So it finally came: my impending move is upon us, with just a week left in Chicago where I’ve been living in for 4 years. Next week, I will be moving to Los Angeles first, unpack the stuff I will be leaving in the U.S., then move to Manila a week later to start a new job and life there.
I will be a “re-pat” when I move to Manila, having spent my childhood there until the age of 14. I’ve visited only twice in the last 14 years, and only for a handful of days each. As I have encountered in my previous trips to Manila, I will undergo the classic case of disorientation when placed in a once familiar environment that now looks almost completely foreign. I don’t know what to expect; on good days I am energized by the idea that I will be reconnecting with elementary school classmates, rekindle with family, and meet new friends, but on not-so-good days I worry that life would be harder for a “boomerang” like me, as I will have enough knowledge of the culture but at the same time fear that I will sufficiently feel like an outsider as my formative teen and adult years were developed elsewhere. In other words, I will have enough cultural awareness to know when I’m excluded.
My apartment looks like a storm had just gone through it. Two huge luggages sit in the hallway, packed to the brim with clothes for all seasons– snow coats, short dresses, cardigans and cotton tops. I know I can eke out some more space in each, so I delay in finalizing my zipping up of these. My heavy books are packed in designated flat rate boxes, similarly open and un-taped yet. My stuff are undergoing a massive game of musical chairs; any item can be shuffled around, squeezed into and placed in any number of containers that I will be shipping or taking with me on the move.
While open boxes and luggages fill my room and the hallway just outside it, my closets are nearly empty, with a few pieces of clothing and small purses still hanging. If someone were to visit me right this second, he or she wouldn’t know if I had just moved in or packing everything to move out. I’m right in the center of a limbo between an abundance of stuff nestled in corresponding containers and a dearth of stuff in corresponding locations around my room.
In fact, the move to Los Angeles and Manila within a week from each other is quite personally symbolic and culturally significant for me. In 2001, I was 14 when my family moved from Manila to Los Angeles, in what was pivotal event that changed the course of our lives and changed our center of gravity. And in a serendipitous occasion, 2015 marks the 14th year since that fateful move, another life-changing event as if precisely planned. To me, 14 years was just enough time to redefine my idea of “home,” and this re-planting back to my birth country, the place I once called home, will again curiously poke and prod at how I personally define what home is to me.
I tell myself, this is what it’s like to move out, this is what it’s like to live the life I choose to live. But beyond the prime professional opportunity I’ve been given to move, or the desire to travel halfway across the world, it is also a kind of destiny, this kind of life provided for me– where no place is entirely home, and any material possession fit conveniently in a couple of boxes and luggages.
Some people have multiple homes, or rent multiple apartments across the country, living part-time in each location as they wish. For me, I feel like I partly live in Chicago, partly in Los Angeles, and partly around the world. I travel quite a bit as a hobby, vacation, and education. People tell me how freeing all of this can be; moving around requires a certain kind of personality that can adapt in different environments and situations in an instant. People tell me how I must have a lot of money and time to be able to travel at this kind of pace. I’ve been asked what my secret is and how I manage to pull it all off.
There is no secret. I live like this not because of abundance of time and money, but because of constraints. I don’t want to invest money yet to buy properties in any one location, nor do I have a sense of commitment to a given place, so I take advantage of the ability to travel around without the burden of a mortgage, even if I want to settle in one location. I don’t have enough time to travel the world all at once, so I make do by planning vacation days scattered across the year so I can invest time in my hobby while juggling full-time work. My “secret” is to prioritize travel. If an opportunity comes up to travel, say an invitation from a friend, family member or grad school, I try to adjust my lifestyle and budget weeks leading up to it in order to make it work.
As the urgency of packing seeps its way into my schedule in the last couple of days, I feel many kinds of emotions– from panic, to calmness, to nostalgia, to excitement. My life is on the move. And this statement pertains to not only the constancy of travel in my life, but also the new life-changing adventure I am about to begin.