I recently read This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick. The first few pages of this book were like reading my own thoughts. Warnick is a few years older than me and has moved to six different cities as an adult. Each move started out as a hopeful, exciting change, but each new place disappointed her somehow, leading her to start dreaming about the next move, when she would finally find the place that felt like home.
I too have moved around a lot as an adult. I’ve lived in five different cities in two countries. Unlike Warnick, I never thought about any of these moves as permanent, but as a good next step. After a year or two in one place I start to get antsy, having lived with the frustrations of that current city, and I move. These moves are also usually motivated by a growing aversion to whatever job I have and the desire to move on. I have not lived in the same city or had the same job for more than 2.5 years, and my 10 year college reunion is coming up relatively soon. My current city is my longest stint so far, at years (though I only had the same job for two of those). I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either.
This may not seem all that related to my buy nothing project, but I think my move impulse comes from the same place as my buy impulse. Both impulses are driven by thinking that what I have now is not good enough and that changing my situation will make me happier. The results are also somewhat similar. Buying something typically does not change my base level of happiness for long, and neither does moving. Buying things often results in guilt, stress, and regret and moving is usually initially exciting, but little truly changes. Moving also comes with a host of challenges, like finding my way in a new city and trying to make friends. I have put a lot less effort into friend-making the last few places because I tell myself that I’ll be moving anyway, so why bother with all the effort? I am lucky to have two existing strong friendships in my current city, but it would be good to expand that. I definitely think I’m making progress towards some lasting friendships in my PhD program.
Anyhow, even though I don’t think this current city is my final home (and neither does my husband) we will be here for at least another two years, and probably another four. It’s worth my time and effort to learn to love it here. Warnick is in the same boat, since the closing of her book reveals that she too might move from Blacksburg, VA, which she grew to really love over the course of the book, due to her husband’s job. I’ve started to employ some of the “love where you live experiments” Warnick recommends to develop place attachment. Here are a few:
- walk/bike more
- buy/eat local
- do fun things where you live
- enjoy nature where you live
- get political
- get to know your neighbors
I already do #1 a good amount, but am working on the rest. I recently started training as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) volunteer, where I’ll be matched up with a foster child in my city. And even though am not buying things this year, I continue to buy food and go out to eat. I am going to make a concerted effort to choose local restaurants and local food. I have also been making an effort to do number 4 and 5 more. There is lots to do in my city and I should take advantage of that more. I also live right next to a park and have been taking my dog on more walks back there. I am unsure about 6 and 7. I live in a very political city and don’t think it would be easy to get elected to the school board or something like that, but I can pay more attention to local political issues. I also wish I knew my neighbors. Maybe I will have a party for the people who live in the four other apartments in our building once it is nice out.