By Liam O’Mahony
“This is where we used to live/How is the neighbor downstairs?/How is her temper this year?/I turned up your TV and stomped on the floor just for fun …”
– Barenaked Ladies, “The Old Apartment”
Have you tallied how many times you moved since high school? I never planned to move that often, but career itches were scratched as youthful ambition guided me around the country.
The moves started in college when I transferred twice, going from a two-person dorm to commuting at home to re-embarking out of town to a four-student townhouse. During my junior year, I discovered an off-campus house owned by the Episcopal Church with two acquaintances that offered rock-bottom rent. As a senior, I shared a three-bedroom apartment with a classmate and a high school friend.
After college, relocations piled up with jobs in different cities. I rented a room at a house near the University of New Hampshire with roommates I did not know. They were decent guys, but it was not ideal.
Six months into my Granite State stay, I accepted a job in Chicago and was fortunate to sublet a room in a Wicker Park townhouse from a family friend. After learning the Windy City ropes from my “big brother,” I found a studio near downtown and went solo. How could I forget the morning my car was stolen?
A year later, a new gig emerged in Seattle, so I overpaid for a fourth-floor, one-bedroom apartment near the Space Needle. It was spacious but corralling groceries up the rickety elevator was a chore. The rent proved unsustainable and when the lease expired, I signed another lease in haste in a building that wasn’t what I thought it was. Two friends rescued me and I moved out the next day, retreating to a studio in a better area. How could I forget needing eight quarters for laundry in the basement?
Eventually, a friend had three extra rooms in a house, and I joined a great group of guys in a quiet residential area. How could I forget my cavernous room in the basement?
After seven years in the drizzle, I ventured to sunny Chandler, Ariz., and lived in a condo for a year. Then another move was necessary. How could I forget a friend of a friend letting me store all my possessions in his living room, a humbling and overwhelming experience, while I searched for a place?
Once I bought a house, I quickly forgot about the nomadic ways of roommate life with security deposits, futons, messy kitchens, jockeying for shower time and splitting utility bills. Then three years of plummeting assessments and the extreme heat drove me home to Western New York.
I kept my belongings and furniture in storage for two years before buying the next house. It showed me how little I needed on a daily basis after not having access to so many things that made up life’s belongings. The ensuing purge was productive, even when bittersweet moments resurfaced while sorting through what to keep, toss or recycle.
Between leaving home in 1992 and returning to the area in 2012, there were 18 moves. I covered more ground than I ever would have imagined; from sleepy Dover, N.H., to bustling Lincoln Park to the moody tranquility of the Emerald City to the suburban sprawl of Phoenix, each stop produced interesting experiences and memories.
Relocating was never easy, but it produced versatile work experiences and refined self-reliance. Plus, how could I forget my beloved fraternity of roommates and the camaraderie that developed over poker, golf, boating, mountain biking and concerts?
Liam O’Mahony, of the Town of Lockport, is retired from relocating.