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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Change of Place

I have this theory, since I’ve moved so many times in my life, that the last few weeks in a place you’ve lived and struggled in are like the last few days of camp. When you’re just grateful and excited to spend time with the people you’ve been living with and everything goes perfectly and all you have is fun. It makes it particularly hard to transition out of a life that is suddenly carefree and full of love, even though you’ve decided to make a change because things have been HARD and sometimes even UNTENABLE.

But when work stress let up and suddenly everyone wanted to spend time with me and I said yes to everything and I didn’t have a care in the world besides figuring out how to get all my shit across the country and living out of a suitcase for two weeks, it was really hard to fathom leaving. And just when I was really not sure I actually did want to move, I got my feelings hurt by a boy and was sure again. It was a familiar feeling. A sign, perhaps, that Boston isn’t where my life was meant to be.

I can’t figure out if it’s better to exit a place like taking off a Band-Aid—swift and with a flourish and a short burst of pain—or if it’s better to elongate the torture into a long string of goodbyes. When I moved away from NYC in 2008, I packed in a manner of two days with a friend, S threw me a going away party and I left on a weekend, in a mad dash and with minimal drama but lots of emotional turmoil and questions. NYC had never felt like home even though it’s my hometown and I was moving basically to save my life, after a bout of depression that surprised and scared me and truly coming to terms with the fact that there was nothing for me there.

In contrast, leaving Boston meant saying a week of goodbyes to an entire group of people I had fought to gain and chosen to allow into my adult life. A roommate I had lived with for six of the seven years I was there, a bevy of coworkers I had toiled, bled, sweated, and cried with for five years, young people I had seen almost every day for five years—kids I had met at 7 and worked with until they were 12; teens that I had worked with in 2011 who graduated from college this past spring. Seven years is a long time to live in a place that doesn’t feel like home. I kept reminding myself that I’ve done this before and that part of the hard part of being an adult is that, if you’ve had a life that has taken you a lot of places and you’ve connected well with people in each place, your friends are scattered far and wide.

But one of the most difficult parts of extricating myself from a place is what my friend and I call “having the funeral before the death.” I found myself missing my friends while they were still around, another familiar feeling. Fearing the separation, the unknown of where our friendships would go next. Los Angeles is about as far away from Boston as possible, while staying in the continental United States. Those connections began to feel more and more precious. And saying goodbye sucks. What comes next, friends?

I spent a swift 6 hours packing up my life with my mom, confronting and then disconnecting from the seven years I had settled into that room. The evening I finally emptied out all of the furniture from my room, in anticipation of a new tenant moving in, was one of the most disorienting in the whole process. The final straw, putting my mattress, frame, and box spring on the curb, felt horrible, and I was overwhelmed with sadness and fear. What was I doing? The nagging voice that had been relatively quiet through the entire decision and packing process of my move was suddenly screaming at me. Why are you leaving a solid job and a deep and thriving community of friends? Why are you subjecting yourself to this torture? This anxious, homeless, displaced feeling? You did this to yourself. And through the caterwauling in my head, I heard another, calmer, more resolute voice: remember, you may feel anxious about being homeless now but this is just a step on the road to making a home for yourself.


When you decide to leave a place, every detail about it is suddenly heightened. The flat rs of the train conductor's Boston accent resonate just a little differently. You suddenly listen to the sound of wind outside your apartment and think, “Maybe I’ll miss that.”

You notice the color of the sunset and commit it to memory every night. You start counting down: how many more times will I tap my T pass to get on the train? This is the last birthday I will celebrate here. This is the last special event I’ll work and the last time I’ll plan a program season at work. The last time I’ll write a rent check to this landlord.

You notice your name on your mailbox each time you return home and think, “Somebody else’s name will be there soon.”

An unexpected rain shower followed by a rainbow is suddenly significant. You’re looking everywhere for signs that THIS IS THE RIGHT MOVE.

I’ve moved a lot in my life. Brooklyn to Cambria, CA in 1997, Cambria to Berkeley in 2001, Berkeley to New York City in 2005, New York City to San Luis Obispo, CA in 2008, San Luis Obispo to Boston in 2008.

But this move feels different. 

This move is both the most impulsive one I’ve made and the most adult.

Ultimately, I moved to Los Angeles because it was cheaper than trying to find a place to live alone in Boston. I felt unanchored there, frustrated in my work, unhappy living with roommates, ready for whatever the next chapter in my life will be about. And I am lucky and grateful to be able to now be where I have family and friends and also a great place to live. So I spent my last few weeks in Boston fantasizing about the hook I would hang my robe on. The hand soap I would buy just for me to use. My very own toothbrush holder. Hanging my mirror by my front door. Buying a brand new bed and all new bedding!

I was texting with a friend about my plans and I told her, mostly in jest, that it felt like this was a move that could make all of the fantasies about my life come true. She told me that made her cry, and I asked her why. She said I had never said anything like that about Boston. And I told her, well yeah, Boston was about WORK.

This move is about LIFE.