Writing down thoughts has been hard for me lately. I haven’t written anything meaningful this year – I am not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with my quarter-life crisis; maybe something changed after I packed all my little things in boxes and became homeless. I am living at my friend’s place for a few weeks, and yesterday when she opened one of my boxes that I had requested her to keep for some months, I hardly recognized the things in it – My things.
“I haven’t been creative in weeks. Feels like my mind’s on vacation.” Katja, my friend, an artist from the Netherlands told me in a conversation about creating. Sitting on a stack of bed sheets that made the floor in the living room a bit cushiony, I wondered what my mind felt like. I have been wondering about a lot of things; I guess that’s what you do when you’re hopelessly stagnant. I am not sure where this article is going. Ideally it would be a groundbreaking piece about struggling with creativity or maybe a heartfelt memoir about dealing with depression. However, sitting here in silence and hungry because I ate about six hours ago but hesitant to cook something because the clanking of pans might wake my sleeping friend in the other room. Let’s face it – This is another ramble-y piece of writing that will die in my ‘personal writing’ folder.
The romantic air of freedom did not quite prepare me for the feelings that were to come with not having a home.
Homelessness has been an interesting experience so far. When I left my apartment last year in September I was not sad at all. In an email, I wrote to my toxic father about how shitty he was, sold my furniture and left the apartment that he paid rent for. It was that easy. The romantic air of freedom, impulse and a few Beatles’ songs did not quite prepare me for the feelings that were to come with not having a home. Nothing can give you what only an experience can offer. Turns out, getting used to different bathrooms is not as easy as I thought. There’s always a different rack of products, a pattern, said/unsaid rules that you need to adapt and respect. Figuring out unfamiliar knobs and taps, I would often feel like home in the sweet smell of my ritualistic coconut body-wash.
I believe our minds work this wonderful magic when we find ourselves in places we don’t belong – It builds a little “belong” amidst everything. “Belong” could be a favourite song, an endearing artist, a hobby or maybe the smell of a shower gel that you have used for years. In February, I was living in a new city with a lovely friend, an airhostess, who had graciously taken me in for a couple months. The first morning there, rummaging in jars and racks in the kitchen, I realized she does not drink tea. As a person who is essentially in love with chai, I was heartbroken. So by the afternoon, I made myself a little home in a kitchen-corner of tea leaves, sugar and powdered milk (because she didn’t have a working fridge for milk-milk). I have been more happy than not.
I’d like to believe that I am not a very difficult person to live with. All I need is a corner and a plug point to charge my electronics. I am always very aware of other people’s spaces. I take as little room as I can, straighten each floor mat I step on, wipe kitchen counters, do the dishes and postpone my laptop-ing and turn off the lights at night if I have to. I am careful; sometimes too careful. A few days ago when I was living at another friend’s place, this time a media-person, I found myself telling her I was completely fine with her having guests over at 8pm after a set of friends who arrived at noon had just left. “What?! You’re not fine!” my raging anxiety reminded me. “No. In your house this is not fine.” I responded in my head and then went on to hold my pee for six hours in an attempt to avoid having to interact with the guests in the other room on my way to the toilet. It’s an anxiety thing. It’s easy for me to take as little space as I can, but my anxiety is big and sometimes it needs a lot of room. I am yet to figure out a way to make home for my anxiousness in someone else’s home.
It’s an anxiety thing. It’s easy for me to take as little space as I can.
I talk to strangers a lot more. On my flight to the northeast, I made a friend who later drove me to his favourite place – A riverside for a sunset in his town. I am learning to ask for help more often. It is awkward sometimes, accepting your friend’s kind gesture to pay for a meal, asking friends to keep boxes of clothes or the blue coffee table that I did not want to sell, in a corner of their house till I can afford an apartment. But asking for help is not only necessary, it is cathartic. How would I have known that the world is, in fact, built of an abundance of magical, compassionate people who are ready to help if I didn’t ask in the first place? Having no home only reinforced my belief that the world is a good place.
On a terrace in an Airbnb somewhere, I cried at how beautiful the blue hills looked. “You could be happy and I wouldn’t know. But you were happy the day I watched you go.” A Snow Patrol song played from a window downstairs and I rolled at my eyes at the cliché. I have had my pleasant, at times overwhelming moments while traveling. As September peaks around the corner, and my ‘sweet’ little homelessness-anniversary approaches I can’t help but take a contemplative look at my life. I can’t believe how happy I have been; I can’t believe my body hasn’t revolted against the copious amounts of tea I drink. In the last few months I have come so far out of my comfort zone that I don’t even recognize it anymore. I have met the most interesting people, been surrounded by fireflies, tried unfamiliar cuisine, had wishes come true and used Google Maps a lot. I have changed often.
In the last few months I have come so far out of my comfort zone that I don’t even recognize it anymore.
After many makeshift happy-places in teacups, diaries and late-night listening of a particular worn-out song, I still long for home. There is a part of me that never left to go anywhere. A part that stayed with the blue coffee table, and remembered each thing packed away in boxes. Maybe what people and the motivational videos on the internet don’t tell you is that your comfort zone is as important for courage, happiness and creativity. The life-changing experiences I have, the breathtaking places I travel to and the adventures that I dive into make up a lot of my life but without a place to unpack and rest, I am missing the other half.
This article is not a groundbreaking piece about struggling with creativity or a heartfelt memoir about depression, but it’s something that I have put down in words after a long time and it makes me think that maybe I am closer to the part of me that I’m missing. It could be that I am closer to home.
Featured image source: rachelvarkey.com