Keeping Boxes

January. The boxes sat on the front porch, dusted with snow. With each box we unpacked, I drew a sharp breath. This was the third time I had moved in two years—from apartment to apartment in Florida, from Florida to South Carolina, from South Carolina to Kentucky.

Six hundred dollars for the truck. Time off of work for my dad to drive the truck. Damaged items. Disorder. And now I had moved five hundred miles away from family to a job I wasn’t even sure was going to work out.

I hate the process of moving so much that I felt myself having mini anxiety attacks at the thought of possibly moving again. Still, Laura and I and my mom tossed box after empty box onto the porch into the winter weather, dumpster bound. Honestly, I wanted to rip off the tape, fold them up, and neatly store them in my already stuffed storage closet. Just in case.

Two days into my new job, the amount of information to learn and retain overwhelmed me enough to want to dumpster dive and retrieve all my precious boxes—to safely store my stuff in some storage unit or garage somewhere, to not risk the possibility of having to tear up roots again.

Of course over the next few weeks, as I became familiar with my tasks and realized that this job of adding commas and changing hyphens to N dashes was going to work, I forgot about the boxes. . . mostly.

But that fear crept up in other ways. In my decision to not put money in my 401k, in my dread of the potluck at work because I don’t want to get close to my co-workers, in my refusal to become endeared to the big old “Florence Y’all” water tower.*

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Last week, as I was driving home from work, I stared at the license plate on the car in front of me. My South Carolina license plate features a sunset with our navy blue Palmetto tree and moon silhouetted against the sky. But Kentucky’s plate is plain old light blue. Unbridled Spirit, it says—though clearly the designers did not have unbridled creativity.

Thursday, I trudged into the DMV and turned in my South Carolina drivers license. I’m officially a resident of Kentucky.

“Do you plan to stay a while?” the DMV clerk asked.

“I hope not,” I replied, perhaps too eagerly.

“Where are you headed?”

I had to pause because I have no idea. Don’t even know where I want to be.

Perhaps it’s a side-effect of being single, this feeling of restlessness and rootlessness. Like maybe every job, every house, every city will just feel like, rather than a stop, a step toward some nebulous destination. Will anywhere ever feel completely like home?

My friend told me it took her six years to feel at home in her new state. But who’s got time for that?

Laura says it’s because we don’t have husbands and children to force ourselves to be grounded. Maybe she’s right. Maybe wives and mothers are too busy wiping baby butts and packing school lunches and untangling teenage drama to feel displaced or rootless. But I hope that’s not the answer because there’s certainly no man on the horizon—which makes me wonder at my part in this emotional root-laying process.

As I look around at the apartment that we’ve decorated and settled into now, I find myself not wanting to think about dismantling it again, yet I find myself not wanting to get used to it.

But maybe feeling at home, at place, is as simple—if not as easy—as screwing on my Kentucky plates, not scowling at the old water tower, and just enjoying myself at the potluck.

In other words, maybe I just need to unpack my fear and throw away the boxes.

 

 

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* In the early 1970s, developers of the Florence Mall gave land to the city of Florence for a water tower, asking only that the city paint the words “Florence Mall” on the tower. However, because of the city’s sign height requirements, this “advertisement” caused legal concerns. To correct the issue, the city decided to change the M to a Y and add an apostrophe. The result: a Kentucky icon.

 

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