Friday, September 06, 2013

A Business Trip Back Home

I'm back in Boston again, for the first time since moving to Iowa.  I'm at home right now, for a certain definition of home, in our old apartment in Somerville.  It's like I never left, in some ways, back in the bedroom where I first arrived just over five years ago, where I lived by myself all alone for the very first time in my life.  I moved into this apartment in Somerville just as I was starting at BBN, at the same time as my relationship at the time was breaking up and as our old commune-style apartment where I'd lived through most of grad school was dissolving and people were going their separate ways.  My first night alone in this apartment was remarkably frightening to me.  When I was a kid, my brother and I tried to sleep in the lean-to a few hundred yards away from the lake camp where we always went on family vacation, and we had to come back in the middle of the night since we kept imagining bears into every snapping twig and sighing tree.  My first night alone in this apartment, I kept hearing burglars and home invaders in every creak of the old house and every autonomic twitch of an appliance.  But truly, I had never before lived alone.

It was here that I lived when I met my now-wife, here that we returned for shelter during the memorable snow-storm that accompanied our first date.  Many times, this house has been transformed, as I settled in, as we learned to live with one another, as we tried to superpose two well-equipped bachelor households into one tiny space, as we rearranged the rooms and the furniture again and again seeking the balance, utility, and mental space that we are only now finding in Iowa.  It's rearranging again now, as our landlord renovates the downstairs: right now, there is simply no kitchen, nothing at all but walls and floorboards, and the living room is filled with all the appliances and furniture that used to go there.  I pass through a seal of plastic sheeting when I go upstairs, to where the bedrooms at least remain untouched, and sleep backwards on the bed from how we usually do, in this temporary half-nest that is home and not-home and new and old all at once.

Soon, I will go to the office, and I will move all my possessions there from the window office that I am giving up to an interior office more suitable for an occasional visitor.  Another mark of my status changing, my presence here in Boston diluting as it concentrates in Iowa.  Can't live in two places at once, you know.  And truly, it's a simple fact of presence and location.  Working in Iowa is good, and I like the University and the faculty I'm getting to know there, but I am definitely becoming less in touch with my old co-workers in Boston.  The closest collaborators, no problem, but in just two hours in the office yesterday, I had good and unexpected hallway discussions with three different colleagues who I hadn't even spoken to since I left for Iowa.

Relocation is challenging and good and hard and necessary.  I like my new life, I miss my old life, I can never go back and can never stay still in stasis.  Last night, I had dinner with an old, old friend, and we talked about growth and struggle and the demons we fight and are at least aware that we are trying to overcome.  It's interesting and strange and lovely that as a well-privileged adult, I have choices to make, and my life is never at all near where I'd expected to be five years in the past, and that has been true for at least the past 20 years: a major turn in aims and expectations at least once every five years.  My apartment is in (renovative) ruins, and it is home, and so as well is my house in Iowa, and I'm happy where I am, doing what I'm doing, and also can't wait to return home to the home in my other state.

Yours in a satisfied and joyful confusion, dear reader, and the bittersweet tang of a life not lived in stasis.
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