Once upon a time, I put everything I owned in the trunk of my car and left behind a house that I had lived in for a long time, but wasn’t mine. I moved to a different city and lived in a mostly empty two-room apartment, that never really felt like mine, even after I bought a table to sit at and eat breakfast. I was scared to death at first, but eventually enjoyed myself and learned a few things.
Then, after a little while, things there got hard and sad and I retreated back to the other house that felt like home but still wasn’t mine. It was comfortable there, but I had become used to moving and so after a while, I found a job that moved me all over the place until I decided to “settle” in a number of ways, in another tiny apartment that did feel like home for a while, but then it didn’t and I left that and moved again, to a larger house that was nice but isolated and far away. Things got scary there, and one night, I left everything behind and moved out in a hurry, in order to save my life.
I went back to the house that still wasn’t mine and stayed there for a while, but all the things I had taken out of the last house stayed boxed up, as if they were waiting for the time that I would move again. When it came, I left most of that behind, put just a few things in a moving truck and this time went across the country to live in another house that wasn’t mine. I had hope that perhaps one day it would feel like mine, and it was comfortable for a while, but then, once again, things happened that caused it to feel strange and alien, and so, leaving everything but a few of the necessaries that I had schlepped from one state to another, I moved into a different small apartment, that for nearly a year, really did feel like home.
Then another opportunity arose to once again live in a house that wasn’t mine, but most definitely felt like home for a longer time than any of the others. But when things went wrong there, they went wrong in a hurry, and all of a sudden, the home was simply another place to leave and I found myself in another small apartment with almost the exact inventory of things that I had left home with nearly two decades ago.
Now, I am in this home-feeling place, but I know that in a fairly short while I will once again be leaving. I’ll once again move to a house that is not mine and leave behind anything that won’t fit in the trunk of my car. The circle will be unbroken.
We come from a long lineage of leavers. Our forebears left countries and societies that had become impossible for them to tolerate, whether for political, economic or religious reasons. They settled for a while along the Eastern shores of a new country, but then, even then, some of them weren’t satisfied and had to leave again, to forge out into the unknown parts of the vast country they found themselves in. They left behind men, women, children, possessions, security. They didn’t know what they would find, didn’t know if they would live long enough to get back, only knew that for some unknown reason, they couldn’t stay.
Today, we leave jobs, we leave homes, we leave relationships, we leave loved ones and not so loved ones, we leave children, we leave friends, and wonder what went wrong. What if nothing went wrong? What if, by a process of selection, like blond hair or big ears, we have simply evolved a leaving gene? What if all this leaving over the span of hundreds of years, has made us incapable of sustaining marriages, jobs, relationships, for more than a few years at a time. You could argue that it’s society that has changed, becoming more mobile, causing the need for job transfers, etc., and that the age of working for one company for 30 years and then retiring is over, and that is true. But how did that happen? When you drill down, what is the basic source? Perhaps our society has evolved this way to actually support the idea of leaving, that “getting out” is what you do, that staying anywhere long enough to put down real roots has become uncomfortable, like feeling trapped. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
I can’t answer that question and all of the above are just rambling thoughts that have been going through my mind for a while. Why does one person manage to find a partner, a job, a life that satisfies them for thirty or forty years with relatively minor changes, and another person rambles through their life the way I have, completely uprooting themselves every so often in ways that their friends often can’t comprehend? I may never know, but at least now I’m comfortable with the idea of being a loner and a nomad, and I can pursue my path without disrupting anyone else’s life. For that, I am thankful.