When No Place Is Home
This post deviates from my usual focus on being a religious feminist in the USA, and it deviates for a good reason: I am in the process of moving to Georgia. In fact, as of today I am still in a hotel, where I have been staying for my first week here, because work obligations brought me to Georgia earlier than my apartment lease started.
But I’ve been thinking about this post for some time, ever since I left Provo, Utah, the town that has been my home for eight years. It probably didn’t help that the Rocky Mountain region was hit by forest fires just before I moved away. Lucky for me, Provo was spared any fire, but the air filled with soot, which made its way into my lungs and eyes. But even beyond the smoky air, I found that in my last few days in Provo, I felt as if the ground were shifting beneath my feet. I felt like I wasn’t sure where I stood. And that uncertainty left me anxious and overly sensitive, to the point that things that ordinarily wouldn’t have fazed me instead put me on the verge of crying.
Saying goodbye is difficult, but it was more than that – I suddenly felt aimless, because I had no real home. I wasn’t leaving one home and going straight to another – I was leaving one, then spending a month in transition. You see, like Beth, I’ve decided to live without a car for the time being. The location where I’m moving has a decent public transportation system, with a bus pass included in my student fees, and my teaching stipend will stretch much farther without the expenses that come with a car. And without any reason to drive across the country, I decided to instead fly to New Hampshire and stay with family before flying to Georgia. Actually, my move has happened in even more stages than that:
First, I left the town where I’ve been living and spent a few days with family in another part of Utah. Then I flew to New Hampshire, and spent a few weeks with family there. Then, I flew to Georgia, where I have spent the past week in a hotel – tomorrow I will finally move into my apartment.
As I looked forward to this travel a month ago, it was overwhelming. All at once, I had three homes and no home. I had my apartment in Utah, and my mother’s home in New Hampshire, and an apartment leased in Georgia. But most of my belongings were in boxes or suitcases, waiting to ship or fly or be donated. And as far as those homes went, one I was about to leave; another was a place I’d only ever visited as a guest; and the third was an apartment with a lease that had yet to start.
At first I wanted to focus on New Hampshire as a home, as a permanent place that I could look to, but as I drew closer to leaving Provo, I had to admit that New Hampshire was not really my home. I don’t have a room there, or a closet – I use an inflatable mattress. And even during this last visit, most of my things remained in Utah, waiting till I’m in my apartment before shipping to Georgia. And given that it’s not a house I have ever actually lived in, it’s hard to truly call it a permanent home.
I won’t deny that this realization upset me. The moment when you really understand the phrase “You can’t go home again” can be a hard moment. And it’s a moment I never had to face before now. I transitioned gradually into living in Utah full-time, first as a college student who went home for the summer, then a college student who stayed for summers, and finally as a teacher who lived in Utah. So while I knew that New Hampshire was no longer a place where I lived, I never felt homeless, like I have during this move.
But this is probably a good thing – not only does a month with no clear home leave me anxious to settle in to Georgia. It also means that I will feel very relieved come tomorrow, when I am finally free to move into my new apartment.