Monday, January 7, 2013

New room, new life

How long does it take to feel at home in a new place?

I still remember the earliest days of my freshman year at college. I walked into that old (and still cherished) dorm room of mine and felt terrified and depressed. I was leaving my real home, the one in California, for this place that I'd never been to before. I'd have to make new friends, count on people whom I'd just met to be reliable friends. It was entering a new world and I didn't think I was ready. A common occurrence when moving to a new place.

This has been a problem with me my whole life though. I was raised in a series of houses. My parents had two different ones and I still consider my grandma's old house one of my childhood homes. Until I was 11, all these various homes stayed in tact for me. I never knew any other living situations than these and it seemed like I never would.

Things would change and eventually the only original home of my youth that would remain would be my father's house.

One of my most vivid memories was in the process of selling my mom's house. Though I knew it was what needed to be done, separation anxiety started bubbling up in my heart. I excused myself to the bathroom one afternoon while I was there with my grandma, mom and dad. And I cried. I knew I'd miss the place, even if it needed to be sold. I still do.

I wish I wasn't so attached to places I leave behind. Some people can move house at the drop of a hat. It doesn't bother them a bit. Alternatively, I'm the type of person who has trouble letting go of much of anything. It's hard for me to even give a way a random tchotchke. Try to make me give up a house or a room that I've inhabited for a while and I start to feel irreparably pained.

It's not because I can't physically live anywhere else. In fact, in recent years I've discovered quite the opposite. But I doubt I'll ever feel fully satisfied with leaving behind anything, ever. Or even starting new things, at least for the first few days.

This will be my second night in a new dorm. Having lived here only for a day, I still feel like I'm somewhere foreign to me. It's like I'm away at camp. I feel as though I still need to keep everything in pristine condition because it doesn't feel like it's mine. It's a place I'm visiting, not residing in.

I keep racking my brain to try and remember what it was like moving into my flat in London just a few months ago. Maybe it could give me some frame of reference so I can figure out how long it will be until this room away from home feels like a home itself.

But no matter how hard I consider it, I can't seem to remember at what point in my time in London that coming back to my room finally felt like coming back to a homebase. It must have been a nice moment, though.

I think it might come once I've spent a few nights doing my favorite things in this room. Watching a really good movie on Netflix while hiding from the chilly night air under the covers on my bed. Finishing up a paper a few days in advance and celebrating with a little dance party in the open space between my bed and my desk. These will be the moments that christen this place my own.

Until then, though, I won't feel quite right here.

On the other hand, I'm glad that in so many different places these past few years, I've been able to find myself at home. For some it's hard enough to find contentment in one place of residence, and over a series of moves, I've found several different homes. Granted, I've had to give most of them up at one point or another. Yet, still, I've had the luck of creating comfortable residences more readily than I'm sure many people do.

I have no doubt I'll find the same happiness here. It'll just take some time.

And some memory building.

That's the real key to success, I guess. Until you create the memories, the place you're in will never have them. I'll always look back on the room in my old dorm for all the fond thoughts I associate with it. Watching the royal wedding live on my mini television set, opening my door on my birthday to find my friends had covered it in decorations, night after night spent passed out in front of my laptop watching shows on Hulu or videos on YouTube. It's weird, but little things like that make a room into a home.

Maybe it's presumptuous, but I'm absolutely sure I can recreate some of those and even inspire my own new traditions in this my new room. And I have no doubt it'll be just as great.

I will keep you posted, though.

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