As my first two weeks in my new home draw to a close, I find myself wanting to record their feeling quickly and without poetry- before time unselectively wipes it’s hand across the chalkboard of memory.
In the few weeks between deciding to move to Chesterfield and the moving day itself, I was performing a mental balancing act, teetering between outlooks, never quite finding the point of balance. Almost immediately after making the decision to move northward, I quickly began to suspect that it was one of the best decisions I had ever made. But here’s the rub- there was a doubt I couldn’t shake and I, in fact, didn’t want to.
The Moving Fix is something I am pointedly aware of because of the subject of my doctoral thesis. The idea of a ‘fresh start’ is seductive and I have watched several people in my life fall prey to its allure. New town, new house, new job- new you. But the truth, of course, is that everywhere you go, there you are. New selves are not things we magically find in the back corners of emptied Luton vans or under new front doormats. A new self is grown over time with attentive self-awareness and conscious, active living.
In the run up to the move, moments of unbridled excitement would suddenly be truncated by this doubt: am I just looking for a Moving Fix? Every time I thought of something I was looking forward to about my new living situation, it’s many seeming pros, this little nagging thought of self-doubt would pop into my head. I’d check in on myself repeatedly.
A Moving Fix requires something to run away from- I found I didn’t have anything from which to flee.
A Moving Fix requires an idolization of the place to which you are moving- I hardly knew enough about Chesterfield to form such an opinion.
A Moving Fix requires the misconception that you will becomes a better person with fewer problems as soon as your postcode changes- I was under no such delusion.
The usual trepidations about moving were also there. For someone with OCD like me, moving is generally a nightmare from which it usually takes many weeks, months to awaken (i.e. settle). Will every thing find its place in my new home? Will my strict sleep routines disturb my new housemate? Will I be able to retain my symmetry, even numbers and right-hand placements throughout the new space? Will my bizarre habits of eating the exact same things every day, sitting next to the running shower during a panic attack, and shutting myself in my room for days on end to stare at my work in despair only to abruptly close all tabs in a sweeping gesture of surrender and retreat to the bath to read for hours, until the water has long since gone cold after many top-ups, go unremarked upon- or even tolerated?
I voiced these concerns to a friend and my therapist before moving. They both told me to let myself look forward to something for once and trust my gut instinct.
My gut told me that moving to Chesterfield would be fantastic for me. It told me that living on the edge of vast natural spaces would bring me peace. It told me that all of my things would get there safely because I had a friend to help me move. It told me that my new housemate and I would be accommodating of all of each other’s quirks and eccentricities and we would become truly good friends to each other. It told me that the proximity to the Peak would improve my climbing, and thus my mental and physical health. It told me that the proximity to Sheffield would be good for my future career. It told me that a lot of things that had always been a bit harder for me in Birmingham and Dudley than they maybe should have been would be easier where I was going. The shops would generally be smaller, the neighbours nicer, the driving less aggressive and the people a little bit more like me.
My head told me none of the above would be true.
My gut responded, ‘Shut the fuck up.’
The debate continued until moving day.
Moving day was tough. The week of unpacking that followed was tough. I won’t pretend otherwise. I have anxiety, I have OCD. And moving is stressful for everyone to begin with. This was my tenth such day, and it was the easiest moving day I’ve ever had. I’ve never had people help me like that on moving day. They acted like it was no big deal, no worries, happy to do it, but when you haven’t had many people you can count on, it’s a big fucking deal to have such help offered without a thought.
And guess what?
It turns out living near natural spaces and having easy access to nature and the outdoors makes my baseline mental state more peaceful. (Shocker, right?) It turns out all of my things got to the new house safely, found their places and have been organized symmetrically in groups of four. It turns out my new housemate is more caring and understanding than I could have hoped, wakes up early and is hilarious. She often eats the same things every day, supports my periodic hijacking of the bath for the purpose of sanity- and she gave me the right-hand side of the coat and shoe racks. It turns out proximity to the Peak means a sunny evening’s climb now happens on grit, I’m back in the land of VS and I’m scoping out my first HVS. It turns out proximity to Sheffield means I received the best first belay of my climbing career, took my biggest fall ever and can pop to a shop with staff who know the best bit of jangle-jangle for the job and can point me in the direction of the best bank-breaking footwear for the walk in (which they know the length of for every crag in a half-hour radius) (of which there are many). It turns out that the neighbour is nice, cut-throat Brummie driving is not the norm and there are people a little bit more like me.
It turns out sometimes things are exactly as good as you fear they will be.