My adult life has been a series of rental properties. I move with the word “temporary” in mind. I unpack what I need, I nest just enough to make the place look and feel lived-in, then I leave it exactly how I initially set it up until I pack and move again. I may put up a Christmas tree, maybe add a new painting, but I always remember that, when (not if) I move out, the unit will always look exactly like it did when I got there. The walls will be emptied and cleaned with a Magic Eraser. I will disappear from it’s memory. That truth makes me sad, but I am also refreshed by the idea that I can start over again, just like the empty walls.
I’ve been a ping-pong ball since 18. College in Chapel Hill, internships in Charlotte, Raleigh, jobs in New York, Georgia, South Carolina, back to New York, back to South Carolina, almost back to Georgia again. After college, I moved every six months for over two years. This made “temporary” my normal. I forgot how to fully unpack or how to make my short-term surroundings feel more like my style than a utility. “I have the space need. I have the things I need. One day, I’ll have a place that feels like ‘me’.” This has, inadvertently, become my motto.
Temporary isn’t a problem for me. I’m good at it. I don’t fully unpack the things I don’t need urgently. I’m great at avoiding my neighbors. I’m great at planning another move, concisely deciding how to pack each room quickly. I love temporary art – I’ve made most of it myself, so I don’t feel strange when I think “I’ll just throw this out when we move.” and plan to upgrade one day.
“One day” is this mysterious, magical time when I feel settled and have money to invest in a place that represents me and the fabulous life I dream of having. Will “one day” come soon? Probably not. I imagine I’ll always feel like I’m working toward my “one day” life. It’s going to take a lot of personal growth and adjustment to learn that walking around packed boxes isn’t the right way to live. Investing in furniture is a novel concept to me as well – I’ve had hand-me-down’s for so long, I don’t know how to define my own style.
The house I live in now has been my home for 2 years, 9 months, and 12 days. This is the longest I’ve lived in the same four-walled structure since I lived in my parents’ mountain home. That mountain home still looks like a shrine to my childhood, somehow always unchanging – even when I do. It doesn’t feel like home either, anymore. I lived fewer months in the off-campus house where I best remember my college years than I have here, yet I remember my life much more vividly there. It also never felt like home. I have spent almost three years, cuddled up watching TV with my husband and my cat, in a house that I still call “temporary”.
It’s crazy to me that I could commit to a man and a four-legged creature before I could commit to a city. I guess that’s not strange to most people – I just thought I’d find a place that felt like “home” by now. I found a person that feels like home. That’s enough, I guess. The location will happen “one day”.
In March 2020, after 11 months of marriage and almost three years in South Carolina, we decided to take the plunge and purchase a house here. When the plan to move to Georgia (again) fell through, we decided to just commit to our current location, similar to how we decided to commit to each other. This commitment, unlike our marriage, is a 3-5 year plan. Then we can change our minds. But we’re staying put for 3-5 years, we agreed. We’ve been here as renters for almost three years, but we haven’t let ourselves get comfortable. This place was “temporary”, remember?
Owning a home means I will have a place that grows and changes with me. I have no idea where to start. How do I make the walls feel like a “home” for us? Remember, I don’t know what “home” feels like anymore. What furniture style matches our style? How will we afford it anyway? How do you patch holes in walls when you change your mind? I have so much to learn. I have so far to grow.
Maybe, it’s finally time to finally take root.