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On moving out and moving within

Moving out of your parent's place is a different experience for everybody, eliciting a myriad of emotions. Often, it can be a relief; sometimes, it can be a harrowing experience you feel tremendously unprepared for. In many cases, both feelings ensue. Moving happens in different ways for different people, or it might not happen at all. I didn’t ever think I would be in the position to move out but then social services decided that it was time for me to do so, and expeditiously.

Since then, this move has been the harbinger of destruction.

However, I was yet to see that this destruction was merely a shedding; I would soon form a fresher, firmer epidermis, more appropriate for the new setting. My new skin is almost impenetrable. This place is the only thing that gets inside and seemingly pours out of me, all at once.

When I moved out, the city was just recovering from the brunt of the COVID-19 Pandemic. London is still haemorrhaging from the damage done to its economy, and the scarring did not spare the communities and environment either. Few have been untouched by the impact of coronavirus, and recently we have collectively sunk into a cost-of-living crisis. It isn’t like London was amazingly affordable beforehand but having to decide whether we want heat in our homes or three nutritious meals in the day shows how critical our condition is.

The thing that frightened me the most about leaving my mother’s place was having to be financially independent. I graduated from university in 2019 but it was extremely difficult attempting to find a graduate job as an English graduate, and the pandemic did not help that at all. Instead, I was a barista until it became a bit too absurd for me – a year of finessing latte art while people had to close the lids themselves behind plexiglass, muffling “thank you” through masks if they ever bothered to make the effort as we accordingly attempt to force a smile through our eyes because our mouths, too, are concealed, in the middle of a global pandemic? I came home from every shift existentially disturbed, shaking and crying about the state of my mind and the state of the world and wondering how we could save both, all at once.

As a lesbian living in London, the majority of my identity is reinforced by nightlife culture. There are a lot of clubs these days that cater to being a safe space for QTIPOC, and as a young adult, I found myself frequenting places like Pxssy Palace every month. These nights were extremely important to me; needless to say the pandemic transformed this necessity completely. Everyone found themselves looking inward as they stayed home, and once things opened up again, I found it hard to come back out once again.

It was hard to step out because I was afraid that I would be met with animosity from people that looked like me, but didn’t live like me. I wanted to immerse myself in my community, especially while feeling homesick for both my home here with my mother and the time I had spent in Jamaica with my father a year prior. I wanted to enjoy Jamaican cuisine, culture and community. South London has a lot of spaces where Jamaicans and other Afro-Caribbean people thrive, but the trepidation I feel attempting to access those spaces while being a lesbian is unbelievably palpable, preventing me from them. Perhaps I do not give my culture enough grace; perhaps they have grown in that sense. I do not want to go and see for myself, alone, is all.

Another fear I have of course revolves around coronavirus: being aware of myself and my others in spaces, being clean and staying at home when I am I’ll for the sake of others. I have always been a germaphobe but after I experienced coronavirus first-hand when I had it and when my family had it, I grew warier of how troublesome and harrowing this virus is on the body and how much it affects the people you care deeply about. I am much more conscious of my surroundings, how often I go out, where I go to and how I can prevent the spreading of germs in public as well as in my home. When everyone else grows more and more indifferent to the actual physical manifestation of this virus, it is hard to maintain good practice without fear of judgement from your peers. It’s bad enough that I hid my OCD already, but when an entire world pandemic has resulted from germ spreading yet people still do not care, it naturally makes you lose hope in spending time in public with these same people.

Learning how to live these past few years has genuinely been a feat for me. I believe that I've finally overcome the worst of it, and I can generally find my footing these days. There are a few ways in which I’ve managed to do so, and the common factor within all of the ways is compassion.

Love has been an important teacher to me my whole life, but during these years when I felt I lost my way, I also felt like I couldn’t access a loving world. Yet I managed to look to love in my hardest times, accumulating the skill of compassion to fight against fear along the way.

In all the situations where I am affronted with my own, or others, anxieties, I remember to be loving, accepting, and understanding - almost treating it like a gentle wave passing so the fear rolls out from within me and I can connect with my reality.

I’ve found that to live alone, or with others, in this world, you have to be able to love. You have to be able to love yourself, other people, and this world, to try, to see, to be. I’ve come to find that what was destroyed when I moved out were the walls I put around my heart. It’s hard to accept how sensitive I can be some days, I genuinely cannot move past it on others, but on the days when compassion manages to shine through from within me, breaking down the walls, I feel so free to move however, and wherever, I please.

Written by Reanar James

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