This is a question I have been contemplating lately. Perhaps it is because the annual summer migration known as PCSing (permanent change of station) is upon us and so many of our friends are packing up, picking up, and moving on. Some are returning to the United States or to their home countries while others are heading onto new foreign adventures. For the moment we are staying put and watching new people migrate to Tirana and put down their own temporary roots. And everyone does it in their own way. Some people arrive, unpack quickly and go about making their new house their new home. They buy new accessories to customize their standard issue furniture, paint their walls to match their personalities, and quickly integrate themselves into social circles as though they have been their all their lives. Others live out of their moving boxes, unpacking only as needed, keeping to themselves, and biding their time until they too will be moving on once again.
When we arrived two years ago, we did a combination of these things. Due in large part to our super efficient housekeeper, all of our boxes were unpacked and homes found for our belongings the day they arrived. We quickly hung our family pictures to personalize the otherwise generic walls, swapped out our standard issued mattress for the pillow topped one we had brought with us, and filled the kitchen with the scenes and smells that reminded us of home. (My Kitchen Aid mixer is always the first item that is unpacked and put to use since in my mind, a kitchen just isn't my kitchen unless this bright red appliance is perched upon a counter). With the exception of additional transformers, we didn't, however, buy anything that is specific to our current house. Having learned the hard way that the framed print that is perfect over one mantle won't work in a house without a fireplace and custom drapes are only appropriate for the windows they were designed for, we arranged what we already owned to work in our current situation. It wasn't a perfect match but it was good enough for the time being. Or so we told ourselves. We immediately immersed ourselves in our new jobs and routines, quickly made new friends, and settled into our new lives but somehow this move was different from the onset. Whereas before I felt as though staying put at the end of an assignment was a remote possibility, I knew that here, for better or worse, there was a firm end date in sight. And I feel as though this thought has never been far from my mind. On both good days and bad I have reminded myself that this situation is only temporary. This certainly isn't any way to live and I have reminded myself of this over the past two years but I still haven't been able to shake the "its only on loan" feeling.
And now we have entered into our six month countdown and the temporary feeling is turning into a sense of reality. Instead of focusing on the now I'm focusing on the future. Instead of hanging pictures from our most recent trip on the wall I'm thinking about saving them for our next temporary set of walls. After all, why mar the concrete wall with a hole that will only serve a purpose for a few short months? As friends who have lived in the same house for decades comment on my nomadic lifestyle with both envy and horror I wonder how I really feel about it. I find myself wondering what it will be like to finally settle into a "permanent" house and put down real roots. Will it be a relief to finally unpack knowing another move isn't on the horizon or will I feel an itch to move on after a few years. Only time will tell since that day is still years in the future. In the meantime I'm focusing on what is coming up next. I'm telling myself that three years is a long enough time to establish roots. Maybe they won't grow real deep but perhaps they will be deep enough to feel somewhat permanent. We'll once again have the opportunity to choose our own house instead of having one assigned to us and our furniture will be our own. We'll have three years to unpack, settle down, and make our house our home and our neighborhood our neighborhood. So the real question I need to ponder now is how to make it happen. How do you really establish roots on a compressed timeline?