And it’s almost finally here. And yet here I am again.
I grew up moving. It’s been a defining feature of my life, thanks to my dad’s Navy background — grow up in a military family and you grow up with motion as a constant. I’ve written about it here and there before, including probably on this blog now that I think about it, and it’s one of those things that, like anything else in childhood that is repeated, represents a norm if it’s repeated enough. Whenever I’ve met people who essentially spent their entire young life in the same house — even in the same room, from infancy to high school graduation and/or beyond — I’m always a little amazed, even though I know that can be very common.
Maybe not as common as before — mobility and the housing market insanity of recent years seemed to encourage a much more dynamic approach to what family living meant in some corners — but still common enough, replicated among friends old and young. In turn my experience must seem a little strange to them, the idea of relocating every couple of years, sometimes back to a familiar place or town, or even the same house as before, sometimes to somewhere wholly different. I’ve always felt I lucked out, though, and I wouldn’t exchange that kind of experience for the world. Arguably I still missed out in some ways — I wonder what it would have been like to live for a couple of years overseas in Europe or Asia or elsewhere if my dad had been assigned there, for instance — but you don’t control those things, you just roll with it. Even if you do end up in upstate New York for a while, learning exactly what both snow and summer humidity are like (in a word, uh).
I think the core reason why I enjoy moving, whenever it happens — for all the planning and prep and grind of tasks that needs to be done — comes from that young experience, it’s always a little bit of an adventure. When you’re lucky enough to be in a family where the costs are paid for as well thanks to my dad’s employment, that didn’t hurt either; it wasn’t like we were losing anything familiar each time, it was just ending up in a new place and circumstance. As I’ve said before and will say again too, it emphasizes the sentiment that home is where the heart is, and that it is not necessarily the house, the physical building, that ever defines it.
Home was everything from a motel for a couple of days to a Quonset hut for a couple of months to a three-story duplex for a couple of years and back again. Home for much of my childhood was the old house in Coronado where I ended up spending most of my young life but ‘home’ in a family sense is now where my parents live in Carmel, where I’ve only spent all told something like ten or so weeks over a decade plus worth of time on visits from down south. It’s not where I grew up but it means more to me, now, than the Coronado house does — that’s just a physical location from another time.
Once I hit college the pace of moving slowed — two moves at UCLA, bracketing one last summer home, followed by a move to UCI for grad school, a move five years later to a shared house in Costa Mesa, then a move five years after that to the apartment on my own I’ve been in since late 2002, and will be in for one last evening tonight. An apartment decided on in a rush, after the shared house was sold and initial plans to split a place with one of the housemates fell through. An impulse decision to go for it on my own, regardless of the extra cost I accrued as a result, turned out to be the right one in the end just for peace of mind alone — for the first six months or so, when I wasn’t thinking how ridiculous and horrifying the Iraq invasion was going to be, I think I did little after I came back from work each day but have some wine and cheese, catch up with friends online and listen to either old Slowdive tracks or, quite honestly, the ambient hum of the area, from the freeways to the thermostat. It was a slow, slow decompressing.
It heralded what’s also turned out to be the longest stay in any one place in my life, even counting the stop/start stays at the main house in Coronado — eight and a half years all told. The 2002 me isn’t the 2007 me or the current one but they all had that apartment as a point of continuity — not a studio, thankfully, but pretty snug, especially given all the CDs and books and things. It was the kind of place designed for one person, though, and I honestly never felt cramped, it seemed just right for me in the end, more than I ever would have realized when I first set a box in there and wondered where I was going to put everything.
I always idly wondered when I was going to eventually leave — sure, I could have left at the end of any particular lease, but the location turned out to be good and convenient for me and work, there was and is plenty to do in the area if I was ever feeling bored and the management always did right by me. They still do, as it happens, which is why this move isn’t a major one in the grand scheme of things — I’m just moving a couple of buildings down in the same complex, heck, along the same stretch of parking. Compared to two transcontinental moves this is a walk in the park, though it still means all the trappings of a move, packing, sorting, purging.
A lot of purging, as it happens. Long overdue too — over time, I looked at the various shelves of everything I had in my place — one wall of the main room being nothing but crammed full bookshelves, CD racks literally ringing my bed in the bedroom since there was nowhere else to put them all — and began wishing almost all of it away. Sure, the impulse for collecting is a strong one in humanity or at least among many of its members and some things I just hold on to and hold on to — I have books I first got when I was eight, records when I was four. Heck, one of the bookcases I think I’ve had since I was two. But after what could be called a peak in 2001/2002 things had to give — I already knew I had to reduce my book collection at that time when I moved into my apartment and so a lot of things were sold or donated then. This time around was no different — from seven crammed bookcases I’m now down to four, with a little spillover, with books going to local libraries or friends, bags and boxes at a time.
As for the CDs? The Raggettstacks, as friends jokingly called them on ILX, are essentially gone, because the CDs are mostly gone too. Not all of them, by any means — a large number are packed away into binders, others are kept as is due to unique packaging or sentimental reasons or more, they still fill a couple of small racks. Everything else was donated over this weekend, to my old radio station and the campus’s arts and media center. How I viewed music and the necessity of keeping things changed slowly but surely over the years and now here I am, collection ripped, discs donated, all the old huge racks given to friends in LA.
It’s a purging, also a freeing, a letting go — obviously not completely, you can see the boxes up there in the photo, there’s always going to be something. But I like the idea of a steady reduction now, keeping only a core nub of books, of physical music and so forth. The necessity for possession is less important now than the basic ones, of food, shelter and physical comfort, and it is a literal weight lifted, or passed on if you like. It’ll make my new place different and distinct in turn once I’m settled in.
Yet — very importantly, and at the core of it all — it’s not because that my new place will be larger yet emptier. Quite the contrary. This hasn’t been a rushed move done in a couple of weeks but something long thought out, long planned — and not something done just by me. I’d enjoyed my solitude over the years, the idea of a space all my own — even when I had a room of my own nearly everywhere, it was always part of shared space, with family first, with college roommates, with friends. Only when I had this apartment did I finally have something all my own, and I think I needed that, some time alone, though always figuring it could someday pass as a phase because there’d be a reason to move in with someone again.
And there is. Plenty of reasons, really!
We’re looking forward to it, and it’ll be another phase of my life, another one now shared, not so solitary though we have our quiet moments in our own ways. Nearly a year back we realized it felt right, and we just had to wait for it all to time itself given our commitments — and ultimately we have to wait a little longer in the end; I’m moving tomorrow but Sarina won’t be heading down permanently until mid-July. But then it’ll be our home and we’ll take it from there.
So farewell to the old place, another stretch of time ended, a housing unit but soon no longer home. It was home, though, and I’ll always remember it for being that.