Motion Sickness

This is making me tired

I learned from a very young age that moving is life’s most reliable cure-all.  If something isn’t going right, change it, and nothing says change like moving someplace new.  If you don’t like your job, find a better one.  If you don’t like your town, move to another state.  There is no such thing as a move downwards, and there is no such thing as a move that is permanent.

By the time I graduated from high school, I had lived in three states, six cities, and nine houses.  I was too little to remember my first move from Wooster to Kettering, but I remember the move from Kettering to Cincinnati, and I remember the move from Cincinnati to a temporary house on the Lake Erie shoreline.  And though I wish I could erase it from my memory, I remember that subsequent move to Toledo, which went so badly that the next move we made was all the way to the other side of the country – to perfect, beautiful, Pasadena, California.

We stayed in Pasadena for eight years!  Eight years was an eternity in our world, but just when it was feeling like maybe my family would have a permanent hometown after all, my parents were ready to move again, and it was time to start my own cycle in motion.

With no more teenage bedroom to go home to on the weekends, I moved out of the dorms and into an off campus apartment in West LA – my very first move as an (almost) independent adult – then I packed it all up and left for a year of study abroad.  I spent the summer travelling in the south of Spain, then moved to my first of three apartments in Madrid (four months in each).  From Madrid it was back to a new apartment in Hollywood where I managed to stay put for almost a full year.  Almost.

A few months before my lease was up, I decided to sublet my room to save money for a move back to Spain.  I moved onto my friend’s sofa in Silver Lake, but when the big move was postponed I moved back into that Hollywood apartment – not to my old bedroom, which was still being sublet, but into a dining room with a curtain hung for privacy.  When I postponed my move to Spain yet again, I moved from there back to Silver Lake to a short-term sublet that would bridge the gap.

Then finally I moved back to Spain.  Then I moved to Greece.  Then a three-month pitstop in Paris.  Then back to Hollywood.  From Hollywood to a triplex in Echo Park, then to a different triplex in Echo Park (directly across the street from the first).   After a potential move back to Greece that ended up as just another long vacation, I came back to LA and moved into a studio apartment in Silver Lake.  From the studio I moved to a one-bedroom in Historic Filipinotown.  Then I moved to a loft in a hotel in Downtown LA.  Then I met my soon to be husband and moved back to Echo Park to yet another triplex (only a few blocks from the first two).  We stayed put in that apartment through three years of constant life changes (careers, therapy, marriage, pets), until the landlady stopped paying her mortgage and we got tired of finding foreclosure notices on our door.  We moved to Eagle Rock, to a little house with a big yard.  Then I got pregnant and we knew it was time to move again, which is how we ended up in South Pasadena.  And now we are moving again.

The problem with all of these moves is not so much a practical issue – money, time, stress – as it is an emotional issue.  Despite my appreciation for the profound benefits a change of scenery can produce, the perpetual motion I grew up with left me feeling like I was never really at home anywhere, and all I’ve ever wanted was to find a place I could call home – permanently.  So every time I move to a new house or a new country, no matter how impractical or how unlikely, I believe with all my heart that it may be my last move ever.  And then it comes time to move and my heart breaks all over again.

Even in Spain, with that trail of broken leases left in my wake, I never intended to move.  But there was always a reason I had to go – first because I was living in a basement, then because my roommate lost his mind, then because my parents arrived and told me it was time to go back to America.  But even with my college degree hanging in the balance and my family and romantic relationships all falling apart, I thought I could find a way to stay – get married for the work visa, find a job in a shop, raise little Spanish kids in a little apartment somewhere in the city.

Even in Greece, when I was living in my great aunt’s guestroom and my application for legal residency had disappeared into the Greek bureaucratic abyss, where even if I could have found a job it would never have been enough even to pay the rent.  Even then I thought I had moved to stay.

I hope beyond all hopes that this time it is true – that maybe our new home is the place where we’re destined to live out our years, maybe at the end of our lease we’ll convince the owner to sell at a price we can afford and we’ll own a piece of our new family history, someplace our grandchildren can sit and laugh about how their mother the Koukla had once sat and laughed in the exact same spot.

Or maybe by the time our lease expires I will again feel claustrophobic, dissatisfied, antsy to start packing up boxes and redesigning my life.

All I know right now is that there’s room in the garage for my moving boxes, which I will dutifully break down and stack up as I settle into the new house.  I will keep them to serve as my tether, both as comfort and as threat that another move could always be just around the corner.


10 thoughts on “Motion Sickness

    1. Thanks! I think if we can survive moving with a daredevil toddler we’ll be okay – she seems to think all of those boxes are really meant as a big new jungle gym… It’s our first move with a kid, and it has definitely added a whole new host of challenges to the moving experience. But I do think the new house will be worth it!


  1. Firstly – I love that photo. How she is still holding on to the spoon, as if she had been hypnotised to sleep while having her yoghurt (you didn’t, did you?..). 🙂
    Wow, you have moved around a lot – but what amazing places to have lived in. I also had moved 9 times before the age of 20 and since then 9 times. Finland, Holland, UK. And I know the feeling of rootlessness well, how it feels like no place is home (and yet everywhere is). Part of me wants to be rooted; to have friends and have my kids growing up with the same kids from nursery to college – something I never got to do. But on the other hand my feet are itchy and I want to move on again. I want to live somewhere else, a new country, a new culture.
    Good luck with the move – I hope all goes well!


    1. I know exactly how you feel! (Although I hate it when people tell me that…)
      The upside of that feeling of rootlessness you describe is exactly that every place IS home. Now that I’m getting older and thinking about the kind of life I want for my daughter, I keep arguing with myself over which is better – comfort or worldliness? stability or adaptability?
      When I was growing up, I used to get so angry sometimes that my parents kept moving us around, but all the while I secretly loved that I seemed to have a level of confidence and independence not a lot of other kids my age had. Though I envied everyone around me that had friends from waaaay back, I was proud of myself for finding ways to fit in even as the new girl.
      I’m rambling now, but it sounds like you’ve had quite a life for yourself as well. I’ve always dreamed of living in Holland! What was it like? It seems like such a civilized place, what with all their suited men and beautiful women riding over the canals on bikes… (er, yes, Amsterdam is the only town I’ve visited – I have no idea what the rest of the country is like…)


      1. Yep, the same conversation I keep having in my head regarding whether it would be better for the kids to grow up in one place or experience as many as possible. One thing I found worked in my favour when moving around a lot was that I felt I could almost evolve with every move; you can be who you are THEN when you move to a new country, rather than be dragged down to what you WERE. Nobody is there to call you on it. (Also called running away.. ) Does that make any sense?
        Holland was great! I lived in The Hague for 6 years and then when I met my husband, I moved to live with him in Amsterdam for 6 months before we moved to London. Holland is great but weird at the same time. Drugs are accepted and widely available but things like thrush medicine are (or were then) prescription only. Doesn’t make any sense.. It is very civilised, at least in the bigger cities but it is also very provincial at the same time. I found it very hard to really make friends with the Dutch people, they tend to be inherently suspicious of people they haven’t grown up with so while they are friendly I felt I would never really be accepted. Luckily I had a big network of expat friends in the same boat with me. 🙂


  2. Hmmm. This resonates! My life, too, has consisted of a string of moves, all be they around a somewhat smaller hub. It was so much easier in younger years – jokes about ‘moving because the ashtrays were full’ and so on. Harder now: less willing to pack boxes, paint walls and live from those overly experienced suitcases. So we’ve settled in this untidy house and a kind of contented shabbiness has grown around us. I’m told its called happiness, but I’m never really sure.


    1. Oh what I wouldn’t give to settle into contented shabbiness! I hope to make it there someday – happiness in an untidy house sounds like my dream come true. Or maybe I’ve got the chance for that right in front of me already? Like you say, one can never really be sure 🙂


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