Transience

Summerdandelions

Dear Keatsway,

I’m in transition. In fact I’ve been living out of suitcases and boxes for the past three months, and I still haven’t found a permanent residence. Everywhere I’ve lived since July has been short term, and in a few short days it will be October (the month that I promised my current flatmate I would definitely be gone). Yet I still don’t know when the magic moment will arrive where I find an apartment in the right location at the right price with just enough amenities and natural lighting that I can see myself calling it home for the next 12 months.

The temporality of my living situation has made it hard to find anything I need, let alone feel settled. A few months ago I was accepted into two graduate schools of choice in the United Kingdom. Weeks ago I received the news (staggered by a few fortnights) that my tuition would be fully covered by either American or Canadian student loans. One month ago I decided to defer (due to lack of cost of living funds). Today I have officially deferred at my second school of choice as well. It feels real now. The dream has been deferred and the reality of the day-to-day in my ordinary job without the comfort of my sanctuary or a place to truly make my own has been unsettling, upsetting, and startling (and dare I say it–depressing).

As a matter of what I deemed to be absolutely necessary at the time (to open up the possibility of studying abroad, I needed to end all rent contracts), I broke my lease in May.  The lease of my apartment that I had loved for three years to do something that I would love more than any possession. Near the end of July I moved out my furniture, although I had physically moved out at the beginning of the month. When an opportunity arouse to house sit in an upscale neighborhood and get paid, I couldn’t turn it down, especially when I needed everything I could get to put in my savings account for England.

A middle aged couple, professors by trade, did research in Berkeley, while I watered plants and watched over their house  (and their cat had it not been put down the day before they left). It was marvelous month that made the reality of my move unbelievable as I moved out of my 670 square feet apartment into a house easily four times the size situated on an acre of land. I stayed in a master bedroom in a king sized bed and I ate breakfast every morning looking out at three different types of roses. I picked fresh tomatoes and herbs from the garden and hosted several garden parties with friends on their back deck. When my father visited, he had a room to himself and dozens of areas to read the books he brought with him: the deck, the sunroom, the study, the dining room…

It was a dream come true while it lasted. Then the harsh reality that nothing was permanent reared its head, as I cleaned the house, made the beds, and took out the laundry and moved into the basement of a friend’s duplex, greeted by the dozens of boxes and furniture parts I had relocated there with my father weeks earlier. Instead of a Pottery Barn master Suite I would face a room littered with about 50 dead and alive bugs in what was clearly not intended to be a bedroom but instead basement storage space.  I was resourceful and called up a few friends to help me set up my temporary bedroom that week, after the room had been sprayed for bugs and thoroughly cleaned.

Now I am settled, my house-mate and I have reached a certain currency in our interactions that is neither too warm or too cold, friendly yet detached. This is not the way either one of us wants to live any longer than we have to.

Image by Carli Jeep from Unsplash

It’s nearing the point in my journey where I feel quite discouraged and disconnected. My dreams loom before me as unattainable and unreal. I can’t handle another year of isolation and displacement at work. Yet this is my reality. I long for the leisurely mornings on the balcony of my old apartment with my own mugs, and cutlery (there is simply not enough room for my dishes and my roommates, so I’ve been using hers since August) looking out onto the world from a place I felt that been molded and shaped by my personality. Now I awaken as a guest who has overstayed her welcome, in an apartment without a balcony and almost no natural lighting. There are four suitcases sprawled across the floor of my bedroom, and my 1970s curtains block windows where bugs creep in land on my blanket. I have visited three potential apartments, and I had two other apartments I meant to see rented out before I could view them. I have called more than twice as many places as have called me back and easily spent every day scrolling through every apartment website in town.

Keatsway, I write here with no answers or revelations, but with the hope that the next time I write it will be from the balcony of my new apartment.

Yours with best wishes (and prayers for patience and fortitude),

Brightstar

P.S. Keatsway maybe this is cheating but I just found this draft today (from September 27) and realized I’d never posted it.  As an update I am now in my 550 square feet apartment (since mid October) with a remodelled balcony that looks out on a hill. I watch the sunrise every morning above this hill as I make breakfast with my own cutlery  and drink hot lemon water out of my own mugs. I am grateful every day to be here in a room of my own.

The Holy Tussle : Longing for England

brightlights

Dear Keatsway,

Lately I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to write. I’ve started so many new projects this year (a small group based on Storyline, a church sermon, new presentations at work, a cooking frenzy) that I am worried I won’t finish the one project that matters the most: graduate school applications for England.  I feel like I am in the midst of the final struggle between almost finishing and not quite. I fear I’ll end up stuck in this in between zone, the holy tussle.

Transformation of any kind always exacts a kind of holy tussle.  The newborn butterfly struggles to open its wings so it can conjure up the strength to fly.  So, too, with artists, inventors, mystics and entrepreneurs. –Tama Kieves

What happens if a butterfly never masters the struggle to open its wings?
Does it lose its opportunity to transform?

big-flower on butterfly evening time

It took a lot of gumption three years ago to navigate all the major shifts in my life.  To graduate with my first Master’s, apply for an American job, move to America, start a new job, make new friends, orient myself to American culture. And now that I have a steady job and have settled into a routine, making a leap seems like a contradiction. Why move when I live in a nice city with good friends and full time employment?

I thrive on change and challenge, even though it terrifies me most of the time. Yet when I become too comfortable a ripple of restlessness runs through me. I am a nomad at heart, and my desire for travel and adventure take over. To make this crazy dream reality–to become an English graduate student– I have to  first overcome my own setbacks:  insecurity, procrastination, and uncertainty.

Until I send my application my life will feel out of focus. My situation could transform in an instant, but it’s blurry until I move past this transition phase.  I can’t see farther than the next step ahead of me, like a foggy landscape at dusk. I know there is a pink horizon on the other side, but for now all I see is white haze.

fogdusk

Visions of a new continent, a new city, new challenges whirl past me, and I wonder if my dream to study English in a graduate program in the UK will someday become a reality. I admire you Keatsway for already making so many of your postgraduate dreams come true: working in Johannesburg and in a few days Geneva. I only hope I can use your successes as a springboard for my own.

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In the meantime, I’ll keep doing what I know how to do best. Attend my weekly yoga class and stay grounded.  Keep my shoulders back, my heart forward. Breathe deeper, reach further than I did a moment earlier. Maybe moving past the holy tussle is as easy as deciding to trust yourself. Trust that I know what the next step is,  that I’ve been here before, and I will eventually make it to the other side of this white fog to the bright clarity of a new horizon.

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Hoping this upbeat perspective lasts beyond my yoga class,

xo Brightstar