“There's somethin' wrong, we can't stay still” - Move Bitch, Ludacris, 2001
I once wrote about my rather potent desire to be boyfriend rich. Sitting in my entirely crap, four-floor walkup building, I was often reminded of the glaring fact that if I shared rent with someone, I could massively improve the quality of my living space. It didn’t seem fair, and it seemed like I was stuck. Someone read my single struggle and casually remarked, “Why doesn’t she just move?” Right, like it’s so easy, so affordable, and so possible. Just move. How dare they? Moving. That’s not a real thing that happens. People don’t just move because their building sucks and is full of cracked walls and floors and their windows don’t permit them to actually view the sky. People don’t just move because their apartments are depressing and old and dirty and disappointing. Wait a second... should I just move?
I wanted to move for a long time, but I sat on the fence about it because my self worth was low. I was operating from a place of fear, thinking I’d never be able to afford a nicer place, thinking the place I lived in was all I deserved. And the weird rusty nail sticking up and snagging my yoga leggings in the living room reminded me of that, constantly.
I was operating from a place of fear, thinking I’d never be able to afford a nicer place, thinking the place I lived in was all I deserved.
My old place made me feel small, and quite honestly, not worth much. It’s weird to attach your self worth to your space and I get that, but I’d found a one bedroom under £1,700 in a desirable part of Brooklyn. Who was I to pass up on such a deal? So a leaking ceiling becomes okay. So constant package theft becomes okay. So being ashamed to have guests in my old, perpetually-dirty-even-when-clean space is totally okay. Also change. Change is scary. I’ve been here six years. What is life even like somewhere else?
I needed to show myself that I was capable of having a different life, and a better space. A nice space. A space where I wasn’t constantly telling myself that inconveniences and shitty surroundings were all I deserved. My intentions were good, and they still are, and I’m really proud of myself — but I never want to move again. Correction: I never want to move alone again.
The actual packing wasn’t so bad I guess, I’m fairly efficient and I’d been saving Fresh Direct boxes for half a decade (true story), so the physical act of packing was fine. I started packing a few weeks before I moved because I get tired pretty easily and didn’t know how long it would take to box the whole place up while earning a living at the same time. One and a half weeks, as it turns out. So for quite awhile I was living out of and on top of boxes, working from home in a mess, and eating whatever meals could be prepared with my one unpacked knife and pan. I was very uncomfortable physically, which did little to improve what came next.
I’ve suffered from and at times have taken medication for anxiety for the last seven years. I manage my symptoms with a variety of coping skills, and in general I feel that I have things pretty well handled. But then I decided to move. I decided to change the space that’s supposedly been my sanctuary for six years, to a much more expensive place, by myself, in the summer. My anxiety is worse in the summer, generally, and shit hit the actual fucking fan.
It’s really hard to explain where my head was during the packing-physically-moving-unpacking phase, but it felt as nonsensical as what you’re about to read.
I want to move, but I don’t want to move. Shit. The lease is signed. There are no takebacksies. I’m moving now. Fuck. Why are movers so pricey? Will I like my new neighbourhood? Why do I have so much crap? Why is it so hot in here. I hate summer, I hate moving, I hate this, I feel so alone. Wait, I never feel alone... I’m the most independent person ever. Why do I suddenly feel so alone? Why am I suddenly so needy now? What the fuck, this doesn’t feel like me, this feels so much worse than me. Ouch, I just cut myself on the tape dispenser. Why is moving so hard? Shit, the cat’s vomiting every day, is she getting sick from moving stress? I can’t afford the vet right now. My whole savings account is going to moving. Why is this so expensive and stressful. Why did I do this to myself? I wish I had some help. Why is there never any help? I feel so alone, wait, I never feel alone. What’s wrong with me?
Yes, I took Xanax every day, and no, I couldn’t sleep. From mid-May to mid-June, I felt like a walking jack-in-the-box on the verge of popping open to reveal a very scary clown inside. I felt absolutely nothing like myself, while simultaneously feeling angry at myself for putting myself (and the poor cat) in this situation. The fears and anxieties that were bubbling to the surface went way beyond moving, but in a way I wonder if maybe it was just time to remember them anyway. It’s weird to me even typing it out, but moving is the thing that reminded me that I actually do need someone around. I need someone in my life. I need help, I need backup, I need support. And for my hardest month of 2019, I didn't have it.
My move reminded me that it’s okay to be sad about not having someone, and it’s not weak to admit that sometimes you want or need an extra set of hands.
I wanted to tell the story of how my move made me feel because I rarely admit to myself that people need people, and that there’s no shame in people needing people. I’ve become very good at being very alone. So good, in fact, that I’ve often considered needing someone a weakness. I was wrong to think that, because it’s perfectly wonderful to need people, and it took uprooting every part of myself and every stick of my furniture to get that reminder.
I don’t want to be alone. I want company, and companionship, and love, and someone around to argue with the building owner who makes my movers leave halfway through my move and come back at night after a random roof inspection is over. My move reminded me that it’s okay to be sad about not having someone, and it’s not weak to admit that sometimes you want or need an extra set of hands. The experience brought me back to my own humanity a bit.
(Quick shoutout here to my friend Conor who came over the day after my move and unpacked my last 15 boxes in about 15 minutes, and then took me out for fancy pizza in a gorgeous restaurant backyard. I’m very lucky to have someone who shows up for me like that. Friendship, I recommend it.)
My move started to show me that I deserve something better, and it evolved into something that’s showed me it’s okay to want even more than better. It’s okay to want the best. The move was ultimately a good decision for my self worth, and I expected that. What I didn’t expect was consuming, sickening anxiety worse than I’ve had in years, reminding me that I’m alone and that it’s okay if alone doesn’t feel good all the time. I needed to remember I’m allowed to want people, too. I’m allowed to want a partner, a two-person-plus-cat family, and I don’t have to feel shame in that.
Other people don’t do everything alone, they have help. They have partners. They have dual incomes. But I don’t.
Moving made me feel broken, and more like a failure than I’d felt in years. Other people don’t do everything alone, they have help. They have partners. They have dual incomes. But I don’t, I never have, I’m 37 and I’m terrified of making big changes and paying big rent and admitting to myself that I don’t always like being alone, something my gut and I haven’t discussed in quite some time. Is there something wrong with me now? Because I’m acknowledging this? Or is it just human need and human emotion and that’s fine? I’ve been in this apartment two months now and I don’t have any answers. But I do have an elevator, a locked package room, and a dishwasher. For now, that’ll do.