The phrase ‘rolling stone’ calls to mind a couple of things:
First, the adage “A rolling stone gathers no moss,” which people tend to take as a positive thing–no baggage! Life of freedom!
But I tend to agree with Bob Dylan’s take: “How does it feel/ To be without a home/ Like a complete unknown/ Like a rolling stone?”
It’s a pretty bleak picture, leading a nomadic life. I’ve made the move to a completely new place four times in my life, and each time there was a long settling in period where I was finding new friends, getting used to the place (for every place is different from New York City), and trying to carve out a new life that would in some way match up to home. This is a tall order.
Each move I’ve made has been worth it for one reason or another. I went to college in upstate New York and found that the rest of the country, and especially the rest of New York state, does not view the City with any kind of awe or reverence–more fear and distrust. I saw what life was like in a quiet-ish college town where the only thing open past 2am was Wal-Mart. I learned that life outside a throbbing metropolis is very different to life in one. Along the way, I also made some decisions that would influence the trajectory of my life–making a couple of really important friends, finding my first boyfriend, choosing French as a major, discovering that after all, I did love to teach and wanted to make that my career.
My junior year abroad in Paris was the fulfillment of a dream. I saw Paris for two days my freshman year of college and fell in love. I have never loved a city the way I love Paris. The grace and beauty among the grit, the centuries of beautiful architecture clashing with the odd extremely modern building, the food, the people, the vistas everywhere I looked–it was all amazing. In a year, I went from quasi-conversation to highly proficient in French, which I consider an achievement. I traveled around Europe for the first time. I found the fun in being a penniless student. I made friends in a strange land. I loved it, but I also grew fatigued from thinking and working in another language constantly. In retrospect, I would look at the relationship I clung to as a weight holding me down, holding me back. But I came back from that year wiser and more confident in almost every way.
I went to Durham, North Carolina on a mission for love. There I found a love of sweet tea, barbecue, and fried chicken, but also saw that I am definitely not a Southerner, and that urban sprawl is not really my cup of tea. I also went thinking myself a romantic heroine and came back shattered and disillusioned–I had given so much up for love, a chance to live in France again, a chance to return home to my friends and family in New York, and it all ended up in nothing. I thought then that I was a fool, and the bitterness stayed with me until I found a man who I really loved, and who really loved me, and then I realized that year beyond the Mason-Dixon line was only a year of preparation.
Now I’m in England for almost exactly a year, and in a way all the other moves have prepared me for this one, and yet not prepared me at all. I know what it is to be homesick, and how to deal with it. I know that eventually, I will make friends, even if I’m a slow mover. I know how to navigate all the cultural differences, because in their own ways, Oneonta and Durham have the same amount of culture shock as Coventry when you come from NYC. But of course nothing in these moves could prepare me for the other shake-ups–immigration, marriage, buying a house, having a baby. Those are what make this journey its own.
I don’t regret any of these moves, and I value the struggles I went through to settle in new places. But they are struggles. I need roots. I need to belong. I need a home. I cannot call myself a free spirit in that regard. Sometimes a little weight holding you down to a place is a good thing. It’s good to have a home.