Ever since I can remember, I have been moving.
From house to house, between houses, in and out of houses, and in and out of people’s lives. In and out of beliefs and hopes and the painful prisons of my own mind.
All my life I have been moving.
It started when I was 3.
I went back and forth between mom’s house and dad’s house. One or both were apartments, then there were houses, and other places…you get the idea.
One of my first memories I have of my mom’s apartment is sunlight blasting its way in as she opened the front door. I sprinted out along the walkway on the 2nd or 3rd floor towards the gated pool. By some lucky chance of coincidence, the locked gate, which normally swung itself back and closed heavily, was open. Or it might have just been slowly closing. It closed slowly, so it wouldn’t slam and crash, or be too heavy for the older and younger residents.
I was in a one piece, maybe 4 or 5 years old, with slots all around it. Each one with a foam piece. It was bright red with a small orca on the front. It was my suit, keeping me afloat as I learned to swim, as I got stronger and stronger.
Where I’ve Been
I’ve moved to apartments with creaky screen doors and watched Dragon Ball Z in an apartment that, when I came back to the parking lot 12 years later, instantly made me taste chicken nuggets and feel like I’d come home.
I’ve lived in a house with a small bridge over a stream leading into an all-wood house surrounded by trees; it was the first house I watched Jurassic Park. I believed if I was patient enough out on that bridge, a brontosaurus might pop its head through the trees one day, smiling at me with his round gentle eyes.
I’ve lived in houses with swimming pools, houses with stairs—houses with high ceilings and a house with 37 steps to the front door. I have moved and moved and moved again.
Every house holds memories. Memories I’ve made with my mom, and my dad, and my friends…memories of tears and long nights and perfect sun-crisp mornings and late night reading.
Even when I had my own place, was always looking for another one. The next house, the next memory. I was always packing my bags and my car, looking for another place where I might be still.
When I was a little girl, I remember running out that door in my bright red one piece, my bare feet spattering on the concrete.
I was 3 or 4 or 5 years old and I rushed out under my mom’s arm holding open the creaking screen door into the sunlight, to the gate miraculously held open…or maybe only slowly closing.
When I was younger, after that moment but before I was in elementary school, we lived, momentarily, on the other side of the island. We (my mom and I) woke up before the sun and I slept in the pillows and blankets arranged in the back seat, half-asleep and munching on Thin Mint cookies for a dawn snack.
I grew up and into myself. I found my person, my now fiancé, and we moved ourselves back and forth. We moved and moved and moved ourselves around. Always, I was waiting to find that home. The place we could share.
Each time we packed and unpacked, hung our art and arranged our clothes and toothbrushes I thought, “All right, this is it”, until another unforeseen circumstance pushed us along, out the door and through a new one.
The universe was testing us, maybe, or it is just the way of renting to be at the whim of each landlord. Ballpark estimate, from age 3 to 22 I’ve called almost 20 different places “home”.
Where I Am
“Once I grow up”, I figured, “things will be different.” And it has been, but mostly not how I ever pictured it. The difference, just like my body, has always moved through space, found another location or moment to impress upon itself as the moment, the home and the dream.
Yet when I had the settling, however briefly, I also noticed a thumping in my chest, a needling question—now where do I have to go?
“Where next? What now?” I would ask myself. The stagnancy, however welcomed, becomes its own kind of discomfort.
(How can I breathe if I don’t keep moving? How can I ever take a breath if I never stop?)
That’s why surfing has always called to me. The flux and flow of moving and stillness makes sense. Move towards the wave, paddle to the break; be still and wait, float in the sunlight. From one moment to the next it is pure raw power suddenly into serenity. Waves are crashing, blistering the surface with white foam and murky light, but if you dive down deep enough there is always calm, always quiet.
Quiet to Hold You
The noise of being below is its own kind of quiet. The best kind, if you ask me, because it’s a tangible quiet, a quiet you can hold and touch and feel all around you. It’s not the quiet of silence—pure silence is formless and full of depth yet flat—under the ocean is the quiet of peace. Pure silence is formless and blunted. This has shape. This silence is bliss.
I’ve always loved the ocean, but I often hate surfing. I hate the surge of waves pulling at my toes when I duck dive; all that energy pulling me backwards doesn’t scare me so much as it makes me angry. I hate to move backwards; I hate to feel trapped.
And when the ocean catches you? When it hurls you over on the lip of a wave or yanks you tumbling into the whitewash there is no control, all movement—you are just a body.
Many times, I’ve been in the water and felt I could barely stand it.
It’s probably too on the nose, as metaphor sometimes is, but the times when the ocean holds me back are the times when I am holding myself back; the times when it will not let me go are the times when I can’t let myself go, either. I am fighting the ocean, and life, and myself. Fighting its movement and bliss. When my body disobeys me, when the ocean disobeys me, I am already unwelcomed in my own skin.
Surfing can bring you home or it can kick you out the door. Surfing can keep you running and moving, or it can force you to keep still, to wait and to stop and let go. Mostly, it does exactly what you believe you least want but probably need the most. Just like life.
How do you know you’re alive?
You keep growing and moving.
You break and re-break and heal and break some more. You lose your way and paddle out and paddle in and keep coming back to the moment. That moment is always there…it’s just hard to hold sometimes.
The audible, tangible quiet is always there. You just have to overcome everything holding you back and dive down deep enough to find it.
That clanging, metallic gate is still open somehow, or slowly closing. My bare feet patter on the dull chill concrete. It is early morning, one of those California mornings without a cloud, where the sun hits hot but the shade stays cold.
It’s taken me a long time to accept that when the ocean doesn’t accept me it’s because I’m not accepting myself. The ocean always accepts me. I just don’t always let it. It’s taken me an even longer time to embrace the movement against me, the work and the fight for myself.
I am 3 or 5 and going towards the deep end, my feet pattering faster and faster, and the pool is bright blue, the kind of blue that hurts because it is so beautiful.
No one tells you…you just learn, as life goes on, that the ebb can be as beautiful as the flow. You just start to see the ebb, embrace the fall, wait for the settling of the waves because they always do eventually—then you can come up for air.
There are grown-ups around the pool. Elderly people and other parents, maybe, starting the morning with a swim. It must have been a weekend because lots of people are there. Some stand in the shallow end; some sit on chairs around the edge. In my mind there is always an audible gasp as the bolt of red that is me blasts by.
Really, there is probably just a tiny murmur from a few of them, as a small girl comes tottering to the pool’s edge.
My whole life I have been moving. Moving in and out and between—always moving.
I reach the edge and I am small, so my steps are short and quick. 1, 2… let go.
I sink below the surface.
Quiet encloses me and holds me. I can feel it all around.
There is no moving, nowhere else to be, for now.
Finally, at least for a moment, I know I am home.