When you hate moving as much as I hate moving, there’s probably more to it than the hassle. Don’t get me wrong—that’s a big part of the anxiety. I like having stuff; I don’t like taking that stuff and putting it into boxes. I can’t use my stuff when it’s in boxes, and I can’t lift boxes when they’re heavy. There are a lot of obstacles here. Still, I’m self-aware enough to know that there’s a deeper root to my hesitation.
I remember moving to Berkeley seven years ago. The only way I could cope was insisting that it was a temporary situation. Never mind that I intended to stick with the whole college thing—I was determined to never think of the Bay Area as home. Which was naïve, obviously, but I was 17. (For reference, I also thought I’d be going to grad school!) The difference between “moving” and “a very long vacation” is what kept my stress level relatively low. And for that whole first semester away from home—my “real” home—I dreamed of returning to LA.
I’m not trying to be poetic: I literally dreamed about LA all the time. I also dreamed about my teeth falling out, but that’s neither here nor there. It was only at Thanksgiving, when I took my first trip back since moving north, that I realized how deluded I was. Life in your hometown doesn’t just take a time-out when you leave. It seems obvious now, but I assure you it wasn’t at the time. Just as I assure you I spent way too many tearful nights overidentifying with that scene in Garden State in which Zach Braff talks about losing a sense of “home.” Bad movie or not, the sentiment rang true. I suddenly didn’t feel as though I belonged anywhere. I was an idiot to purposely avoid adjusting to Berkeley, and I was an idiot to pin all my hopes on LA staying just as I’d left it. You can’t go home again, stupid.
If you told me I’d still be in Berkeley in 2011, I would have a) called you a liar, and b) been surprised humanity managed to survive that many years of a Bush presidency. But here I am, sitting at the same coffee shop I’ve been coming to since first forcing a caffeine addiction on myself. What I found after a few years of living in Berkeley was that I wasn’t so much looking for a “home” as I was looking for stability. I missed LA because I was used to LA, because I understood my life there (more or less), and because there were routines and patterns I associated with the city. Moving somewhere new means establishing new habits, and holy crap, that is not as easy as it sounds. But eventually I was settled.
Too settled, maybe. Sometimes I think I could live here forever. Not because I’m so smitten with Berkeley—although it’s objectively a nice place to live—but because I’ve once again let my fears of being uprooted get the better of me. As much as I’ve come to appreciate LA when I go down for extended vacations, I’m still comforted by my ability to return back to a rather mundane existence in the Bay Area. But there’s a difference between being secure and being stagnant. I could stay here indefinitely, but I don’t want to. I know there is more for me in LA right now. And while I’m also sure I could make more of my current life in Berkeley, experience shows me that I won’t.
I need to push forward despite the discomfort, and that means taking my stuff and putting it in the goddamn boxes. I’ll think about leaving my apartment for good. I’ll think about saying goodbye to the friends I’ve made here, though admittedly many have already left. And I’ll let that anxiety wash over me, because you have to feel it build before you can feel it subside.
I don’t want to move. There, I said it. I want to be in LA, sure, but I don’t want to have to make the choice, to take the action, to plunge myself into once-familiar waters. I’ll do it because I owe it to myself to not let anxiety hold me back. I’m nearing the quarter-century mark (hey, it’s as good a milestone as any) and growing up means facing fears, right? Besides, the logic of my decision to move will soon trump any feelings of unease. If it happened before, it will happen again.
And with that, I’m going to stop staring at the boxes—and start filling them.