Some of my favorite memories are ones that are impossible to reminisce out loud. I was either alone or surrounded by strangers, which makes me wonder if they ever remember too.
Walking to buy popcorn chicken on lunch break from a driver’s education class hosted out the back of a strip mall classroom, hot summer sun and listening to Chutes Too Narrow while reading the book that was about to become my favorite for years. Sitting at countless coffee shops – I have sat at so many coffee shops over the years, because of all of the habits I have formed, it seems to be the longest running. Sometimes with my dog (he’s turning seven this year with a new family, another wild thought), usually alone. Almost always writing, almost never the same thing. Driving up the California coast, having cut through the hills to Laguna Niguel, walking through neighborhoods of the super tanned, super fit, super rich. Watching the ocean on several occasions, because you can never watch the ocean too much.
Are you okay? a friend texted me this morning. I’d taken the day before off work, for “reasons”, and she was just checking in. Oh yeah, I reply, Just general what-am-I-doing-with-my-future-life-is-really-weird-right-now malaise. I’m still sitting in that malaise and have been for a week. I spent the last hour looking at apartments in San Diego, even though I’m actively in the middle of sorting out the next phase of my life here in England. But I also spent five hours yesterday watching a show set in sunny southern California, a place that for me will always have a magic glow and impossibly vague siren call. In my dream world, that one with ceaseless funds and a job that allows a semi-rootless existence, I have two homes. One in San Diego, golden and salty and craftsman, with Gilmore, black iced coffees, drives down the 163 and warm walks through North Park and the Gaslamp. A lithe, aesthetic life where I spend my January to June. And across the world, I have my second home, from June to December. A terraced house nestled in a cathedral city, cozy and cold but faultless in the sun, brick and stone and the weight of a storied existence, energy moving from Roman to medieval to Georgian, all within a stone’s throw. A river nearby, because there needs to be water, and books and cups of tea and winding wandering walks, even just to a corner shop for milk.
Once when I was living in Long Beach, I decided to make a cake. It was a rare rainy day and I was only missing one or two ingredients. The rain stopped for a few minutes and I tried the tiny grocery a block over, walking rather than driving, getting caught in a downpour moments from the return to my doorstep. I called my mom for company while I baked my cake and tried to explain how much that innocuous walk had reminded me of living in England, of walking to the shops to pick up something, rather than getting into the car. I’ve never owned a car in my years in England, something that will likely change when I eventually leave London, but for now it’s something that draws a very specific divide through my life experiences. Everything about a car feels very Route 66 American, very freeway road trip traffic radio, very windows down Phantom Planet crooning California Here We Come. That will change, but I’m avoiding it. A car is the one form of root I haven’t planted over here. I think something about it makes me nervous in a way I won’t admit.
I haven’t had roots in a long time. It’s one of the beauties of being on your own, but it’s becoming exhausting. That’s where the malaise of this week really sits. Hiding beneath the very real exhaustion of living in Unprecedented Times, I’m tired of moving and the excitement of the unknown. I still appreciate how valuable it is to have options. But I would love, very much, to have this be the last “next phase” for a while. Whatever is next needs to last a while. Every move feeds that rootless self, that love of asking myself where do I belong? It makes me want to keep trying new places and finding new homes.
But I’ve already found enough homes.