I remember the night before I left for college, crying in the driveway of my childhood home while my mom hugged me close & kissed my hair & told me it would be all right. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stop the tears, couldn’t fathom a life in which I did not live in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, like I always had; I couldn’t imagine being away from the people & places that had made up my entire 18 years. My boyfriend, Dave, showed up to help me pack, but when he reached the foot of the driveway & saw us standing there in that moment of raw emotion, he turned & left & came back after I’d calmed down.
Oddly, I have almost no memories whatsoever of the day in my junior year when I left Ohio University to transfer to Kent State. I know that no one came to help me move & no one was there to say goodbye, either, because I didn’t have a lot of friends by that point. I know that I cried alone in my car as the little town of Athens faded behind me, certain I would never return to it. What I do remember, vividly, is the phone conversation with my mother in which I decided to transfer – screaming & crying & heaving & hyperventilating, telling her I couldn’t & shouldn’t & wouldn’t, & then ultimately deciding to forget ahead & do it anyway.
I remember the day I moved to Maryland, less than 24 hours after commencement, to start an exciting new job in Washington, D.C. My mom & my aunt loaded all my belongings into my Honda Civic & my aunt’s minivan van, & together we made the seven-hour drive to my new, sight-unseen home, a condo I’d found through the short-lived Facebook Marketplace. I held it together while they helped me move in, & as soon as they drove away, their van just out of sight, I opened the floodgates & spent my first two hours in the Old Line State crying alone on my bedroom floor. As excited as I was for the new beginning, I was also terrified for it. (I only made it three months in Maryland before upgrading to a studio apartment in the city, just a block away from the National Zoo, in a move that was far less traumatic & emotional than any of my others before or after)
I remember the day, three years later, when I left Washington, D.C. to return to Ohio, because I’d quit a job I hated & my roommates were moving out & I didn’t know what else to do. I sold my bed on Craigslist & spent a week sleeping on an air mattress; I packed all my belongings into boxes while listening to Jimmy Eat World’s “Movielike” on repeat, sobbing intermittently as I said goodbye to my best friends & the city I’d come to call home. And again, my mother arrived in a white rental van to take me home, just the two of us, loading & unloading everything I owned as I started anew yet again.
I remember the day, just a few months later, when I moved to New Hampshire, waiting for Nathan to pull up in front of my mom’s house to help me take my stuff up north to move in with him. Before he arrived, I wailed to my mother, “I don’t know if I should do this!” but I did it anyway, moved to a state whose existence had never even permeated my consciousness because I wanted to try to make a go of a relationship that came with geographical tethers. I didn’t cry when I left Ohio, & I didn’t cry when we reached New Hampshire, but I cried a lot afterward, trying to make a life in a place that never quite felt like home, much as I grew to love it.
I remember the day I moved to New Jersey, driving the five hours alone in the dark to meet Nathan at our new apartment (sight-unseen again), where he was already living. There were no tears that time, only a midnight arrival & deep, permeating sense of exhaustion. Eight moves in less than 10 years is a whole lot of moving.
And I’ll probably remember tomorrow, too, the day I leave New Jersey to return to D.C. I don’t have any explanations or excuses as to why this move is happening, & I know that you, whoever you are, reading this, will interpret my story as you see fit. All I can say is that I am tired – so, so tired – & that I can’t keep living in places that don’t feel quite right. There are so many things & people I miss that life in this admittedly adorable New Jersey suburb just can’t provide me, try as I might to find them here. And I have.
So I made a choice, to go back to the one place, in the last 10 years, that has felt like the best fit for me. I don’t know if it’s the right choice, but it’s one I made, & just like each of the choices before it, it fills me with terror & sadness, clinging to the past while trying to bring the future into focus. Just like every other time I’ve done this in the last decade, I’m absolutely paralyzed by fear of the unknown, by fear of making the wrong decision, by fear of never in my whole life finding a place that feels like a goddamn home, a place I can stay.
I’m tired of moving, but I will keeping doing it until it feels right to settle down & just live.