When I was young, I wanted to live in a house with a draft and creaky floorboards.
Wanted might not be a strong enough word. I begged my parents for a guarantee that one night – after finishing our typical Friday evening marathon of TGIF on ABC – they would sit my siblings and I down and announce that we were moving to a drafty, three-storey house in a sullen neighbourhood (preferably one that was haunted by murderous ghosts). This wasn’t such a crazy scenario – we moved a lot, so they made these sorts of announcements all the time (oddly enough, always after we watched Corey and Topanga wrestle with their childhood friendship as it slowly grew into something more…Boy Meets World indeed).
At a very tender age, I’d already accepted the fact that these moving announcements were unavoidable, and as such established very little attachment to any of the houses, apartments, townhouses, or people that crossed our paths. Again, this sounds callous – perhaps even a bit spoiled – but given that what I wanted most in life was to live somewhere considerably more run-down than where I currently resided, I’ll let my past-self slide on this one (*pinches own cheek* you precocious little fucker).
I know exactly why I wanted this – it’s the same reason I currently leave the heat off in my apartment in the midst of the coldest Canadian winters, and why dust bunnies never bother me. It’s the reason why I moved to a city with walkable neighbourhoods, dramatically turn my collar up when a brisk wind blows, and love the imagery of sitting in a harbour enjoying a pint even more than the actual act.
I want(ed) to be like the characters in my books.
This type of fixation can be blamed largely on Dickens, but you just know Dostoevsky got in there too. Obviously, these were books that I would go on to re-read and better understand later in life, but at the time I felt that I already had a firm grasp on everything I needed to know: whenever there was about to be an adventure, the someone to whom that adventure was going to happen resided in a cold house with creaky floorboards. Sometimes other descriptions were utilized, but basically that was the gist. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and there was never a plush carpet involved.
Again, I must emphasize that I do realize how skewed my sample was, but the damage was quickly and irreversibly done. Once that attachment is formed, it’s very difficult to reevaluate – especially when I’m totally right. By my way of thinking, if your home is less welcoming, you are more likely to go out into the world. And the more you go out into the world, the more likely you are to embark on adventures. And the more adventures you embark on, the more interesting the life. It’s a formula that has served me quite well to date. The colder and more uncomfortable I am, the greater peace of mind I have that something wonderful is about to happen. I get this undeniable urge to learn more, fight harder, meet more people and possibly steal a loaf of bread or two along the way (this isn’t a science, people). I’ve been known to sleep on hardwood floors when a bed is available, and measure the success of a cold morning run by how much I can’t feel my face.
Today is New Year’s Day, so it seems a natural time for reassessment and self-transformation…at least that’s what all the gym advertisements say. But the thing is, looking back over the past year, I think that my darkest times were the ones where I questioned this instinct that has served me so well since childhood – an instinct that forced me to be the first in my family to get a degree, drove me to develop new skills, encouraged me to leave bad relationships, and ultimately inspired me to move across the country. The valleys of the year were always plagued by unnecessary comfort, and it was always comfort that many people around me highly recommended that I welcome. I’ve questioned myself and, as a result, this year has required patience – a valuable skill that I and many other protagonists like me have never had. I’d like to say that I’ve come out the other end a stronger person, but great writers don’t need to make weak-ass statements like that – they simply prove said growth through fulfilling (and often surprising) character development.
There’s really no one to listen to my relentless, fiction-driven real estate requests any longer. I control where I live, where I work and with whom I spend my time. I really think that’s all I need to know in order to face this New Year – perhaps that’s all I ever needed.
Well…that and a draft.