Will Travel For Words: I’m Moving Out by Karen A. Chase
Readers who have followed this column of mine have probably gleaned by now that my travel adventures often seem to go swimmingly. However, a recent trip a few blocks away to a new condo was a total sinker.
In July we had to move out of our historic 1900 house for a month. We had interior water damage from a roof leak, and when insurance at last agreed on the repairs, they also decided to move us out of the house entirely. Some might cringe at the idea, but I looked at it as another adventure. It was a way to clean out the house, and rid our space of unwanted things. Our insurance was also paying for temporary housing in a nearby condo at the bottom of our hill. It was an old converted cigarette factory with a fabulous outdoor pool where we could try out modern high-rise living. My head dreamed of no yard work, a swanky city condo, and me all glamorous writing by the pool in a bikini and Audrey Hepburn hat.
The move was easy enough, but my dreams were soon met by a very different reality. The rental building was, well, odd. After living in a quiet single-family home with big windows, we were sleeping in a condo that hummed constantly from hallway lights, TVs and air-conditioning units for hundreds of people. There was one tiny window that opened, and it looked out on the back of a restaurant where they threw the garbage and recycling.
Despite a high occupation rate in the building, we went almost a whole week before we saw even one person in the elevator. We nicknamed it “the apocalypse condo,” for clearly something catastrophic had happened, all the people had fled, and we hadn’t gotten the memo. Even our two cats hid under the bed for the first five days.
The sad energy that swamped the halls, it turned out, was from a collection of transient dwellers, divorced dads and retired people. It was like that apartment that Diane Lane moves into in Under The Tuscan Sun after her divorce. The sad, dark place where the guy next door can be heard weeping through the walls.
My days, instead of being filled with easy living, were jumbled up with trips back and forth to meet with contractors on the house repairs. It caused a chaotic schedule where I seemed to do nothing but make phone calls and check off to-do lists in between a couple of small copywriting jobs.
But, you say, at least I could relax and fulfill my dream of writing by the pool, right? Wrong. First day out my pasty skin burned inside of eight minutes. We went to the pool a few more times, but I had to sit in the shade slathered in sunscreen, and the 20-year-olds drinking and playing volleyball by the pool were a harsh contrast to my sun-dried tomato 43-year old visage. I wrote not a single word.
In the evenings, to escape the misery of the condo, my partner and I would walk up the hill and stare at our house and neighborhood longingly. We ached for the month to quickly end.
Now, before I drag this pity-party out any further, please let me say there is a silver lining. (I’m an optimist, so you knew this part was coming.) I have come to learn what I don’t want. And where I belong.
Back in our home now, I adore it and my wonderful, cheerful neighbors even more than I did before. I appreciate my surroundings. As I write this in my home-office, the sounds I hear are the breeze whistling through the tree outside the window, and the neighbor’s children giggling on the front stoop. The sweet smells wafting on the breeze are from the coffee roaster at one end of the block and my favorite bakery at the other.
I am at peace now–despite the boxes I still have to unpack–in part because I no longer wonder if a condo life might be nicer. Easier. More fun. For some it is, but not for me.
For me, moving out of the house wasn’t the adventure. Moving back into it is. It is here that life is full. It is here I’m able to write. This time it was in leaving and then coming back home that I have traveled for words.
Karen A. Chase is a regular contributor to Shelf Pleasure, sharing journeys near and far in the pursuit of stories and novels in her monthly feature, Will Travel for Words. She is the author of Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log, winner of seven Independent Book Publishing Awards for travel and design. She is currently working on an historical novel set during the American Revolution. Find Karen on Facebook or on Twitter.
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