my grandmother's abandoned place in the county, where I had been squatting for seemingly decades (—actually, five years—after getting out of an 11-year relationship), because my younger cousin wished to buy it and start a family. Finding a house was surprisingly easy—seven houses with a real estate agent on a Sunday and an offer made on one the next day.
Then the hard work began. Those last few weeks, packing my things in the old house, I wondered whether I would ever survive the heartbreak of leaving my childhood home, the sound of birds, the brilliant blue twinkle of my neighbor's swimming pool, shimmering in my peripheral vision, outside my office window as I worked.
And now, I don't miss it a bit. And I'm relieved, albeit not surprised. A similar experience happened to me last year when I went on a two-week writing residency. It was in the mountains of Georgia, and, except for college, I'd never been gone that long from family and friends. I dreaded going and wondered how I would get out of it. By the second week I was there, I was hoping I could live in the Georgia mountains for the rest of my life. Screw Baltimore. The same thing happened when we were in Paris earlier this year. And yet I harbor such terrible anxieties about going from one thing to the next, about having to adjust to a new normal.
What have I learned from these lessons is that home is less of a physical place than I've always thought it was. Sure, it is comforting when layers of decisions are removed from the frantic sandstorm of possibilities in one's life—where the good restaurants are located, where to grocery shop and jog, not having to make new friends—but I am highly adaptable. Now that I've moved a few times as an adult and gotten rid of everything from school papers to books to favorite but antiquated CDs and cassette tapes and combat boots, I've realized that I am not a person defined by what I like and own.
It's hard to describe yourself without the context of what you like. But you are more than the summation of your favorite bands, books, clothes, and cars. Your vista does not make you. You are not your Facebook page or your twitter. Your kindness, your ability to be patient and give of yourself in situations both rewarding and tiresome, your ability to appreciate moments and people and be gracious and to experience terrible loss and not hate those around you who have not yet experienced it all make you less of a person and more of a human. And when you're human, really, all you need is a body, and you're home.
Jen Michalski is author of the novel The Tide King, winner of the 2012 Big Moose Prize, the short story collections From Here and Close Encounters, and the novella collection Could You Be With Her Now. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is the founding editor of the literary quarterly jmww, a co-host of The 510 Readings and the biannual Lit Show, and interviews writers at The Nervous Breakdown. She also is the editor of the anthology City Sages: Baltimore, which Baltimore Magazine called a "Best of Baltimore" in 2010. She lives in Baltimore, MD. She tweets at https://twitter.com/MichalskiJen.