A little more than two years ago I wrote The Plight of Paper People, reflecting on the coming close of one chapter of life as the new pages unfolded before me. I described people as paper, able to be torn and taped back together, able to be colored upon or crumpled up and tossed aside.
The changes I spoke of looming on the horizon are all the changes that have now happened, and like those paper people, I feel torn up and taped together, stained and set aside.
I’ve been angry lately and lax. I’ve been fighting physical desires to fall out of bed each day, unclenching and clenching my hands to hope the pain will go away and I can type and create at the computer some more. I’ve been bored, reluctant, clouded. I’ve been fighting myself to do what I want to do.
And it’s gotten me nowhere.
This last year sent me through the paper shredded, and on the other side my only solution was to fold myself together, thin strips of paper turning into hexaflexagons that twist and turn inside out not once, but twice or five times. School became my home–where I ate, where I studied, where I met people and made new friends. Home became a place I went to on occasion, a place that seemed more to get in the way than to help move things forward.
I’m a very goal-oriented person. Being at home put a stopper on my goals: Family stole my attention, held me back from homework, distracted me. I can’t say it was all unpleasant, but when I had homework deadlines to be wary of, it certainly didn’t relieve any stress.
As the spring semester slowly turned me into confetti, the peaceful promise of being able to close the door on school and come home to recuperate was equally undone. Rumors began floating around that we’d be moving before the semester ended, and so I came back on occasion to get started, but plans changed. We’d move in the summer, they said. We’d move together, they said.
They were wrong.
It might still be summer according to the calendar, but I’ll be long gone before then, back at school for training and classes before the house is even done.
In Paper People I recalled looking around my room and realizing, my possessions are only possessions, but this room is where I call home. Despite living on campus feeling more permanent than being at home at the moment, more me, this place is still my own. All my things are here. All my memories. And when we move–when my things are moved while I’m away–all that will remain are my possessions. Not my home.
Part of me wants to toss aside all my goals and just enjoy the time I’ve got left to spend here. To lay in my bed and enjoy it before it’s gone. To roll around on my floor and do nothing as I recall all the moments I’ve spent in this place. To spend a few hours in the living room, playing one last time the games I began playing here.
But if emotionally fulfilled, doing all that won’t leave me feeling satisfied when my summer ends all too soon. It won’t give me the feeling of accomplishment for having done all the things I’ve been promising myself–and others–that I’d get to do this summer. It won’t give me the new outlook and experience that completing all of these goals will give me. It won’t make me a better person. It’ll just make leaving harder.
Then I got to thinking, maybe it won’t make leaving any harder, but what about the closure I seek? The closure I’ll need? Every other time we’ve moved, I’ve been there, packing my things, helping to move the boxes, seeing each stage as the old house empties and the new home is built up, box by box, each to blossom as we settle in together. The process is a mark of completion, a moment of transition, the very instant of change itself.
This is how it’ll happen this time: I’ll pack my things, go to D.C. for a conference, spend one last night at home fully preparing to move back to campus, and then I’ll be on campus for the rest of the semester. I won’t be coming home one last time. I won’t be coming home at all.
The new house might have all my things in it, but it’ll be completely foreign. Since it’ll be our house, I’ll have the opportunity to decorate and design things as I want to, something I’ve always wanted to do, and those actions might make it feel more like mine, but I won’t be able to do any of that until winter break at the earliest, and most likely, it won’t be summer break until it’s all complete.
Then I’ll be away doing research in Germany, if all goes as planned. And then I’ll be back on campus for my last year at State. And then I’ll be away at grad school. And then I’ll be moving out.
For the rest of my family, this new house means getting a new home.
For me, it means losing my home.
I haven’t reconciled all these changes yet because I haven’t really given myself the chance to really think about how I feel about them. All that comes to mind is anger and sadness, a deep feeling of loss. Paper People began by asking if you’ve ever seen the future crumble before you, but now I feel it’s not only my future crumbling, but also my past–and I’m not sure what’ll be left to stand on when it’s all gone.
I need constants in my life. I can’t function well without them. And for nearly ten years, this house–this home–has been my constant. Now I feel exiled, like I don’t even belong here anymore. And it goes much deeper than just moving out and not being included. It goes much deeper than that.
I’ve spent a lot of years learning about leadership and communication, and in all that time, the lesson I’ve learned most is that my family doesn’t communicate. Our time together is spent watching TV shows while we eat or discussing tomorrow’s plans while we all get ready for bed. That’s not communication. That’s planning.
And planning doesn’t build community.
I’ve changed this past year, in more ways than I ever thought I could. I went through the fire and I’ve come out charred in places, discolored in others, an antique relic to be enshrined on a shelf for having survived so much. And when I got home, it seemed like I was the only one to have changed. Everything else is the same as before. The suffocating walls that suck the light from the air. The constant whir of fans and window units trying but failing to keep the house comfortable in the summer heat. The same nauseating inability to genuinely communicate.
It makes me wonder why I still feel so attached.
It makes me want to go back to school.