We moved around a lot when I was a kid. I was born right on Hollywood Boulevard, and from there I think we moved to Santa Monica, and from there to Portland, from Portland to Homeland, CA. From Homeland we moved back to Portland, and from there I (all by my lonesome) have gone to Oberlin, Ohio, to New York, and back to Oberlin. Staying in one place for the entire length of high school was a monumental occasion for my mother and I; I’d never attended a school for more than two years, let alone lived in one apartment for more than four. My mother has always been a bit of a nomadic spirit, flitting from one place or one project to another like a Hummingbird.
I’ve always known that I’d inherited something of the same attitude; it was, after all, me who pushed for us to move from rural Southern California back to Portland, and three years later made a similar push to move back southward to Los Angeles (a move we, thankfully, did not end up making, ensuring that I did, for once, get to fully immerse myself in the place I consider my hometown).
But it wasn’t until recently that I realized just how thoroughly I’ve become that vagabond girl. It happens to a lot of kids who move around a lot when they’re young; I met another one of us my freshman year of college, and we would often discuss our theories that by the end of sophomore year we’d be itching to be freed of the confines of our small Ohio college town for newer (and in our eyes greener) pastures. I momentarily satisfied that need by moving to New York for the summer; she’s spending the full academic year in Philadelphia and Ghana, respectively.
The feeling is similar to what’s described at the very beginning of the movie Chocolat: a wind comes in from the west, and it’s like something primal, something undeniable, is lit. We need to see what’s coming next and we won’t stop thinking about it until we get there.
Last year, that wind hit me so hard it knocked my GPA down a few points. This time it came in the form of a raging case of what others may refer to as “Sophomore-itis.” I was in my second year at Oberlin College, and all I wanted to do was leave. It had nothing to do with the school, the town, or the people I’ve surrounded myself with; I love every one of them, and I love this place. But the wind does not see that, all it sees is what could be.
I spent much of that year dreaming of New York (let’s face it, there’s a time in a vast majority of the population’s lives spent dreaming about that city), trying to figure out how to actually get there and make something happen. I’m convinced I would have burst if I hadn’t succeeded in that goal. I made it, I spent my summer there, and I spent my first month back at school relatively happy to be here.
But now that feeling is back. Not for New York; I’ve been there, I’ve seen that, and the wind is searching for something new. I’ll go back there someday, probably relatively soon, but for now there’s the rest of the world to conquer.
The motivations behind this particular instance of the Wandering Itches is a bit of a mystery to me. What’s inspiring it this time? Is it the wind, as usual? Am I feeling selfish and neglected by some of the people here who I call my friends? When is this feeling we vagabond kids get rooted in a drive for adventure, and when is it simply a convenient way to run away and “start over”? Sometimes it is frustratingly difficult to tell.
Nevertheless, that wind keeps coming for me, and it’s far too soon in my life to tell if it’ll ever really give way. I’d be supremely surprised if it did. I’m not even sure I’d want it to. For now I most certainly don’t; when else but when you’re young and being educated is it more convenient to take to the open road?
It’s like that Canadian poet Bliss Carman once wrote: “There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir, We must rise and follow her; When from every hill of flame, She calls and calls each vagabond by name."