As soon as I moved across the country, I had called my parents to send me my PS4 and my copy of Fallout 4, I had left all of my belongings at their house so I wouldn't have to pay for a storage unit. As soon as it arrived in my new living space, I promptly hooked everything up and started playing. And in the weeks I spent sitting in front of my television, I realized that I had more fun building up my settlements than anything else.
Part of me rationalized this, saying that I was doing it because I'm secretly into setting up trade routes between different settlements and opening stores. I told myself I wanted to be the Commonwealth's economic genius. I told myself that I wanted to be showered in caps and watch as my settlements reached 100% happiness.
But that wasn't true.
I found myself returning to Red Rocket. As one of the earlier places you can craft and build things, it slowly gets forgotten because there aren't any settlers there. Just you and an old gas station. But there was something about its ruins that attracted me to it. I started slow, building a bed and a steamer trunk to store all of my things. Last night, I ended up putting decorations on the walls. I built up the defenses. I rebuilt everything I scrapped. I made it a home even though it was filled with rot and decay.
All of the effort I put into building this old gas station into something worth coming back to gave me a kind of happiness I've yet to find in my waking life. Right now, my room isn't covered in paintings. There are no decorations other than a jacket I've gotten used to hanging at the edge of the bed. My sheets are plain and dirty. If anyone were to walk in, they wouldn't know that I've ever lived in there. They'd think I was visiting. And they wouldn't be wrong.
I haven't had a permanent place to live for the past year. Last month, I jumped between homes every night. My day was filled with mindless busywork only to be interrupted by a mad dash to my cellphone where I'd text/call family friends I've never met, pleading with them to let me stay the night. I only washed the clothes I wore every day. I never took the time to get used to one place.
I still haven't. I still have an aching feeling in my chest that before this year is over, I'll be packing my things back into a small bag to move to the next rest stop.
The nature of my life (for the past 6-8 months anyway) mimics Fallout's gameplay. You don't have a home in the game, you have a world to explore. You have one place you need to get to and after that, you have another place. The world, in real life and in the game, continue to move whether or not you sleep.
But when you get there are moments where you can slow things down and maybe make something out of the wasteland that's the current situation. In the game, it's building a settlement, starting trade routes, and building stores. In my life, it was sitting down in front of a television for hours on end.
As much as I like traveling and moving from one place to the next. From Point A to Point B and so on, I really enjoy having a place I can call home. A place I can decorate or invite people over. A place that doesn't feel like a smelly hotel room. Most of my stress comes from this idea. That I'll never really have a home again.
As someone who spent part of their college career sleeping in cars, knife in hand, and worried I'd get mugged or attacked. I'm deathly afraid of the feeling of being homeless. There's a spectrum to what that means, for me anyway, and on one end is being the person that you walk past everyday without turning your head and on the other end -- the end I lean closer to -- is having no stability in where I sleep. It's squatting and asking for favors.
I know I'm fortunate enough to sleep with a roof over my head. But I wonder if it's too much to ask to have a roof worth sleeping under. I'm not sure if I'll ever feel comfortable in my current living space. I'm worried that most of my complaints are empty, privileged ones. And I suppose that's alright if you think that. I just want to feel safe and secure and as of right now, I don't.
I want to find a place I can call home for at least a year and I don't know if I will. But until then, I'll fire up my PS4 and return to Red Rocket and make that old gas station a home. It might be a dirty, smelly, and disgusting home but at least it's my home.