I was looking back today and thinking of all the times that I have made really close, binding friendships with people. They come about in different ways, of course, and I wonder sometimes if all people are really capable of having them. A really close friendship has as a necessary pre-condition that you consider that person more important than almost anything else. If they show up at the door dead tired with a dead hooker and a pound of cocaine, you show them the futon, hide the hooker and the coke in the closet and hold the questions until they wake up in the morning.
I see people go through their days bound up in things, and money, and apartment square footage and cars as though they have a little list in their head of the things they want to have. I’ve tried to make one of these check-lists, myself, and it always feels hollow. I don’t really want the things. The things are merely necessary pre-conditions.
My final year at University was marked by a time I spent living with a group of people who were initially mostly strangers. I knew S and L from dancing, of course, but I didn’t know them terribly well, and the other four occupants were a mystery to me until I moved in. It was one of the best years of my life. I was rarely unable to find another person in the house to play games with or sit around watching TV with or drink beer with or go down to the store with. I didn’t always want to do, or have time to do these things, but the constant availability took a load off my chest. I was happier that year, on net, than I had been anywhere, ever before, and as we were relinquishing that house to the subsequent occupants, it occurred to me that I really didn’t want to.
I didn’t want to move out. I enjoyed life there. I liked my little room and the little living room we shared. The roof leaked, the squirrels and raccoons were constantly warring above us and periodically invaded the house itself, the heater didn’t work right and for a few months the fan-blades were so choked with dirt and rust that we couldn’t hear ourselves think, let along talk to each other without shouting. We shouted a lot. The bathroom wasn’t much to speak of, the oven didn’t have knobs and there was a naked power-box of some sort on the kitchen wall that would threaten to burn the house down if you left the kitchen lights on too long. The basement was filthy and appeared, at one point, to have been used for child abuse and/or BDSM. Several of the windows leaked.
I didn’t want to move out.
It was “home.”
It occurred to me then that “home” is a very mutable subject. Literally, it often refers to the place you go when you sleep. But this isn’t “home,” necessarily. I have slept in many places that were not “home.”
I played with it, in my mind, removing objects and doors, moving rooms around, going from one location to another and trying to decide which of these things could be changed without making a place not be Home anymore. Whatever I changed, Home was still Home, until I removed one essential component that I had previously (born and raised American) overlooked.
Home is where your people are.
I think people move around a lot because there’s a better job here, or they like mountains and there’s more mountains there. They move to beaches, they move to rivers, they move to warmer or colder climates and everyone nods their heads and says “yeah, that makes sense. I get that.”
But if you say you’re moving because you’re following a person, or people, everyone freaks out and says “but what about your future?”
This is intrinsically ridiculous. I can’t think of any better thing to follow than people. Why would you follow anything else? I can learn to live in hotter climates, or colder climates, on bigger or smaller salaries, but fuck all if I’m going to live without swing dancing, board games and people who laugh when I crack a joke about a cat in a box or the Medici family.
People speak of moving as if it’s a big commitment, and I suppose it can be. If you’ve settled before you find the people you want to settle near (some people not only do this, but consider this “wise”), moving means uprooting from your career, finding a new place to live, and moving or throwing away a bunch of the crap that has accumulated in your living space over the years.
If you’re not there yet, though, if, like me, most of your more important possessions can be packed up into a trunk with room spare for clothes and a cooler of beef jerky (the books and the cello can be piled in the back seat), then why bother with places and things? Eventually, you’ll have kids, and you’ll want a refrigerator and lunch boxes and four bedrooms and two bathrooms and a little white dog, but these things weigh you down. They tie you to the Earth, and this leash is easier to make than it is to break.
Breaking it is often not even morally right. You’ll have dependents, and debts to pay. Travel while you’re young and free. Endure great discomforts and wash clothes in whatever rivers you may find along your way. Freeze half to death in the winter and hide in the shade of the dunes from the summer sun. Incur great debts if necessary and pay them back later. The person you will be when you put down your roots will thank you for it later.
For anyone reading this who hasn’t yet figured out my intentions, my next road-trip will begin before this year is out, and will be long. I may have the good fortune to be accompanied by a friend more experienced in these matters than myself, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
I’m considering writing a list before I start, of things I want to do before I come home. Swim naked in a (clean) river, climb another mountain, write down the day every night, sleep under the stars, meet someone with a point of view so different communication is almost impossible, take a picture of something perfect, take a picture of something perfectly awful, watch the stars where there are no lights, smoke pot for the first time. That sort of stuff.