boxes, shifts, and the GPS coordinates of happy


Today I’m packing my belonging, to move them out of the space I’ve called home for two years. Interestingly, moving a very short distance from where I already live represents the largest change I’ve made in my adult life. And not because I don’t move, but because I always move, I move often, and I move far away.  Yet this time, the four walls will be different, but all around them will be a familiar place, as I will be close to all the buildings, streets, and friends that I’ve grown to love. I’m moving into a house with studio/office space for my newest creative endeavors, which certainly marks the beginning of a new chapter. However, I’m moving less than ten miles from where I currently live, so it’s not exactly a location change, and I recognize that for the first time, I’ve stopped running.

So I’m staying in one place, physically, but internally?… in the last year, the last month, even the last week, I’ve been in constant motion, shifting from the person I was when I moved to Dayton to a new more courageous version of myself. I arrived here constantly running from something, afraid to commit to a single goal, afraid of opening up to others, and more than anything afraid that calling a place “home” would limit me. Yet what I’ve discovered is that all I needed to feel limitless was to be still for long enough to recognize that I was never not home. And this place? All these places in Dayton that I call home, have been the safe spaces, the constants that have allowed me to find the peace within myself that offers me the courage to do all the things I’d been afraid of. Paradoxically, I had to know safety to step outside of my own fears… I had to sit still long enough to even recognize what those fears were. I was so busy moving that I forgot what my dreams even were, and putting down roots has helped me remember.

“Putting down roots” is an unfamiliar concept to me. For the past ten years, I’ve led a purposefully transient existence, living in ten cities, traveling across the country on a whim, staying at a job for no longer than a few months, and jumping into a car or on a plane the second things got difficult. I invested more money in luggage and airline tickets than I did in furniture or household necessities, seeing little use for either. Meaningful relationships seemed equally trivial; most my friendships extended no further than a shared cup of coffee or night at the bar with the rationalization that these people wouldn’t be in my life for long.  I was convinced that any effort to genuinely connect was wasted energy.

I don’t know when or how it happened; maybe something inside of me had to shift for me to feel safe enough to realize what I was looking for. I was out seeking the highs of adventure, but what I was always searching for was meaning; and when I didn’t find that in one place, I moved on to the next, city after city, certain I just had the location of happiness wrong.  This time it’s different.   This time the community I found, or rather the community that found me, buried under layers of my own fear, has opened my mind and heart. Without realizing it, I’ve found the elusive “home” that I was sure was a myth created by either Better Homes and Gardens and Ikea, and it has nothing to do with furniture or walls, it’s a state of mind.

So, packing? This time it feels different. I’m not taping boxes up to be shipped far away, I’m just taking them down the road, and upgrading my already wonderful life. Instead of moving away because of lack, I’m shifting gears to stay and sinking into the gratitude for the life and meaning I’ve created here. And that feels… well, it feels. And that’s new too.

This is not to say I don’t have doubts that creep in with the first frost, every time I hear from my family in California and I remember it’s going to snow soon, and my fingers and toes will take hours to warm after I scrape my windshield and shovel my driveway. Although, I think the biggest hurdle to really accepting that I’m happy here is that I used to feel contempt for anyone who chose to live in the state they grew up. I assumed an underlying unadventurous nature, that only a fearful person would choose to “settle” in one place…

But, settling is a tricky word, because it can take on two totally different meaning. “Settling” can be an act of defeat, where we simply stop looking for something better and accept that whatever shitty existence we have will have to do; but “settling in” can also mean we’ve found the thing or place we value enough that we don’t need keep looking; it’s being happy with what is, because it’s perfect. I feel secure in the knowledge that I am choosing the latter of the two, and that I don’t need to look anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still overly ambitious, plan to fill my passport, and will live my whole life as an adventure. My goals have just begun to open up, but this time I know that what I was looking for was here all along. Travel will no longer be a way to find what I need, but instead will become a reminder to appreciate what I already have.

I’ve always feared that if I stayed in one place for too long, I would stagnate; I wouldn’t learn or grow. Yet today I smile with the recognition that sometimes in order to move forward, I have to stay in one place. It’s in my stillness that I’ve been able notice the little shifts, those things inside me that have been changing, growing, and revealing themselves. Somehow the biggest adventure I’ve been able embark on is to take a journey in one place.