When I was a wee twenty-two year old, my first boss once said to me, “nothing in your twenties is permanent. You’ll move apartments once a year, just watch.”
I was a little irritated at her blanket statement, cast so hastily over me. I had just moved to the city when she said this, basking in the glory of my first precious and overpriced apartment – a dark wood, shotgun-style unit suspended over one of the loudest, busiest streets in San Francisco. I listened to the city echo its songs to me that first night, sirens bouncing around my barely furnished room, and decided I was happy. It felt like a natural decision; something simple and right. I looked at my boss that day and laughed a respectful, fake laugh, but in my own mind I was telling myself, she’s wrong. I won’t be moving for awhile. This is everything I ever wanted. I’m going to keep it, just watch.
I beat her prophecy by approximately eight months. The dark-wooded apartment was just no longer cutting it. The noise of the street aggravated me, I found no romance in the fierce blares of night and too much had changed, too much had happened. That room wasn’t my room anymore, so I moved.
October marked my last month in that introductory apartment, all of it happening too fast for my aggressively nostalgic self to take inventory of what would soon change. I packed boxes mechanically, maniacally. I dusted floorboards, found lost items in odd crevices. I took apart my bed for the fourth time in three years, and loaded my truck with the small mounds of items I decided were important enough to move with me, up and over the hill, as we all collectively began Phase Two of our city life together.
I have an anxiety around moving, and that is why I stubbornly fight the practice until that final losing moment of release. I have a fear of not fitting the important things into bags and boxes. I have a fear of not being able to physically carry all that I own, and move it from one place of existence to the next. You’d think this would make me a minimalist, but unfortunately I swing the opposite direction, and keep every godforsaken object. I’ve shed tears over movie ticket stubs that have fallen out of my wallet, or used tissues recovered from under the seat of my car. Photographs shoved in the pages of books, the white ribbon used to tie the bouquet at a beloved friend’s wedding – all of it makes me weep. This is also why I avoid moving; the places we’ve been are an uncomfortable pill to swallow, and sometimes I just don’t want to remember.
I enlisted my friends to help move the heavy things. There are metaphorical things we cannot carry alone (heartbreak, terrible secrets, failure, gossip) and there are physical things we cannot carry alone (mattresses, bookshelves, that antique chair your mother gave you.) I bought new furniture off of Craigslist. By some evil trick of fate, any furniture bought off of Craigslist will undoubtedly need to be picked up in Russian Hill – at a sloping crest of Filbert Street or perhaps a downward plummet on Clay. We survive the experience. We laugh about it. I buy my friends lunch in gratitude and then tell them, I’ll return the favor when you move. Together we look at the things we’ve carried and can see them start to breathe with life. A new apartment hums like the sounds a symphony makes before curtain call; all the instruments buzzing into position. Light a candle, cook the first meal. Strike up the band, and begin.
I can never decide if humans are nomadic beasts that must leave, or if we are static creatures that must stay. And if the former, to where? And if the latter, for how long? I moved seven blocks up the molehill, and it sure felt like a mountain. But I’ll be happy on this one, just watch.
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