I am a sucker for that poignant moment before I change sceneries. Maybe it’s some version of nostalgia. All my teflon shell really hides is occasional sentimentalism, of which I will not deny. Anywhere I spend a significant amount of time — not as in hours, but months, or years — becomes a reflection of me in some way. And I am partly a reflection of it.
This isn’t a new development. I have been jumping from place to place since I was in elementary school, starting in 4th grade when my mom switched me to a GATE Program school. Then in 6th grade I went to a middle school with the same program, and in 7th and 8th grade I went to another middle school under the same GATE agenda.
High school was the last real consistency in my life. I lived in the same house and went to the same school for four consecutive years. In 2008 I left California for college and lived in a dorm room, and a year later was when the real fun began.
Since 2009 I have attended three separate community colleges, switched jobs three times, and have lived in four different places. Yes, I too would bet there are plenty of people who have me trumped in any or all categories. My experience isn’t totally uncommon; it just leaves a lot to be desired in the consistency department.
Plus, I’m sentimental.
I was never one to revel in my high school days like they were something more than they actually were, but that is largely because I was kind of a loner and didn’t really do anything. It wasn’t until my senior year that I actively went out to dances or parties, and my so-called “drinking days” didn’t come until there were only a few months left in the school year. I can fake it when I want to, but my nature is predominantly antisocial.
Nonetheless, it was hard not to have that What The Fuck realization on the last day of high school. It was like viewing in retrospect all the images that flashed in front of me in real time. I was one of those irrational confidence guys; in my head I always figured I was destined to see the world and do big things. But there was also that concern, like maybe that — high school — was as good as it gets. In some ways I was right, at least insofar as how easy and uncomplicated life was.
Fast-forward about 11 months: it was my last day at Virginia Tech. The night before I was downstairs drinking and playing Apples to Apples in one of my friend’s dorm rooms with a bunch of the Lynchburg crowd. Just because, we all stumbled down to the 24-hour food place and maxed out the rest of my food card. We ended up getting like 20 Powerade’s and 15 Oreo Cheesecakes since they were both (a) relatively expensive and (b) fully delicious. When that wound down I headed back to my dorm and got ready to get picked up. My flight left from Roanoke around 5:00 in the morning, and by then it was 3:00 or 3:30.
But it was in that brief capsule when I had my moment. I was alone in my dorm, just me and my luggage. Again, this was it. Just like that 9 months of my life in solitude on the other side of the country was gone. The persona I had worked so lazily to sharpen, being the guy who wasn’t much back home but was somehow something, or someone, being 3,000 miles away at Virginia Tech, was about to dissolve. My life at my dream college was over, and I had to reconcile that with the road that led me there. I’m still randomly impressed with myself that, even if only for a year, I went through with the journey to the great unknown.
I wouldn’t run in to one of these moments again until I was 22. I had an apartment with my best friend Trey, and we lived together for about a year. I moved out a couple months before he did, but strangely I didn’t feel the unavoidable nostalgia until he and his girlfriend moved out.
Moving sucks, but since everyone understands this fact it makes it kind of fun when you are doing it with the people you love. All of the usual suspects were there that afternoon: Trey and his now-wife, his mom and dad, me, his two brothers and sister. I remember it was hot as fuck that day. We were either in the end of summer or the beginning of fall, but with where we live in Southern California it’s basically 100 degrees every day from July through October; it doesn’t exactly matter.
When we all finished moving everything out and into the house, I went with Trey to drop off the U-Haul. It was nighttime by this point and everyone was pretty tuckered out. The two of us stopped by at the empty apartment to do something or other before stopping at McDonalds to get food for everybody.
In that small time where we were at the apartment, I was standing in the vacant living room staring at the ground leading out to the patio. Out of nowhere I was again struck by an emotional pang, like I had been in this particular room and outside a thousand times before, and I knew that was going to be it.
This was a strange time in my life. The reason I moved out in the first place was because I quit my job with no real backup plan (i.e. source of income) in mind. It was an emotional response to what, in retrospect, turned out to be a totally stupid and inconsequential situation. Then again, it was a stage where I was capable of having emotional responses to stupid and inconsequential situations.
A few years later when I moved out of my parents house, the same type of shit occured. I rummaged through the garage finding boxes filled to the brim with letters; I went piece-by-piece through old articles of clothing that I hadn’t worn since I was 18 or 19; and the sick thing was I welcomed back all those old feelings. In that specific moment a letter wasn’t just a letter, and a T-shirt or jacket wasn’t just a T-shirt or jacket. Everything that’s mine or once was has a memory attached to it, and so it will always be something instead of what it really is.
That was when my parents were splitting up and everyone was going their separate way, so the happy and sad nostalgia didn’t last longer than that night in the garage. When it came down to it, I was more concerned with my cat having a peaceful transition. She is an absolute fucking wreck with change.
This was confirmed again yesterday morning when I moved from my apartment in Redlands off to Riverside. The drive is not especially draining; it takes about 20 minutes on the weekends and it’s mostly freeway. But it broke my stupid heart having to displace my cat for the 2nd time in a little over a year. It probably took her about half that time just to get comfortable in the apartment we were abandoning, and now she has a whole new world to adjust to.
When I look back at the time at my apartment, it will seem very business as usual. This is not a particularly noteworthy time in my life; my only real tendencies are eating, sleeping, and going to work. Taking that into account, my cat was always there with me in those not particularly noteworthy times. She liked to hang out while I ate. She liked to lay down at my side when I went to sleep. She liked to wait for me every time I opened the door when I got home from work. So when I think about that apartment, I’ll remember that it was just us.
I will grant you that it likely takes a fair amount of narcissism for me to romanticize these otherwise, for lack of a better word, normal life happenings. It’s like having nostalgia for nostalgia. But at a time when I could literally write an article a day about politics on both sides of the isle, or what is going on with Duke or the Texas Rangers — my two favorite sports teams, but who seem so goddamn meaningless right now — this is about as positive-sounding as I can get.
Going off the rails a bit at the end here, but Jay Z once said during a radio interview something that has stuck with me since. He said the reason people were mad at him — haters, in other words — weren’t that way for anything he did to them. Instead it was what he didn’t do for them. It’s a reasonable claim and a reasonable way to think in my opinion.
As such, I’m not crying over spilled milk that I have moved around a lot over these last 9 years. There has been a reason each time, and the least common denominator in each case has been me. It always comes back to me and my decisions. When you are used to sleeping in cramped dorm rooms and couches for years of your life, you aren’t going to be all that picky about where you live.
I even think it’s fair to say I have enjoyed all the moving around. Either that, or I’m just so used to it that it has become the new normal. With a large part of itself is a reflection of how I have never truly grown comfortable with my place in the world. And it’s a question if I ever will be comfortable, or, further, if I ever want to be comfortable.