In case you haven’t noticed, I live in Kansas City now. On short notice, without pomp or ceremony, I moved to the West Coast of Missouri to start a new job. I’m now a teaching assistant at Horizon Academy, a private school for students with learning disabilities. The last two weeks have been a bustling mess of packing, traveling, working, apartment hunting, painting, cleaning, and unpacking. Now that I’m settled into my new address and my new position, I finally have some time to think. This city isn’t mine. Then again, no place has been entirely mine for the last half decade; I’ve bounced from one semi-home to the next in constant flux.
Two months ago I returned from France to St. Louis, a wonderful city that I can no longer legitimately call home. While my parents are still there, many of the friends I grew up with have scattered. The ones who remain no longer enjoy the freedoms of being a student; frequent, spontaneous hangouts are a thing of the past. St. Louis is to me a city of woven memories.
This summer, my only home was my 55-liter backpack. I explored Ireland and Scotland, never staying in one place for more than a few days. As I hiked across the Pyrenees, I dreamt beneath the stars every evening in a bivouac sack. Names, distance, and time all lost meaning as I slept on a new patch of ground each night. My backpack was a kind of home for adventure, but it offered no permanence.
Before becoming a nomad, I had just begun to call Chambéry home. I’d arrived in the Alps on a September morning, disoriented by the mountains and encumbered by luggage. By April I’d grown up a little and grown into the language, culture, and people of France. My first year of adulthood was in Chambéry, sweet but temporary.
Before France, Kirksville Missouri was my makeshift home. Every year as a student I lived in a new building, every break I went back to St. Louis, and every summer I worked elsewhere. In many ways I grew to love the small town atmosphere of Kirksville, but as a student it was impossible to become a true local.
I studied abroad in Angers, France—the most brilliant and ephemeral home of them all. The three months were a whirlwind of novelty: new cultures, new places, new people, and new worldviews. I was separated from everything I’d ever known, liberated but adrift.
Throughout my summers at Camp Eagle, Texas became a kind of home for me, too. It’s there that I developed some of my most meaningful and lasting friendships; it’s there that I fell in love with the outdoors while backpacking and kayaking in the blazing summer heat. The people and the landscape of southwest Texas will draw me back for years to come.
In the last five years I’ve had many homes, and no homes. Each place I’ve lived has offered something special, but never something whole. I’m continually homeful, and homeless. This move to Kansas City is yet another passing stage; if all goes according to plan, next year I’ll move yet again to start graduate school.
I’m finalizing the layout of my new room. I’m memorizing my new zip code. I’m getting to know my new students and coworkers. I’m growing accustomed to being surrounded by Royals fans. I’ve found a few radio stations that will suffice. Each day I can better navigate what I’ve realized must be the most haphazard and knotted streets in America. I have a purpose here, and I’m close to people I love. With each passing day, I feel a little more homeful and a little less homeless.