As we returned to school this year, we discussed over Zoom what we did this summer. Most people said “nothing,” and a few “went to the Cape.” I, on the other hand, moved this summer, driving 800 miles from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Massachusetts, all while having no idea that people here call Cape Cod “the Cape.”
Moving is already stressful enough with buying a house and selling your house. And, if the last time you moved was when you were two years old, packing away what you considered to be your entire existence into cardboard boxes in a haste, hoping nothing breaks despite your pitiful stacking, along with saying goodbye to decade-old friends and a life that grew to be mostly predictable and very comfortable. But it’s even more stressful when you have to buy a house you’ve never seen in real life and sell your house by fleeing it every time the realtor gives a tour to a potential buyer, then disinfect everything with alcohol wipes upon return. Then there’s saying goodbye to friends in small, lackluster gatherings all adorned in masks, not even a hug goodbye.
I never pegged myself as “the moving type.” My parents didn’t have jobs that involved relocations, and we never seemed to have any plans to move (until proven otherwise). I saw many people come and some go in Ann Arbor, but it was always the sympathy I felt. Only now can I begin to empathize. There’s a certain rhythm of life that lulls you in when you grow used to living somewhere for long enough. The feeling of your car turning into your neighborhood, the annual ice cream social at one of the elementary schools, pointless college football rivalries, the intense music education culture, the go-to, reliably good restaurants, anything. It can be nice. Everything exciting is already within a dependable scope.
On the road to my new life, things mostly felt normal. Car after car lined the expressways of the Midwest and crazy drivers maneuvered dizzily in and out of steady lines. We said “cow” when we passed cows and saw many billboards screaming phone numbers in the slight chance you were severely injured, or that maybe you would somehow remember their number when you might meet such a fate. The only tell-tale sign that things were not in pre-pandemic times was the extra ugly looks we got from the people at a rest-stop in Ohio. I remember their accusing eyes floating over hot pink masks, just for us. “China virus, Kung flu, etc.,” was floating in the air and my family looked “Chinese enough” for them to blame. We only got a few looks, but the whole time I was thinking about those videos I’d seen on social media of Asian grandmothers being cruelly assaulted as anti-Asian sentiment in the country peaked. I was scared, but also maybe just paranoid. I didn’t stick around to find out which one, though.
I’ve never really moved before, so now my first time actively trying to make friends since kindergarten has been over Zoom classes. It’s been difficult, maybe, but the concept of meeting someone entirely online is the strangest part. Even in the spring, when I could only see my friends virtually, I had still spent much more time with them in person in the past. Online was our departure from the norm. But now, my norm for seeing classmates started, and is, in a virtual setting. I’ve arrived at an inconvenient time, but time waits for no one.
There is no “convenient time,” pandemic or not, to hesitate in trying to find the right place to jump into a new life. Discovering the rhythm of somewhere new, even when it feels like you’ve been thrown in head first, can be nice. I have many unopened, unfamiliar doors as my new life reconfigures to my relocation. Everything is an exciting, unknown first for me right now and I might as well make the best of it.