For the past few days, I've noticed a weird feeling I get whenever I'm at home in my new apartment. It was a familiar sensation of being in an unfamiliar place, but a place that was entirely my own. At first I thought I was just lonely after having a procession of movers, cable TV installers, and Kate here for company over the weekend. But when the feeling persisted into the week, and when it was strongest when I first came in the door, I remembered where and when I'd had this feeling before.
In August 1996 I moved into the one-bedroom apartment near Dupont Circle that Liz and I shared for three years. For the first two weeks, I lived there by myself, surrounded by boxes and only the furniture that came with the apartment. I didn't even have a TV yet. I certainly didn't have the Internet (though I did have a phone line, and a computer with a modem). For those first few weeks, the only light in the living room came from the fluorescent light in the kitchen, which gave the rest of the living room an odd glow. I didn't spend much time there by myself. Liz was in Los Angeles for business when I moved our things into the apartment, and she came back to DC after those two weeks and we furnished and decorated it together.
My new apartment has a fluorescent light in the kitchen that gives the rest of the living room that same odd glow when it's the primary light source. But I also have a floor lamp that compensates and adds a more natural light to the room. I'm surrounded by boxes, but the furniture in here is all mine. It's all the same furniture I had in the Manhattan apartment so it's familiar and comforting. I don't have any Internet service right now except for my cell phone as a modem, so I feel cut off while I'm at home. (I SHOULD have cable Internet right now, but that's a different rant.)
All of these things combined to give me that same sense of being out of place in a place that should feel like home. Once I realized what I was feeling, I took control of it and reminded myself that eventually this apartment will feel like home. It just takes time. Gradually the boxes will disappear and I'll come home, sit on my couch, and watch TV without even thinking that I'm in a new place. Because it won't be new anymore.