I moved all over the US and was scared to put down roots anywhere. Living with my sister showed me that having a home base is good.

    Kathleen Levitt, left, moved to New York to live with her sister.

    Courtesy Kathleen Levitt

    I’ve moved countless times across the States throughout my adult life.As a writer, I thought the concept of home was abrasive to my creative practice. I moved to New York with my sister, and everything changed. 

    I grew up in Connecticut in a cloistered home environment that didn’t always feel safe. To get away, my sister and I would drive around our rural town and the surrounding towns, listening to music and trying to find the longest routes home.

    We didn’t have a direction or purpose behind the drives, and our car was rickety and unreliable, but it felt good. It felt different — it wasn’t home. But the high ended as soon as we rounded the corner to our house.

    I was constantly moving

    After I finally moved out, I didn’t stop moving. I lived everywhere from Ohio, to Massachusetts, to Maine, to Colorado, to California, to Oregon. No matter where I was, I never settled. I didn’t accumulate things because I was always thinking about leaving. I always wanted the option to get up and get out. In most places I lived, I slept on the floor, on a piece of foam, on coaches, and sometimes in my car in parking garages between shifts.

    I used candles instead of lamps because I didn’t own any. I hung postcards in my bedroom using earring studs, because I didn’t own any artwork. I left my books and clothes in piles because I didn’t have shelves or a dresser.

    I worked in cafés, restaurants, and bars, and I’d take silverware, napkins, and food from the places I worked. I also took toilet paper from the public library and downloaded borrowed CDs onto my computer for music. I had enough for rent, but I couldn’t save. Still, I was making choices. I didn’t believe that life was linear and that structure meant home. I didn’t feel unstable; I knew what I was doing, and I was creative about it.

    During my childhood and early adulthood, my home life was caging. It was an often unfriendly and hostile environment that robbed me of independence and free thought.

    Eventually, I moved to New York with my sister

    As a writer, I’ve always wanted to live as bravely as I want to write. Consigning myself to conventional notions of home and family felt antithetical to courage. As Rachel Cusk writes in “Outline,” good writing comes out of “tension between what’s inside and what’s outside.” I worried that if I created a life that was calm and predictable, I’d lack the tension that fueled creativity.

    In 2020, the pandemic hit and changed my perspective. My graduate program went online and I was isolated from everyone I knew in Oregon. I rented a car and drove back east two weeks after the country went on lockdown. I didn’t want to be in Connecticut, so I moved to New York with my sister.

    When we got our Brooklyn apartment, we had nothing. I felt as though I could still leave if I wanted. But my sister had different ideas. The months passed, and the city came back to life. My sister wanted to hang things on our walls, to get plants and a cat. She wanted to buy kitchenware and find recipes, have dinner together, and host movie nights.

    She’s a visual artist, and she saw our place becoming our very own “arthouse” — a place where we could create separately and together, inviting others in when we chose. She was thinking about our future.

    She helped me through my fear of putting down roots

    Sure, I’d write in the same space where she was drawing, but I wasn’t ready to commit. I wasn’t ready to give up on all the places I could still live. I didn’t want to say this is where I live, and this is who I am. I didn’t want to want to stay.

    “You can still leave whenever you want,” my sister said. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a place that feels safe while you’re here.” She told me that the place and family we were creating could be different. It could be a place where we created what we wanted to, whenever we wanted to create it.

    We’ve lived together for four years now. In that time, we’ve made a place that defies what home used to mean. It’s a place full of quiet and disruption. A place where we sleep on good beds, eat in the shower, listen to the radio loudly, and interrupt each other to ask about the syntax, the line weight, the pimples on our backs.

    My sister has taught me that home and family mean creating alongside someone you love. She’s taught me that our space and our connection can offer a new version of peace.

    I’m still susceptible to that pull of relocation and anonymity. But I’m now also susceptible to the allure of coming back. That cool warm smell with the windows open and my sister coming out of her room in her leather slippers. The cats asking for food. And all of our things, exactly where we left them.

    Read the original article on Business Insider


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