When does a place start to feel like home?
This is a tricky question. I’m 37 years old, and I’ve moved around quite a bit in my lifetime. But, I don’t remember ever feeling like I was sitting around waiting for someplace to become “home.”
When I was a kid, we moved a lot. Pretty much every year while I was in grade school. But, places always felt like home because that’s where all my stuff was, and that’s where mom and dad lived, and so that made it my home.
When I first moved to college, I was just so excited to be there, and to have a place to call my own. I transferred in the middle of the year from junior college to state college, so for a semester, I had my own dorm room. Then the next year I’d have a roommate and a dorm room. Then an apartment for a few years. None of which I never considered to be “home”, because I could always drive up to my real home. I was just someplace I was staying while I went to school.
The year I moved in with my now husband, I suppose that felt like a home. It was an itty bitty place, not even as big as my current bedroom. But we set it up like a real home, it felt very homey, and we felt like we had made it a home in that “playing house” sort of feeling you get in a new cohabiting relationship. We had a few other places together before we got married, and it was the same feeling really.
When we got married, we were renting this dumpy little house, but it was a house and we were married so it very much was our home, and felt like home. We had even talked about offering to buy that house on the off chance we stayed in Wisconsin (we had been long planning to go elsewhere after college, but you never know what will happen, right?). Although, looking back, buying that house would have been a mistake. It was very literally crumbling apart. It would take a lot of work. But it was a cute little place, just what we needed at that time.
When we moved to California, Brien went there ahead of me to start his new job, and I spent six more weeks in Wisconsin to be in my cousin’s wedding and to tie up all the loose ends that go with moving long distance. I was so ready to leave there and be with Brien again, and so ready to live in California, leaving was easy and arriving was even easier.
Brien had semi-furnished the place, and he had the dog there with him already, and I felt like I had arrived at home right away. I missed my friends and family back in Wisconsin, but I did not miss Wisconsin. Wisconsin wasn’t home anymore.
And every new place we moved to in California felt like an upgrade. From our apartment in Silicon Valley, to a flat in San Francisco, to a house in San Francisco. Everything felt like home, especially after we had a baby. I loved San Francisco, and I loved that last house.
Then we were forced to move. The landlords who had been living in Arizona, and then Texas, were moving back and wanted their house back. Our lease was coming to an end and we had to move. In the time we lived there, we had another baby, and a whole bunch of life experiences, and moving out of that house broke my heart.
We found another place, a much smaller place, and it took a good long while for me to feel at home there. I was bitter about having to move, and bitter about downsizing. The location was nice, which softened the blow. Eventually I grew to call that place our home.
Here in Arizona, the feeling of home is taking a while. Even though we chose to move here. Even though the cost of living is amazing. Even though we own our own house now. Even with all of that, I’m struggling.
I hated leaving San Francisco. I had dreamed of living there for so long, living there was an absolute pleasure each and every day. Even when fighting for parking. Even when stepping over the ever-present sidewalk feces that is somehow a problem there. Even living with houses butted up to other houses. The magic of that city was never lost on me.
And I am still adjusting to the weather here. The hottest I ever saw it get in San Francisco was 89 degrees. And that was just one day. The coolest I’ve ever seen it get here was maybe like, 75 degrees. And that was overnight. The sun burns hot and bright all the time here. In San Francisco, the sun was a surprise, a blessing. Here, it is a constant, and it feels like a mean sun, in comparison. The half mile walk to and from Bowie’s school is torturous in the afternoon. I can feel the sun burning my skin. By the time we get home, I’m literally drenched in sweat. I’m not used to it yet, and I’m wondering if I ever will be.
The city, while still a city, makes me feel suburban. Everything is spread out. We drive a lot. No walking a block to the market to get the forgotten dinner ingredient. No walking three blocks to the (nonexistent) ocean. And the houses don’t touch. Something that probably pleases most people, and should likely please me, but it just feels weird, after 10 years of living that way.
Of course I like it here. There are a lot of benefits. A backyard, a front yard, less noise, more space, less sidewalk feces, and the aforementioned cost of living. I do like it. I am just waiting to love it.
I use the phone app Timehop, which shows you your social media posts on that day from 1, 2, 3 plus years ago. The app is reminding me that one year ago, we were vacationing here. And it dawned on me, I still feel like we’re on vacation here. Like we’re just visiting for a while and then we’ll go back to our real home. And obviously I know that’s not true, but it’s a feeling I just can’t shake for some reason. I feel like there’s a place we need to get back to. Like we are permanently San Francisco residents, and that no matter where we go, that is where we belong.
It’s silly to even enumerate the ways the cities are different, and how many things feel different, of course it’s different here. I should take Tucson as a whole, and embrace it, and find a way to make it feel like home. Because it is, after all, our home now. I don’t know why I keep breaking it down in my head like this. And I find myself talking to people here and inserting the phrase, “In San Francisco…” a lot in conversation. I can hear myself, and I feel like the, “This one time, at band camp…” girl, I feel like they’re thinking, “When will she just shut up about San Francisco already?” but it’s as if I can’t help it.
I had the privilege and pleasure to live in San Francisco for a decade. And now my family and I have moved on. Why is it so hard to accept? I knew it would take time to get used to things here, I just didn’t know it would take this much time. I didn’t think two months in that I’d still be wondering, why doesn’t this feel like home? Am I being ridiculous? I’m being ridiculous, right? Have you ever had this happen? This unshakable feeling that you just belonged somewhere else?
We weren’t forced to move here for any reason. We chose this place. We chose this place for quality of life. For our boys. So, why should I be such a stick in the mud? Somebody tell me this is normal, please.