On the 25th of this month, I will officially be moving to a new apartment. No this isn’t necessarily a big deal, but it does mean I will have officially moved 50 times in my life. Which is a lot, especially considering I was not part of a military family and I was not on the run from the government or the mafia. At least that I know of.
When people ask me “Katelynn, why have you moved so many times?” I typically say to them “shut up and mind your own business.” Just kidding, I usually tell them about my mom. She is an endlessly fascinating, chronically transient person who never could quite sit still. Even when we would settle down for a short period of time, I would remember she was always moving furniture and rearranging everything. I got the impression that she wasn’t comfortable remaining static for very long. As a kid, this was quite the adventure. And I believed in instilled in me the ability to define myself outside of my physical surroundings.
I’ve lived a variety of places. Now, some of these places have been pretty standard, like apartments and houses. But we also had some nontraditional home situations, like the breakroom of multiple barbershops and an RV. I remember thinking it was a little bit odd that we seem to be a lot different from other families, but I remember feeling a sense of pride in that. I was proud of my little, adaptive, unique family and our natural ability to find a home where others just saw space, but also the ability to dismantle and remantle home almost instantly. I felt like this gave me a form of strength and resiliency. Other kids grew up in the same home their whole lives, and I saw that as a crutch. What if it burned down? What if you had to leave for some reason? If your identity is intertwined with a place or with something impermanent, what do you do if that’s taken away?
I always assumed I would grow out of this when I got older. I figured, once I was out of school I would desperately try to find roots, and to establish myself in one place and stay there. This has yet to happen and I feel like I’ve inherited my mother’s transience. I love picking up and moving and reshaping my environment whenever I feel like it.
One of my favorite authors in one of my favorite books sums up how I feel. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut writes:
“That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?”
“Yes.” Billy, in fact, had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three ladybugs embedded in it.
“Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”
I love the imagery of being stuck in amber. Vonnegut was talking about the human condition and about time, but I believe it applies to our relationship with our surroundings. I feel like sitting in one place is like being trapped in amber, and I’m just not quite ready for that.