Moving feels a whole lot like long distance travel: intimidating, exciting, scary, and exhilarating. You start the beginning of a new chapter while writing the closing line for the last. For the past days, ever since I put my belongings into boxes that filled up two cars, wondering how it was even possible to accumulate all these things but refusing to unpack the many books I love and cherish, I’ve been in a whirlwind of emotions.
Now, three nights after I first climbed into this new bed in this new room on the fifth floor of one of the many old buildings in Hamburg, I can say that the room truly looks like me even though the apartment itself doesn’t feel like it yet. Home, or should I say home-home. A place that is more than a shelter but a state of mind. A place that is comfort, security and familiarity. A place that you know every millimetre of even when the lights are out and you can’t even see your own hands.
It’s strange to think of your home town as a place you’ve never truly seen before; a place where part of you boldly wants to walk up to people and introduce yourself because you realise that you have absolutely no idea what it is that you’re doing as you stumble through streets that look familiar but oh so different from what you remember. Down the street, you lived there once, and down there, you might move there in a couple of years.
When does a place become your home? Once you hold the key to the little chambers you officially pay for? When you make the first drunken memory that better never leaves those rooms — what happens at home stays at home? When you first have your friends over — this is where I live now?
Just like a goodbye at the airport, leaving a place you once referred to as home never gets easier no matter how often you bid farewell, hug and promise to call. You try to convince yourself that it is just a building: walls and bricks and doors and a roof. But it is so much more than that. Months and years of memories — of people, small and big moments, dreams and everyday life.
A few times I tried to go back to these places to revisit old memories and I found they were gone or too painful to look at. Walls had been repainted, scratches repaired, furniture moved and replaced. But as I am unlocking the front door of this old building that holds not only my future memories but the memories of so many others before me I realise that maybe, they aren’t lost after all. They might not be as prominent as they once used to be, but they are still here. Hidden underneath new layers of paint and behind new furniture they have created a foundation and left a story of their own behind.