April 1st. A fool’s day to move. Or not; I’m hoping not.
For the first time in my life I am moving in with a partner, to start a life together, in a small two bedroom apartment. Two balconies, a living room, a kitchen, a hallway, closets, a study (formerly a bedroom), and a large bedroom with a view of the Lion’s Gate Bridge. I look forward to lying in bed and watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Or sipping a hot cup of coffee from one of my balconies as a train rumbles by. The train tracks are right behind the building, ready to carry me away in my imagination. The landlord warns us about the noise but I’m not worried. The sound is somehow soothing. A steady march of a time gone by.
But the getting there, to our new home, making the move, that’s less fun. Moving brings up all sorts of emotions, most of them not good. There’s the fear of making a terrible mistake, the horror of having to pack, the terror that you’ll run out of time an forfeit your damage deposit. Some concerns are trivial, others are fundamental. They exist side-by-side:
6 – Sorting through memorabilia
I’m kind of sentimental. Objects carry weight with me emotionally. They tell a story. Like the card I picked up in front of a half-built condominium near my girlfriend’s pad that a grandmother had written to her grandson. I dug it out of the mud and carried it home where I photographed it with my iPhone so that I’d have it stored safe digitally. How did it end up in the mud? Did the grandson throw it out? If so, why? If not, did someone else? Did they love each other? The grandmother clearly had feelings for him. But what was her life like? Was she mean? Did she drink? Or, the black pen my previous landlady gave me as a gift because she knew I wanted to be a writer. If you twisted the shaft the black ink would turn red. I used them both up – red ink and black. Never got around to refilling the pen, but couldn’t bring myself to throw it away, so here it is, waiting for me to pack it.
5 – Dealing with mould
For three years I’ve been living in a basement suite near the ocean. Things get mouldy, what do you expect? Even my book case, a particle board special, is rotted out at the bottom. Mould grows along the edges of the guitar bag my friend lent me, the computer satchel I had in storage and the Rockport shoes I used to wear all the time until they got wet and started squeaking every time I wore them. The latter I decide to throw out. But it’s a struggle. Hard to let go of the past.
4 – Deciding what to pack first, second and last
When it comes to moving, I’m not very decisive. I pick at things, put them into boxes, unpack them again, move them around so they’re out of the way. I do it because I have a perfectionist streak and there’s nothing perfect about moving. So I fuss and fumble and get frustrated and it’s painful, frankly, knowing what goes where, deciding when to put what where. I’ve never been fast. But I’m persistent. It’s how I get things done: dumb durability. I’m like the energizer bunny – I don’t stop. It might take me forever but I’ll stick to it because I’m a masochist. And because I must. If there were any other option I would take it. I’m looking for any other option.
3 – Getting started
The truth is I’m terribly unmotivated if it’s something I don’t want to do. Like exercise, I know that if I start I’ll be fine but I just can’t bring myself to start and so I shrink into myself, staring at the overwhelming project ahead of me and wanting nothing more than to bury my head in the sand. This time, it’s different though. This time I’m accountable to someone else, my partner, the person I’m leaving this place behind for. I didn’t think it was possible that I would find someone to share my life with; I thought I was going to die alone. Well, we all die alone, whether we are single or not. But it’s nice to have someone to share experiences, moments, laughs with before that happens. I’d like to grow old with M—. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like that about anyone. In fact I know I haven’t.
2 – Updating the paper trail
There’s the post office to contact, to have my mail forwarded to the new address. And the driver’s license to update, and the banks, utility companies and tax revenue agency. My student loan office and vital statistics. A never-ending litany of people who need to know my every geographical move. My employer. So much easier these days with electronic billing and direct deposits, I really shouldn’t complain. But I do, because it’s taking up my time, and I’d rather read a book, or scan through my facebook updates or go through my RSS feeds. There’s so much to do, it reminds me of when I changed my name and my gender. The ongoing battle to update everything, to erase that other person I was legally obligated to be until I wasn’t anymore. The freedom when I finally could claim my own gender, my own name, chosen from the names my parents gave me, but altered into new form. Into a form they couldn’t accept. And then my father died. Moving is painful that way; the way it brings up memories, traumas, moments you’d thought you’d forgotten but they’re still there, just under the skin, raw and aching.
1 – Feeling Emotions
Ever since the first move I can really remember – the one where my birth family left Canada to return to their country of origin, South Africa, moving has taken on a symbolic significance beyond its immediate reality in my life. It has become a marker of life transitions: The first time I had sex was when I moved to Quebec. The first time I lived as a man is when I moved to my own apartment in Victoria. The first time I sought to break out of my nervous breakdown following my father’s death was when I moved to Vancouver to study screenwriting. The first time I entered the work force after leaving film school, I moved in with a math professor near Commercial Drive. Every move has marked me like an invisible tattoo, indelibly. I carry the memory of each house, apartment or suite with me.
And the eternal question as I face yet another move: Am I ready? Even if I’m not it’s happening. No turning back. Not now.