Moving. Is. Hard.
If you take anything away from this post, learn that moving is complicated and messy and emotional and crazy and just hard. Also, it’s wonderful.
In the interim between my last blog post and now, I packed up everything I owned, moved half into storage and half into the back of my car, and drove it across the country from Montana to North Carolina. As of today, I’ve lived in my new home for almost a month. I spent the first week settling in: unpacking boxes, getting my driver’s license, spending lots and lots of time reveling in the feeling of living with a person I love… I spent the following three starting my new job (more on that later), learning how to drive in a city, attending high school choir concerts, and just generally settling in to my new life. And I’ve tried, every day, to sit down and write this post. And, every day, I’ve shut my computer and found something else to do instead. Because really, how can I even put this experience into words? How could I ever tie it up with a neat little bow and a lesson about what I learned along the way? The answer is that I can’t. But I’m doing this radical new thing where I’m completely honest about my feelings, so I’m going to try anyway.
Packing up a one bedroom apartment is a lot more work than it may appear. For one thing, I lived on the second level of my building and was transporting everything down a hall, down the stairs, through a heavy door, down another hall, and into my first-floor garage. For another, I had apparently become quite the packrat, so each box that already lived in my garage (still packed from the last move I made, whoops) required being unpacked, thoroughly examined and decluttered, and repacked. When I gave notice with my job, I allowed myself a little under a week for these tasks, and thank goodness I did. My wonderful sister and brother-in-law helped me move the heavy pieces of furniture like my bed and dresser, but everything else was up to me. For a journey that ended in living with someone, the beginning was one of the most isolating and lonely experiences of my life.
I tried my best to stay cheerful. I was excited, so intensely excited, for this move. I had so much to look forward to. But I was also tired, waking up every single night with overwhelming nightmares. I was exhausted, too, from the heavy lifting and the bending and the endless, endless staircases. Muscles started to ache that I didn’t even know I had. I experienced a new wave of sadness every time I packed away a photo of me with my best friend, or a picture the kiddos had drawn me at work. All of that, and much more that I won’t air out here, made that one of the worst weeks I’ve ever gone through. Never before have I experienced a loneliness so acute as sitting alone in an almost-empty room, packing pictures of people I’d said goodbye to.
But it’s not all bad! The decluttering was brutal, but once I was done, it was so refreshing to know how little I had to move, and how much everything I owned truly meant to me. Gone were the piles of meaningless papers and magazines, the boxes of broken knick-knacks or random things I couldn’t even remember buying. My closet was cut in half, my book collection was pared down to four boxes (which, believe me, was a major accomplishment), and each framed photo or knick-knack I kept had a meaningful history. Not only that, but confronting the sometimes painful memories I had hidden at the bottom of various boxes and drawers became a cathartic and absolutely necessary experience. Leaving Montana was a choice borne of so many competing factors, but in those lonely moments, I was forced to truly confront the ones I had been hiding from. I had to face the painful reality head-on, and I was lucky enough to be able to tell it goodbye. When I locked my storage unit for the last time and drove off, the boxes of highest import stacked like Tetris blocks in the back of my car, I felt lighter somehow. Sure, my car probably weighed about a thousand extra pounds, but my life was lighter. I had gotten rid of some heavy, heavy baggage.
The trip itself was equal parts stressful and wonderful. I was lucky enough to spend three days in Colorado visiting family, and then another full day in Kansas City visiting one of my oldest, best friends. Taking this time in between days full of driving was absolutely vital for my sanity, and also for my butt (which was literally numb for a solid hour at the end of my longest day of driving). In Colorado, I spent some much-needed time with my Dad, step-mom, grandparents, and other family members. In KC, we had a great adventure at the zoo. The weather coming down through Wyoming and Colorado was great, as was the weather driving across Colorado and Kansas. Then, as I was leaving Kansas City, all hell broke loose. A blizzard in Illinois turned into a torrential downpour in the mountains of Tennessee that followed me until I stopped for the night in Knoxville. I may know my way around driving through the snow, but that was a kind of rainstorm I had never experienced before. I had no idea what I was doing. I probably should have pulled over somewhere and waited it out. When I finally made it to my hotel room, I broke down into a full panic attack the second I heard the door shut behind me. I called my boyfriend and, eventually, I calmed down enough to fall asleep.
The next day, though, everything was shiny and new. The sun shone brighter than it had since I left Montana. All of the dirt and muck from driving through snow and slush had been washed off my car. There probably wasn’t a single spot of Montana dirt that survived the rainstorm. I began to think of my previous day as less of a day from hell, and more of a trial-by-water. A baptism, of sorts. The stress and pain I had been carrying with me from Montana eroded bit by bit with every mile I drove, and the rainstorm forced the last pieces of it away. What little remained disappeared the second I crossed the North Carolina state border.
Moving across the country was an experience unlike any other. Maybe someday, I’ll write a post about the logistics: how to pack a perfect box, how to organize a storage unit, how to turn the trunk of your car into the Tardis and fit everything you own inside… But for now, I’m focused on recuperating from the most stressful drive of my life. I’m focused on unpacking boxes – those from my car, and those from my mind. I’m working on learning how to stop packing things away just because they’re hard to deal with. And most of all, I’m focused on settling in to this beautiful new life I have in North Carolina, a life where even a trip to the grocery store is an adventure thanks to who I’ve got beside me.