After all these years, there’s still a first time

Do you remember your first time? The first time you did something that made you think you might be an adult? That you might be a grown up, contributing member of society? Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I’ve just had a landmark event, one that I’d never considered a landmark until now.

For the first time in my life, I’ve completed a census form using the same address I used for the previous one. Different censuses [censi?] through the years have found me in different cities, or at least at different addresses in the same cities.

After all this time, have I found a permanent homeplace? When I moved here, I moved into a freshly rehabbed building. New paint, floors, mechanicals and appliances – the works. And now? Normal wear and tear chips the paint and cracks some tiles. There’s a faucet that needs an extra push to keep it from dripping. That’s life.

But in all my years here, one part of me hasn’t changed. I’d still rather read a menu than a recipe, so I’ve never used my fancy oven or touched its confusing array of buttons and knobs. Its instruction manual lives happily untouched while I’m within walking distance of award-winning restaurants.

I haven’t owned a car since I can’t remember when. And you know something? I don’t miss those days. A car’s a hassle, not a convenience, when you live in city centre. Nothing I need’s more than a 10-minute walk away. It’s a walk that can take 15-20 minutes because I usually meet and chat with friends along the way.

So I guess that’s why I’m still living here, after a lifetime of shedding addresses like dandruff. In the beginning, it was simply inertia, with occasional thoughts of finding a slightly larger place to accommodate a growing book collection and other things that George Carlin talked about in his “Stuff” routine. But there’s a national housing shortage and I was feeling a bit guilty about looking for a second bedroom. Particularly since I’ve been preaching minimalism for quite a while now. [If you can’t carry it on your back or stuff it in the overhead, you don’t need it.] Besides, I’m in a rent-control zone and moving would cost me an extra €500 a month to find an equivalent place, to say nothing of a larger one.

A friend pointed out that I could stay where I am and use the extra money to travel, which seemed like a brilliant solution at the time.

Then Covid came.

I’m not saying that the past two years have been wasted. I’ve found ways to explore myself and environment in a different, much more personal, way. The travel urge isn’t gone, just re-directed, into my mind. One of those voyages yielded my book, It’s Your Day, Make It Your Tao. A more recent trip into my brain cells has found another book, on a different topic, that’s moved beyond scribbles and random notes to the semi-organized chaos that precedes procrastination on a first draft.

But in spite of what I told the census form, four walls really aren’t to my taste. Exploring new places, be they inside myself or out in the world, is part of who I am. Closed minds and closed doors are anathema to me, although I’m curious about the fear, complacency, or lack of curiosity that drives people to these positions.

There’s a German word, fernweh, that describes my view of life. It generally translates as wanderlust. In her book, Elsewhere, Irish Times columnist Rosita Boland describes “the pain of not being in foreign parts. A desire to travel. An ache for distant places.” Whether we’re talking about experiencing new places, new knowledge or new experiences, it’s a skin I’m comfortable wearing. The lyrics of Far Away Places [with strange sounding names calling, calling me…] are never far from my consciousness. Thank you, Ms. Boland, for finding a name for my condition.

Life isn’t about where you’ve been. Or even where you are. It’s about where you’re going.

By the way, here are some of the neighborhood changes I’ve seen since I moved in. [If you love the sound of jackhammers in the morning. . .]

The view from my front window – then and now. To be honest, full moons give me more peaceful feelings than religious architecture.
And the view from my back window – then and now. We’ll see if the pigeon keeps on hanging around when there are 200+ students living in the new building.

2 Comments on “After all these years, there’s still a first time

  1. Same for me, Jim. It didn’t even strike me until I read your column!

    • Is it a sign of age – or a sign of the times – that home has become a place for us and our stuff, instead of a memory we’ve collected along the way?

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