks, I am leaving this place, full of my stench, and I’m going to a place that carries its own history, devoid of me. Sure, it’s a blank slate — but it’s a blank slate.
When I moved to my current apartment last fall, I felt uneasy for two months. It was a room with my stuff in it, and nothing more. That’s what I fear this time — it’s what I’ve feared every time.
But I calm my anxiety by remembering how this place became home. My mom and my brother visited, and we ate a make-shift Korean dinner on a coffee stand; my girlfriend visited, and we pinned more corny love notes on the cork board; my dog came, and she dragged her butt across the floor. And those things make an empty room truly safe, because those things — those feelings — are not illusions.
As we grow older, we become more comfortable with the fabrication of safety. But the moments in which we are safe become greatly fulfilling. And the people who make us safe are cosmically appreciated and divinely loved.
So I guess all this is to say, I don’t want to pack. But I’ll be OK.