Heimat. The word mean home in German…but the term also conveys a subtler nuance, a certain tenderness. One’s Heimat is not merely a matter of geography; it is where one’s heart lies. –Jenna Blum, Those Who Save Us
Today (well, this weekend) is a very auspicious weekend for me. It’s easy to forget it, considering I’m working all the crazy hours this holiday weekend and life’s been a little…um…how to say this nicely…sucky? sure, yep, sucky…lately in Amy-land. Or at least a little scattered and up-in-the-air and WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHAT WILL HAPPEN-y and honestly a little scary. But this weekend marks kind of a big anniversary here in the world of Amy.
Ten years and a couple of months ago, a whole decade (a whole decade! that’s a long time!), I was living out west and ready to move somewhere else. I was in a similar place; all up-in-the-air and ready to start a new chapter and not knowing what I wanted to do with myself. I knew I was ready to leave where I was, but not sure where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do.
I was talking to my friend C., who was my college roommate remained a friend after college, one day, about my plans. Or lack thereof. And she said, “Hey! You know, since my roommate got married and moved out, I’ve been living in this little apartment, but I’d love to move into a bigger place. And Albany’s great. I think you’d really love it here. Why don’t you move here?”
Honestly, I was so lost as to what to do, and so ready to move on with my life, I didn’t even think about it for very long. New York was really where I wanted to end up – my family is here – and I liked the idea of living in a bigger city. I liked the idea of living with C. again – we’d had a good time living together the first time around. She knew the area, so she could help me out while I found my footing. She could help us find an apartment while I was in the middle of moving, since she was here, and in a bigger area I’d have a better chance of finding a job. It was a win all-around. (Probably not so much for poor C., because she had to do SO MUCH WORK before I got here. Thank you, C.!)
It was a crazy fury of moving and planning and packing. You know what’s fun? Making five years of your life fit in a car. And still see out of the back window in order to drive. And put two cats in a carrier and drive them across the country. THAT’S a good time. I still can’t believe I did that and survived.
I drove across the country in August 2002. Dumbcat slept the whole time. Every now and then he would stretch languorously and meow a little and go BACK to sleep. He is the best passenger. I’d roadtrip with Dumbcat any day. My other cat MEOWED FOR THREE DAYS. She didn’t stop once. CONSTANT MEOWS. I tried letting her out of the carrier. Nope. I tried petting her. Nope. Nothing worked. It was three days of constant meowing and yowling. I wanted to throw her out of the car at 70 miles per hour at one point. I DIDN’T, but I wanted to. Mostly I just turned my music up really loud and sighed a lot.
I made it across the country in three days. I stayed in two hotels where I snuck the cats in when no one was looking like a THIEF IN THE NIGHT. This was pre-GPS days so I’m not 100% sure how I didn’t get lost. Mostly I think that’s because if you drive across the country, you stay on the same highway most of the way. I can’t imagine why else I didn’t get lost. I get lost daily in my own town. I didn’t stop and look at things because I did that on the way over and on the way home it was all about just getting there as quickly as possible.
When I passed the New York state border sign I cheered and cheered and I will not confirm or deny I cried a little. I love my state, yo. Othercat meowed some more. That’s what she did. Dumbcat slept. Much as he’s doing now as I’m writing this. Little has changed in Dumbcat-ville, other than the item of furniture he sleeps on.
I spent a week with my parents, and then it was time to head to my new home and C., who had an apartment all ready for us to move into. She drew me a map of how to get to her apartment which I wish I could find because it was awesome. I thought I’d saved it. It was all squiggly lines and “TAKE THIS EXIT!” and “DO NOT PARK HERE!” and it made me giggle. I was staying with C. in her apartment for a few days, then we were moving over Labor Day weekend into the new place.
I made it to Albany without getting lost again. I don’t know how I did these things without my TomTom. And I found her apartment and there was C.! Who I hadn’t seen in five years! And we had a happy reunion with much laughing and tomfoolery.
I spent a few days job-hunting while C. worked and then we spent the holiday weekend moving into our new apartment, which was gigantic and echoey and had wood floors and there were many shenanigans that day because guess what? Moving sucks. There is never a case where moving is a fun time. Not ever.
But after we were all moved in (well, except for the putting-away, which always takes forever and a day) C. took me for a tour of my new home. We drove all around the Capital District and she showed me all kinds of things. We came up over this little rise and THERE WAS THE CITY and I OOHED and I AAHED. The capitol. The Egg. The Hudson River. The highways. Teeny tiny one-way streets and old buildings and the park and I must have looked like a kid in a candy store with my big eyes and my “ooh, look at THAT!” and “ooh, what is THAT ONE?” (“That’s a bank, I think. It’s not that exciting.” C. is very patient and knows I’m goofy.)
I feel crazy head-over-heels in love with the Capital District ten years ago this weekend, and knew that this ill-thought-out plan of moving here, which really was done on a whim, was one of those examples you hear about of being in the right place at the right time.
This is where I was meant to be all along. I love everything about where I live. I love the area; I love the arts scene; I love the people; I love that I live in the state capital; I love that it’s a big city with a small-town feel; I love that I’m close enough to my parents to visit them but far enough away that they don’t just pop in whenever they want; I love that I’m close enough to New York City to visit now and then; I love that we get real musicians and theatrical tours in the area; I love that we get all the seasons; I love the hometown pride people who live here have; I love the history in the area. I could go on. There are a lot of things I love about living here. I can think of very few things I DON’T love about living here. I’ve lived in a lot of places, over the years, some better than others, but none of them felt like home. None of them had that click when I lived there, including the town where I grew up. They all felt like train stations, where I was waiting for the train to bring me somewhere else, the place where I belonged. I always had one eye out for where I’d go next. I was unsettled. I was itchy. When I got here, the train stopped. This is where I belong. This is where I’m meant to be. This is home.
So, happy tenth anniversary to me of living in the best possible place to live! Well, for me. I’m sure where you live is awesome, and potentially the best possible place ever for YOU to live, too. At least, I hope it is. Everyone deserves to live in the best possible place for them. And thank you, C., for offering to let me live with you ten years ago today! Without that, I probably never would have ended up here, and who knows where I would be now, or what I would be doing, or what kind of life I would be living? And yes, things are weird and up-in-the-air at the moment, but I’m still living in the best possible place. That’s still the case.
I love you, Capital District! Thank you for taking me in and making me welcome. I’m proud to call myself one of your residents. Thanks for being home.