I have been around for 23 years and have made a significant location change only four times, one of which doesn’t count because I was too young to remember it. Based on the three moves I remember, I have determined that moving is hard, emotionally, physically, and logistically, and I don’t love it, but it is often worth the trouble in the long run.
My most recent location change was almost two years ago, in August, to Muncie, Indiana. This was because I had enrolled in a graduate program at the university there. It was a business move, for professional purposes. I feel the need to clarify this point when I tell people about moving to Muncie, because I don’t want to be held personally responsible for the decision to move to Muncie. (That’s all I’ll say about that; I’ll leave you and Google to draw your own conclusions.)
When I moved, my mom came with me, and we did all of the things that you do when you’re moving to college. We drove from my parents’ house in Missouri separately, because both of our cars were stuffed with my belongings, and we called each other to coordinate rest area and snack breaks. My boyfriend at the time was moving to Muncie, too, and he had dinner ready for my mom and I when we rolled into his apartment parking lot in the evening. We ate, and then the three of us drove to the other side of town, to the house I had never actually seen in person but was moving into for the year. We dislodged boxes and miscellaneous un-boxable items from the two cars and heaved them into my new room until I was at the stage of moving where all your things are technically all inside of your new space, but everything’s in boxes and you don’t know where any of it is. The only unpacked items were a twin mattress laid directly on the carpet for me and a blow up mattress for my mom.
What I remember about the first night is this: the blinds on my one window were no match for my next-door neighbor’s blinding fluorescent house light, and I was laying directly facing the window. Also, the blinds were no match for my next door neighbor’s late night house party noise.
I should interrupt this story to let you know that I was not thrilled about moving. I was decidedly thrilled to live in the same town as my boyfriend (it worked out; we’re married now). I had overall positive feelings about the graduate program I had moved for (remember: professional purposes). I was optimistic about making my way in a new place (in particular, trying food from new restaurants.) I was not thrilled about getting used to new neighbor noises and lights and sleeping on a twin mattress on the floor amongst unpacked boxes in a room with bare walls; namely, moving.
What necessarily followed from such a night was my mom and I going to Meijer to buy a very thick black out curtain and a small but noisy fan, which I could blow directly into my ears to drown out the neighbor noise. One problem solved, we proceeded with more moving to college activities, which are things you do to stall for time before the parent has to leave and you have to stare at your empty bedroom walls and unpacked boxes and do something about it. We had breakfast at a local restaurant, my mom bought me a sweatshirt from the campus bookstore and took a photo of me in front of a sign for the university, which I appreciated because that’s one more shred of evidence supporting the fact that the move to Muncie was for professional, not personal, purposes.
And then, eventually, we were out of getting-dropped-off-at-college activities, and it was time for my mom to leave and for me to stare down the boxes. We hugged, and cried, and I was sad about moving and I like my mom so I walked out to the front porch so I could wave while she drove away. I remember what I was wearing: bare feet and a dress. When I couldn’t see the car anymore, I went back up the steps and across the porch and jiggled the doorknob of the locked front door.
You guys. The locked front door. And I was on the side that I didn’t want to be on, wearing just bare feet and a dress, and I could tell you exactly where inside the house my phone, wallet, and house key were located.
There is more to the story. I will spoil it: I get back in. I used a neighbor’s phone to call our landlord, who unlocked the door for me (and wasn’t even that begrudging about it). But the important part of the story, and the reason I think it’s burned into my brain two years later, is that if being locked out of your new house in a new town with no keys and no phone and no shoes and no wallet doesn’t exactly portray what moving to a new place feels like, at least right at first, I don’t know what does. You don’t even know which direction to start walking, even if you have shoes on. You don’t know who to ask for when you need to help, or where to find them. You feel somewhat stuck, and you’re unsure if you meant to be stuck there. Pretty much all you have going for you is the kindness of strangers.
I’d hate to leave it off there, because that was only the first hour. So I’ll tell about today, almost two years after the lockout that has apparently really tainted my view of moving. Today I woke up and sat with my husband on the couch in a different house, one that we picked after driving all around Muncie, touring rentals and competently navigating streets that used to be foreign to us. I made myself a cup of coffee with beans from the local coffee shop that’s become my favorite. I grocery shopped, and I knew which grocery store to go to first and which would carry the weird, random item on my list. On my way home, I dropped off groceries for a couple from our small group who’s staying at home because of the pandemic, and I got to their house by memory. In the afternoon, I met a friend to lift weights in a tree-shaded grassy area on our university’s campus that we discovered and claimed as our outdoor gym last summer. We’ve met there at least two dozen times, and we’ve run or lifted weights together multiple times a week for the last 18 months, with few exceptions.
There’s more to the story. I will spoil it: I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, but sometime during the last two years I learned which way to walk to get to the coffee shop, and to the park with the farmers market, and to campus. I learned the roads with street signs and the ones where the signs have been stolen and you just have to guess. I joined a small group, and made friends with the people, and as of today, I know that I can get to their house from memory. I started regularly exercising with a friend. I committed to a coffee bean subscription from the local coffee shop.
My parents moved recently, too, and when they did someone told them that the third year is when you really start to not feel new, when it no longer feels at all like you’ve moved. I’ll be moving again at the end of the summer; I won’t get to test his theory on Muncie. But with the trajectory I seem to be on, I believe it. Now that you know I’m moving, you might have realized that I couldn’t leave off at being locked out of the house on the first day in a new place; I had to remind myself of what today was like, too. And then when my parents are following me and my husband to Colorado this summer, with stuffed cars, I can read this and remember that moving feels like being locked out of the house, barefoot, with no idea who to call an no way to call them, but there’s more to the story and I’ll spoil it: I get back in.