Transience

So I’m back in the US, again, and staying with my parents for the second (technically third) time since I first left home at 21. I’m not sure where I’m going with this one, but let’s take a little stream of consciousness trip and see where we end up.

It really does suck to have to move back in with your parents after spending several years living on your own. You’re accustomed to eating what you want, when you want, being able to come and go without having to explain yourself or worry about waking people up or about someone else needing the car by a certain time. Suddenly you’re getting into arguments because you don’t feel like waiting for everyone to get home to have dinner together, being grilled mercilessly about what you bought at the bookstore, and being told to be home by 11pm when leaving for a nightclub that opens at 10, and all you can do is think, “It’s like being back in high school!”

Except when I was in high school, I stayed home reading Star Wars comics and drawing dragons because there was nowhere to go and very few people my own age with whom I had anything in common. Sometimes it feels like my dad’s playing catch-up 15 years after the fact.

The best part is when I’m in the middle of working on something and get interrupted by others with conversation which could wait until I’m not an hour into a highly-focused session and have just hit that sweet spot of concentration where everything just gets done… until someone breaks it by nagging for attention. At the office, most people understand that headphones on means “busy”, but it’s a different story when sharing space with your parents.

What complicates matters is religion. I’m not religious in the slightest, despite having been raised in a (very liberal) ABC church. I blame Sunday morning bible study for ruining religion for me. A lot of what we were told in those Sunday morning classes made me feel that religion was actually incredibly unfair and that maybe it was just a load of exclusionist bunk designed to maintain power over a society.

So I feel more than a little awkward when asked to attend church again. It’s not my belief, and at this time of the year — for someone who’s actually studied social history and early human civilisations the way I did in university — it’s actually distinctly uncomfortable. There’s a lot which gets said by very well-meaning and earnest people which betrays a notable lack of actual comprehension of history. As a historian and a feminist, I bite my tongue, go through the motions with little enthusiasm, and bide until the service ends and I can catch up with people who were already old when I was a child over coffee. Fortunately, it’s a very progressive church, but it’s still awkward.

Most of what I own and actively use is in a pile of boxes shrink-wrapped onto a wooden pallet on a container ship crossing the Atlantic. This is all that was left over when I sold off the unnecessaries when I moved from Atlanta to Iceland in February early this year; it’s mostly books, clothes, and Lego sets, along with my hand-sewn fancy Viking dress for reenactment. Dead tree, by the way, weighs a LOT. As soon as I got a tablet, I started buying eBooks, because it reduces the load so much. I do miss browsing bookstores, though, and you can’t display eBooks on a shelf the way you can physical books.

My reenactment swords I had to leave with my parents in February, due to restrictions on their ownership in Iceland. I asked the Icelandic police if I could apply for a license to import my swords, and after a number of questions about their quality, manufacture and use, I was told in not so many words, “No, because they’re not purely decorative.” Obviously. I wouldn’t be importing blunted reenactment swords if all I was going to do was hang them on the wall. So I’ve at least been reunited with my beloved hand-and-a-half (she needs such a cleaning; I’m going to sit down next week with a bottle of oil and some brass polish and give both her and my Viking single-hander some long-needed attention).

Moving, by the way, is insanely expensive. This is the fourth time in my life that I’ve shunted myself and my possessions across the Atlantic, and even when I was driving only what would fit in my ’97 Nissan Altima from Connecticut to Georgia to start working for CCP in 2011, it wasn’t cheap. (Also, driving long-distance with a cat: Don’t. Just don’t.)

Actually, mum was upset on my behalf. In the past ten years, I’ve moved residences fifteen times. Seven of those were in the six years I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. Then back here, with a few months in Providence, Rhode Island for pickup classes at RISD, two different places in Georgia, two different places in Reykjavik, and back yet again. Although I have a roof over my head, I still feel homeless, and it’s been this way my entire adult life. It’d be nice to actually be able to stay in one location for more than two years, but I’m now at the point where sleeping on air mattresses and owning folding furniture sounds a better idea than shelling out on something I know I’ll have to sell in a few months’ time.

I totally don’t mean to sound maudlin. It is a bit depressing, but it’s also liberating, in a way. I have the unique capability of simply picking up and moving to wherever I have to go with a minimum of advance notice. I can pack and arrange flights and shipping within the space of a fortnight; how many people can really say they can do that?

It’s been a reasonable first week back, anyway. I’ve done a lot of writing, the cat’s happy to see me, I finished re-reading Dune, Thanksgiving wasn’t the chore I’d dreaded it would be, and by Monday afternoon I should have a new mobile number (there’s something to be said for purchasing an unlocked handset and living on top-up SIMs). There’s even been a few positive developments on the job front, which is a big plus; I was thinking I would have to wait til after Christmas for that.

 

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