NYCnow Brooklyn

Water to a fish

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By Chloe Olewitz. Writer, thinker, polymath. Wanderthief.

I’ve lived in my current apartment for 18 months and it’s been too long. As someone who is happiest with a plane ticket in my pocket, being in one place has left me feeling stuck instead of grounded. Now the timing for my move feels right—I can’t find the juice here anymore. I’m restless in my own space and uninspired by what’s around. My habit of watching is now less an exercise in observation than it is a longitudinal study requiring patience. Comparing todays to yesterdays, local kids growing older inch by inch, old bars, new restaurants, same shops, new owners.

When I was on the road, I’d leave a place once I’d soaked up what I’d been looking for, even when I didn’t arrive knowing consciously that I’d been looking for anything at all. Why is a place called home any different? I’m not going far, I’m basically hopping the border between one Brooklyn neighborhood and the next. And yet, the adventure feels entirely new. A change of scenery, a new community, a window of my own, a stoop out front. New juice.

Looking around at my accumulations of stuff, I plan for the kind of downsizing that only moving house can inspire. The purge that at first made me nervous now excites me, a material reminder that I am not my stuff and my life will not be measured in what fills my dresser drawers. I am not my couch, I am not my closet. You are not your khakis.

The reminder seems superfluous but is admittedly one that I have required from time to time. It’s easy to get caught up in that kind of material assessment, a superficial judgment based on the commercial, the outward-facing, the appearance-based and purely physical. Even when it’s not who we are, even when it’s not what we care about or how we measure our own self-worth on a good day, on an enlightened day, it’s still in the air we breathe. It’s the water all around us in this corner of the fishbowl we inhabit.

I wonder if if the water might look different were I swimming somewhere else. Or would it just be more water to a fish, all its differences entirely indistinguishable to anyone who’d never existed outside the confines of that particular fishbowl? We get used to the water we’re in because we have to, I suppose. We acclimate and just another fishbowl starts to feel like a place called home. Sometimes, we have to clean house to see out. Scrub the algae off the walls. Filter our own tanks.

Water to a fish was originally published in Wanderthief on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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