Note: This essay is from Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging available here.
April is the time when it hits many people that their reality is changing and a move is inevitable. This post is dedicated to all those who will be moving in the next 3 months.
- Be ruthless – check
- Don’t go into memory mode – check
- Keep on telling yourself “it’s just a ___________(fill in the blank), I don’t need to feel that attached to it”- check
- Bite back your tears – check
- Remind yourself that your life is exciting, that others should be as lucky as you – check
- Try not to listen when friends begin talking about an event that is coming in the future, after you’re gone – check
- Tell your kids numerous times that they will get to have a ‘new room’ and ‘new friends’ where you’re going “Isn’t that so exciting?!” – check
This is the Moving Manifesto. As days fill with parties and packing, numerous goodbyes, short tempers, unexpected tears in public and private places, we who have traveled this road many times must remember this manifesto. We are comrades of sorts, travelling a path not everybody travels, loyal to each other and to change, unable to explain to people that though we cry now, we really wouldn’t trade our lives. But we need to express those deep feelings of loss and grief in order to do what we do, and do it well.
We go into auto-mode once it becomes inevitable that the packing must be done. Until then, there is a part of us that pretends life will always be as it is ‘right now’. Occasionally doing things like purchasing items for our current reality, almost as a talisman against what’s coming, or a nesting despite knowing that very soon the nest will be knocked from the tree and it will take a while to rebuild. We are well aware that some of our current relationships will survive the move, and others won’t – everybody doesn’t have the capacity to withstand distance and change in friendship. We won’t hold that against people in any way, but part of the manifesto is that we are allowed to feel sad.
We are well aware that some of our current relationships will survive the move, and others won’t – everybody doesn’t have the capacity to withstand distance and change in friendship.
And all too soon, that final party will come. We will be the life of that party as we retell stories with our old friends. We won’t admit to ourselves that they were not part of our lives 3, 4, or 5 years before – because that would give in to the idea that it’s ok that we are moving, and right now it’s not ok.
As the day arrives, the manifesto becomes more important for part of this process is frustration with our current situation. If we can be mad at ‘right now’ our future looks much easier and brighter. So everything that can possibly go wrong often does just that. The moving truck doesn’t have a permit, the moving people break your favorite clock, your best friend has an emergency and is not there to help, your other friends show up like Jobs friends, telling you everything you’re doing wrong, and your kids? They realize this is a reality, suddenly recognizing they are displaced people, and the tears are unstoppable. Hours later, final goodbyes are said with sinking a feeling in your chest, and a catch in your voice. As you drive away – you don’t look back. You fear you will, like Lot’s wife in the Biblical account, turn to stone and you don’t want that.
Despite this, you survive.
Two days and hours of jet lag later you’re in your new location, figuring out how to make it a home. It all feels like a whirlwind and dream – neighbors or other expatriates have looked curiously at your family, trying to assess your kids ages, and one conversation has already felt promising.
Time to bring out “Settling and Surviving: The Arrival Manifesto”.