Home Is Where I Am

Side by side photo of large brown teddy bear first peering out of a large moving wardrobe box, then slowing starting to crawl out of the box.

As the details and finances of moving across the country this Spring begin to get finalized, there’s a lot of emotions that need to be processed too.

The latest details include the conclusion that I need to sell my car because of my inability to drive on my own across the country nor take on the cost of paying for someone else to do so left me feeling heartbroken.

Sure, it was something I’d considered, but my one caveat was that I’d still like to move at least one of my larger house plants, to which I was shut down rather quickly.

The emotions that come up however, don’t have a whole lot to do with the actual move.

They have to do with this illness. All that it takes away. It’s no secret that I’m really unhappy with everything I’ve lost, but this post isn’t really about that.

In working through some of my emotions, a friend reminded me that it was okay to grieve the fact that I was moving and losing my sunshine, warm, palm-tree-filled home. It didn’t necessarily strike me the wrong way, but it struck me nonetheless as I explained to him that I simply can’t mourn and spend the next few months grieving something I haven’t lost yet.

It brought up something deeper though.

My mom said to me the other day that she didn’t understand what I meant when I said I’d moved so many times. To which, other people may not understand it either.

It all started in 3rd grade. My parents had spent a bit of time back and forth between Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. My dad’s job would be changing as he moved to a different position within the company.

I was 9 and for my birthday my parents threw a huge party and invited most of my 3rd grade class to a large pool party at the local rec center. Soon after, the discussions of moving took over at home, and in turn took over at school with close friends. I remember having a handful of pamphlets for houses we could build.

My love for drawing and designing houses was born with those pamphlets, but so was the idea that I was a liar.

Because after months of discussion of this big move, we didn’t move.

Fourth grade. I was back. Same school, same friends, and not much understanding as to why we didn’t move.

Another job change scenario began to develop and my dad was set to be transferred to an Atlanta location.

I was moving again. With the same excitement and constant talk of this big move, it’s obvious that no one expected to have me in their 5th grade class.

Once again, we didn’t move. I had become nothing more than a little girl who lied a lot.

Fifth grade was the year the economy crashed. 2008. My dad lost his job. We were incredibly fortunate that my dad was offered a new job. And this time we were really moving.

Except, at this point I was a liar. I didn’t really tell anyone. Teachers knew and some of my friends who’s parents were friends with my mom knew. I didn’t tell a soul until the very last day when we all had an assembly in the lunchroom celebrating the fifth graders. We socialized towards the end, and the news slowly broke to more people that I wouldn’t be going on to Central Middle School with my classmates.

That summer we moved to Illinois. People slowly got cellphones and Facebook and the slew of messages came in of people shocked I had really moved.

I would spend the next four years in Illinois.

In 8th grade, my dad made the decision that he needed to retire and we began taking more and more trips to Charleston. When it was finalized that we were in fact moving and moving sooner rather than once I finished high school, I became more absent.

The idea of not finishing high school in the same place I started broke my heart.

In middle school, friends aren’t always that great and I knew that I was moving, so instead of continuing to fight and argue, I simply let those friends go even though I was still there.

At the beginning of my freshmen year of high school we purchased our new home in South Carolina and planned our move for right after classes wrapped up for the year. So I didn’t try to make new friends. I knew I was leaving and I already knew that the people you become closest to eventually drift away once you’re no longer constantly together.

A lot of the friends I did make were seniors because we all had the shared experience of being done with this school at the end of the year and moving on with our lives.

We packed up our things and left a few days prior to the end of the school year. And for the first time, arriving in my new home, it was nothing more than the next resting stop. Because at 15, it’s hard to see past graduation, but graduation and being 18 means you go off to college. Another move.

South Carolina wasn’t home. It would be a three year resting stop.

I couldn’t see past the idea that my new town wouldn’t be permanent, so for the next three years I continued to be friends with people who were about to graduate and didn’t have many friendships that lasted longer than a single school year. My best friend was the same best friend I’d had since 6th grade, and for graduation we had a shared party and I flew “home” to Illinois for it.

And then I moved again to Clemson, staying in state for college.

Except I didn’t want to be there, just as I didn’t want to be in South Carolina and the planning to transfer began.

Transferring schools and moving to Milwaukee felt like going home. Except it wasn’t a home I remembered.

I tried and I pushed myself to create not only meaningful friendships, but a home for myself and a future in Milwaukee. It was the first time in my entire life where I had come to a place that I’d decided would be my home for a long time.

That’s when illness got in the way and took it all away. My job. My education. My friends and family. My home in Wisconsin.

Returning to South Carolina was bittersweet. Much of the decision was out of my hands but in the year between getting back into my parents house, moving back out on my own, and learning of my parents intentions to relocated to Wisconsin, I was met with a new truth.

I was home. The salty, often much too humid air, the strangers in the grocery store who smile and say hello, the slower pace of life, the warm winters, the palm trees, the historic architecture and the love for college football was home.

The moments when my mom shared their plans were filled with excitement. A longing for snowball fights and good cheese and family being within arms reach however quickly disappeared. I couldn’t find a real reason that was my own that made me want to move back. Sure, I’d really loved the life I was creating for myself, but now being so sick I have a new life.

I’d spent months creating and imagining this new life. Where little things like plants, laying out in the sun, movie nights with my best friend… made me happy. Sitting on my porch or at the beach with a book. Chasing sunsets. I had this new picture that really became my life. Because if I’m going to be sick, I might as well be under a palm tree.

And now, I’m returning to Wisconsin. It’s more melancholy than it is bittersweet. It’s unpleasant adulting.

My friend told me I was allowed to grieve. He meant right now, that I’m allowed to grieve. To which, I won’t do.

Because you see moving is as much a part of who I am as migraine is. For me, moving is inevitable whether it be this move to Wisconsin come Spring or the move after that, because we all know there will be a move after that.

And I’ve learned an awful lot about what you come to regret with a move.

Despite being the little kid that was a liar because of the times that plans changed, simply hiding away and not telling people you’re leaving isn’t okay. Yes, it allows life to carry on without those around you sharing the sorrow that these may be some of our last shared moments, but people deserve to know.

Hiding away isn’t the best solution either. And I don’t mean just not socializing, but disengaging from life around you. I lost out on so much of my life during 8th grade and 9th grade because I took moving as an excuse to not allow people into my life. To be honest, I lost out on a lot of the rest of high school too because I saw everything as something that would eventually be lost and some people and friendships are worth fighting for and keeping alive, despite knowing you may not always be there.

Most importantly, my time to grieve exists when the place has been left behind.

The time before then is a time to celebrate. To put in the extra effort to see all the things you love one more time. To take the long way around town a few more times, so you can take it all in. It’s the time to make a few more plans and stick with them even if you feel absolutely miserable because in a year when you’re missing that person and that place, you’ll know that the extra time needed for recovery would have been worthy it.

It’s a time to take a lot more photos than normal.

It’s the time to take in life just a little more.

Because in truth, when we know that eventually people always leave, people usually being me, what’s most important is that we have to recognize the way we live and celebrate life a little more before we leave is how we should live while we’re still here.

I will grieve. And I will put that grief to use boxing and unboxing, painting new walls, arranging furniture, hanging curtain rods and embracing a new place.

Home isn’t a place or a person. Home is a feeling, one that exists within me. So wherever I go, I will always be home.


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