top of page
  • Writer's pictureAmanda Rakel

Nailing (Taping?) It Home

Updated: Jul 5




At the beginning of April I boldly announced on my instagram stories that I was going to hang up my photos. After two years of being in the apartment it was time to hang them up, which for me was a big deal. It signalled I was ready to commit to Zurich. 


That April day I diligently organised what rooms would house which photos. I leaned them up against the walls they’d “soon” be hung on…and then I didn’t touch them until we were well into the month of June. 


At the tail end of June, I finally willed myself to hang some up by myself. This is no small feat when you’re clumsy and live alone with no one to say “a little more to the right”, as you try and keep the photo from hanging lopsided. 


Getting the photos up was a mix of: 

  1. What a hassle. 

  2. I’m indecisive. Should the water photo really hang there? And should it be horizontal or vertical? 

  3. Does this frame colour even match the colour of the wall?

  4. Fuck this double-sided-tape-instead-of–nail-in-the-wall nonsene, it takes ages. 

  5. …but making holes in the wall is also not great for when I need to move out (I hammered three nails into the wall anyways, despite this line of thought). 

  6. Oh, actually this feels quite nice getting these up. 

And then the true subconscious worry

7. What if I move soon? 


As April and May rolled by without any progress to my picture hanging quest, I felt watched by the framed posters, paintings and photographs “were you ever going to hang us up?” they seemed to ask. Clearly there was a laziness factor - it’s annoying having to measure how far up the wall these frames need to go. It’s annoying getting them level. It’s annoying using this stupid double sided tape to hang them up….though they’re actually pretty effective if you double up on the amount of strips recommended on the packet. 


But above all, I was struck by how deeply into my subconscious it’s gotten that I’m apprehensive about committing to a place. I needed to override this irrational fear. So after two years of living in the apartment, I picked up a hammer and put three nails in the wall. 


As the hammer hit the head of the nails, I felt a part of me wince. The inner anxious Amanda declaring “oh my god, she’s committing. Is she sure about this?”. I used the measuring stick with fluid in the middle, analysing if the bubble hit the centre of the liquid. My DIY home skills could use some work. I don’t think I lined the nails perfectly, but “whatever” I thought, at least I finally did it. I felt a sense of lightness hanging the photos up. 


Now there was more space on the dressers that the photos had been leaning up against the wall from. It made room for other photos - childhood snaps now populate the surface, and a photo of my grandpa and I digging up potatoes together. A yearly tradition from when I lived in Copenhagen. We’d boil the potatoes and slather them in salted butter and lovage and make salmon over a wood chip grill. My grandfather now has Alzheimer - he’s a shell of the man that he used to be. So the photo is a reminder of better times. The day before I decide to post this article, we find out my grandmother has it too…I need to hang up a nice photo of her and I, and make many more memories with her before it’s too late. 


The Origins of Fear of Country Commitment 

 

After high school, I moved countries about every two years over the course of a decade. Thanks to this constant uprooting, I think my body got stuck in a mode where it anticipates no place to be permanent. On a subconscious level, I’m always on edge. I adore my apartment in Zurich, but I’ve not truly allowed myself to settle into it fully - evident through my lack of final touches.  “What ifs” constantly hum in the background of my brain:  “what if you suddenly have to move apartment again?”, “what if you have to move country again?”. I reason it’s better to live in a state that allows me to pack up quickly, which means forgoing hanging anything on the walls. 


In the space of those 10 years after high school, I packed up boxes and shipped myself off to somewhere else 13 times. I’m going to go out on a whim here and say that that’s probably more than average for most people. For someone who’s always valued stability, my living trajectory after leaving high school has been surprising. But then again, not. While I remained in the same international school pretty much from Kindergarten to my graduation, the nature of international school is that people rarely stay long. I was a constant on campus, but many friends weren’t. I remember my first deep sense of loneliness hitting me in the 8th grade when all my best friends had either moved to another country or moved school. 


Perhaps the seed of stubborness to commit to one place fully, was planted back then. Seeing people constantly leave might have provoked a sense of instability. Nonetheless,I think my colourful living situation since high school poetically mimics the confusion I feel about where I culturally belong. I wrote about being a Third Culture Kid some time ago now, and I’m starting to think this rootlessness many of us feel, might never go away. That the key may be to accept that our identity is fractured across multiple places and cultures. 


Feeling Rootless Yet Rooted to Multiple Places 


On a recent trip back to Copenhagen, I mentioned to my mum that I miss the city. I miss the vibrancy and the creativity of Copenhagen. The endless options for bars and restaurants, the style of people, the ease of getting around on a bike, people’s friendliness, the delight I get from doing my music sessions with my co-writer in person rather than online. It’s a city that well and truly embodies the infamous Danish saying of “hygge” and it’s hard not to get swept up in its charm and cool factor. 


Photos hanging about on my couch instead of the walls

You might ask, why not just move back then? Because I also love Switzerland. I think I’m starting to understand how Bella from Twilight felt when picking between the vampire and the werewolf (I say this with caution as I only got through one book and one movie - so don’t come for me Twilight fans). 


When it comes to Switzerland, the quality of life is hard to beat. I love the nature - I never grow tired of seeing lakes decorated by surrounding snow-decked mountain tops and lush greenery, never get tired of being on those mountain tops and taking in fresh air and spectacular views. While I’m not new to Switzerland, I’m still relatively new in Zurich and I’ve come to adore the city. Like Copenhagen it has a lot of charm and a lot to offer: The badis (public swimming areas) sprinkled along the lake and the limmat river make for fun after-work cool offs in the summer, or weekend hangout spots with friends. Public transport is extremely efficient, the streets are clean and there’s a huge international setting. I quite often marvel at how lucky I am to live here. Yet, a part of my heart still belongs to the flat lands of Copenhagen and its sometimes spectacular summers and always disastrously grey winters. 


So why leave? Despite family in Denmark, some friends and a small flourishing music network, I found it extremely difficult building a network. On my second attempt living there, I’d spend many weekend nights alone. I love my alone time, I need it to recharge and I genuinely enjoy my own company. But when alone time stops being a choice, but a state because there’s no one to spend time with, loneliness sets in. It’s why I wrote Lonely FYI 



Lyrics from Lonely FYI

I felt lonely for most of my 20s and as I approached 30 I felt I had little gas left in my tank to muster up the energy to make new friends. There were many other factors that played into the decision to move, but mostly I needed to feel a deep sense of community and belonging again. So I decided to go back to where my roots are deepest. You might think I have a huge network in Switzerland and that I was able to abandon the feeling of loneliness easily but that wouldn’t be the truth. I got back during COVID which acted as a stumbling block. Then there’s my preference for deep relationships over shallow coffee chats, as well as my natural tendency to lean towards shyness which makes throwing myself into events a little (a lot) nerve wracking . But slowly I’ve built a little pool of friends and gotten better at taking part in events I usually wouldn’t go to. I’ve even made my first ever Swiss friend….only took me 26 years. 



Home  


Funnily enough, on the day I started this article, I had a coaching session. Inspired by the Sunday blues I felt flying back to Zurich from Copenhagen that very morning, I quickly managed to type the title of the article before she rang the doorbell. When she got settled, she asked if I would be open to discussing the concept of “home”. 


She asked me if “home” could be an inner concept, rather than a physical place. If you take the saying “home is where the heart is” and break it down to its literal meaning, your heart is in your body, so your home exists within you. For some reason, whenever I’ve heard this saying, I assumed it meant whatever physical place it was you decided your heart belonged to. I like the idea that we can become physically rootless, but that we always have ourselves, that our inner being is what keeps us anchored. That, as cheesy as it may sound, no matter where I am in this world, I am home. My coach asked me what this sense of home feels like to me. Above all it's an inner peace, feeling safe, free to move as I please (not feeling shackled) and feeling confident. 


But physically a brick and mortar home is also important to me - isn’t it for most? But I’m getting to terms with the fact that my ideal lifestyle might differ from most. I toy with the idea of being more of a nomad - of calling multiple places home. This is also something we’ve been discussing in my coaching sessions: that perhaps the traditional sense of home isn’t meant for me. 


The Remaining Frames 


I’m determined to get the last frames up this week (hello July month). I’m also determined to order the last pieces of furniture I need. I never really completed my bedroom, and I’m in dire need of a new shelving unit for my ever growing collection of journals and notebooks. They rotate between lying in neat piles and not-so-neat piles on my dining table, and being shoved into a cupboard with haste when guests arrive. They deserve their own little home. In fact, the two items that I want to buy have been lying in the shopping cart of an online interior store for three weeks now - I just need to press “buy”. 


I haven’t bought these last few pieces for the very same reason it’s taken me so long to hang up photographs - “what if I move?”. But this mentality literally brings zippo value to my life and only exacerbates my state of confusion and brings unnecessary stress to my life. So I try to challenge this mindset by buying the pieces and hanging up the photos. 


With time, I’ve gotten better at anchoring myself to the present.  When my mind starts wondering “what if X Y Z happens, causing me to move?” I remind myself of my current physical reality. Like right now my physical reality is that I’m sitting at my kitchen table, in Zurich, with a beautiful bouquet of peonies to my right, typing this. I am physically in Zurich, sitting in this chair, feeling the keyboard underneath my finger tips, this is my current reality. But realities can also change. 


I may never really nail down the physical place I belong to, but at least I can get comfortable with nailing things to the wall. 








47 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page