Permanence and Place

“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.” [James Baldwin]

I recently read a post about one writer’s experience with moving to university and living there. The post came at a good time, a time when I had been in the throes of packing and moving (again). Every year since starting college in 2002, I have moved. This is not new for anyone who dorms; each summer you pack up all of your things, unpack it in your tiny dorm room, and then re-pack everything when you go home for the summer. There is also a mini-packing that has to be done for the month-long winter breaks. I also moved house a total of five times during medical school. This is not as many times as other students who may have had to do rotations in other cities. They had to pack up their entire lives for six-, eight-, or twelve-week stretches, then move all over again. Talk about tiring! Then comes residency — the cross-country move from Philadelphia to New Orleans was no easy task. Luckily I had a mutual friend and future residency colleague help me immensely by looking at apartments for me. I also had no furniture to move, but dealing with shipping my car while my mom and I flew down to New Orleans was one major wad of stress. I don’t ever want to ship my car again, if I can help it!

I stayed at the same apartment for the first two years of residency — the first time I actually experienced a taste of permanence in where I lived. However, this was always overshadowed by the reality that three years of residency itself is impermanent. Even if I stayed in New Orleans after residency, I would have eventually wanted to buy a home rather than continue to rent. But for the time being, staying put for two years in a row was lovely. My apartment felt mine and truly felt like a home.

After getting married between second and third year of residency, we decided to move to a new place that would better accommodate two people. We moved into a two-bedroom, still in the same neighborhood, so it didn’t feel like we strayed very far (although I tend to drop more-than-subtle hints every now and then to my husband that looking back, the old place was incredible and it would have been peachy to stay there. But change is good, and every experience is a learning opportunity).

Of course, with the end of third year came the end of residency and the beginning of a new job and new life in Charlotte. We packed up again (although this time we had the help of movers) and moved to South Carolina for the summer. The majority of our things remained in boxes in my husband’s parents’ garage, but nonetheless it quickly felt like home. Of course that too was temporary; after eight short weeks, we rounded up our things again and moved to our new apartment in Charlotte.

Being in transition between moves has meant clutter would be inevitable, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s clutter! We had some major help from my husband’s family with moving and unpacking, yet it still seemed like the boxes were never-ending! The apartment is finally coming together now, and the extra space (in comparison to our last apartment) really is fantastic. I have also taken extra care over the past few days to assure that everything has a proper place. This helps to solidify that feeling of permanence, something that is so soothing and important in a home.

Exploring our new city is going to be fun, and I won’t feel hurried to see/do/eat everything because I know that our time here is not limited to a few years the way college, medical school, and residency were. Living in the center of town here feels somewhere between New Orleans and Philadelphia: more young professionals and development than New Orleans, but smaller and less crowded than Philadelphia. I hope we find our place here soon, and with that a feeling of permanence.

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