There is that moment after a crazy week – whether it is a project at work, a major life event like a wedding or moving – when you walk into your house, close the door, set down your keys, pause and realize, “I made it.” You realize you can stop living under the tyranny of the urgent, stop the hyper-vigilance should you need to react immediately to a crisis. I remember taking a deep exhale while talking to my friends in April, and saying in a very sober tone, “It’s about to start.” “It” being what has been for me a 4-month marathon of events, transitions and challenges. And now, having unpacked the last box shipped from California, the madness is over. I made it to the other side. Finally, I can let my guard down, go home, and rest. Oh wait, that’s right… I am “home.”
This bizarre new reality sank in after I dropped my mom off at the airport 2 weeks ago. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. So I went shopping at Anthropologie and Cost Plus World Market for housewares, in an effort to make my apartment feel more like a home. And that evening I ate ice cream. A wise woman told me once that when life gives you a lot to process, accept your coping strategies.
It has been a long time since I’ve had to piece together a new home. It seems that home is made up of mismatched fragments of new and familiar. The strangest things become comforting in this unfamiliar setting. The wooden crate I used as a nightstand for years is now the “table” for my printer. The Anthro candle I got for my birthday. The glass jar of rocks from Torrey Pines Beach. My French press. The two neon DIVEintoFLOOD cups from college welcome week circa 2005. Facebook.
And then there are the pieces of new that fall right into place and feel like home straight away. I’ve established a running route in my neighborhood, a 3 mile loop to start the morning and beat the heat. I saw a deer one morning. Actually two, an adult and her baby, crossing a street populated on both sides with houses. My first thought was how traumatized I will be if that happens while I’m driving my car on the same road.
Something cool/weird about this new place is the fact that everything that is not buildings is woods. There is wildlife everywhere, mostly small things like squirrels, bluejays, and at least five varieties of bumblebees. The town I am living in, Carrboro, reminds me of South Park in San Diego. A lot of things are walking distance, including the farmers market and a downtown area with lots of restaurants and shops catering to the graduate students that make up the majority of the population. I have been searching faithfully for “my” coffee shop (I would scale mountains for Twigg’s peanut butter chocolate cake right now). This week I found one worthy of a second visit.
Comforting though they are, these old and new fragments are still just that… fragments. I realized yesterday I am a little bit afraid for this to really feel like home. It is scary to think about putting down roots in the Carolina soil, but it’s something I have told myself I must do to glean all I can from the uncertain length of time I’ve committed here. I have learned that I am not transient by nature. I need to feel like I belong to a place and have a place that belongs to me. Perhaps it is easier to float in and out, to view my stay as temporary and treat it as such, but I suspect that this is not who I am.
I know that the strongest roots that will anchor me in my time here – and allow this place to become my home – are relationships, and that of course is the missing piece. Today was the first day of orientation for our program, essentially my first day of school! It was exhausting and thrilling to finally meet the other 94 students in my full time MSW cohort. I was relieved to see the same earnestness in their faces, the same eagerness to learn, grow, and build foundational relationships with one another. Here we are. *deep breath* And here we go again.