On August 22nd I moved out of my last home. On December 1st, I will move into my new home. The space in between has been a limbo of shuttling to and fro between my parents’ house and my boyfriend’s flat.
Perhaps it felt harder because I didn’t know how long it would be for. Initially it seemed such a sensible idea – move home when my lease finished, don’t pay rent for September, come back from America and find a new place. The simplest way to save £800 that anyone has ever heard.
But coming back from America wasn’t as easy as all that. Before I went away I’d spent two months on secondment. I’d returned to the news that my boss was being made redundant and a new boss had been hired to be the big boss. Everyone I worked with seemed to have forgotten me – or assumed I wasn’t coming back. I kept calling people, just to have them say “oh! You’re back!” in a surprised tone. I sat in meetings and wondered how it was possible that a place I had worked in for two and a half years felt so alien.
With no home of my own to go to, at the end of the working day, I schlepped back to the suburbs. I’d left home at 21 and had never envisioned going back. The house felt too big, too far away from everything and everyone. The twenty minute walk to the station was longer than my entire commute from my old flat. My parents had grown up without me, I would return home and they weren’t even there, they had their own rules, their own lives, their own way of doing things.
I would joke at the office “well, currently I sort of don’t live anywhere – I’m sort of homeless!” and feel guilty, because dragging a bag back and forth between a stable home and a loving boyfriend is hardly a life on the streets. But I felt rootless. In five years I’ve moved five times, each to a different area. Maybe it would be different if each time I had moved just around the corner or down the road, but this next move will be my sixth, and it is to another new area. Another new cornershop, another new commute, another new local, another new high street, another new park. Add to that the fact that my boyfriend has moved to four different areas during that time, and I’m trying to put down roots in nine places in five years. How do you ever truly know a place in those circumstances?
I keep trying to see it as an adventure, look at all these great places I get to live! No one will know London as well as me soon! But I feel tired. It’s hard to feel adventure in your own city – sometimes I think it would be easier to move abroad, because at least people would make an effort to visit you, and you would have actual new horizons to explore. In London you’re just looking at the shard from a different angle every time you move.
My friend Miriam wrote something on another friend’s facebook page which stayed with me: “I believe that strong communities are the root of everything and for people to invest in their community and contribute and build strong networks they need a way of knowing they will be able to live there and settle – hyper mobile existences for everyone doesn’t build real community rooted in caring for a shared place.” In a few short words, it defines what I am lacking. London is my home, but it is too big to all be my home. I need my own corner, my own stake in one of London’s villages.
The process of finding a home was gruelling in itself; endless interviews with endless smiling strangers, hoping they would like you for you but also be interesting, reliable, and good to live with. Hoping that you weren’t falling for a scam like you read about in the Evening Standard. Hoping someone would choose you, when in reality they never even texted you to let you know they’d chosen someone else.
And then finally; a new home. In an area that I want to live. I know the last nine days will fall away as quick as a flash now that I have found somewhere to live. I have a house. Now all that remains is to make it a home.