Finding a place to call home

Reading some old stuff.... Here is something I wrote at the beginning of the year... Glad to see I'm making some progress...
It's a pretty big question, and I am surprised I haven't ever given it that much explicit thought.

As a side note, I am going to start writing more. I forget a lot, miss big things, don't reflect enough. I want to know what I was thinking at a given point in time, and it forces me to be honest with myself in a way that I might not be otherwise.

I've been a little overly interested in communicating as of late. After all of this fighting I realized I do a very poor job of synthesizing things. I also saw how quickly I got my ass into gear and started pursuing my goals once I actually wrote them down. I have a newfound clarity and sense of purpose that I haven't had in a while.

I also realize there might be some (potentially) big things I haven't discussed and I am looking forward to answering them for myself.

Contrasting my two homes…

When I left Bridgewater I was also ready to leave the northeast, but not because I hated it - I liked a lot of things about it. The people definitely were more cultured, more informed, and generally more intelligent. They are more tolerant of new ideas and people. It is something that is highly valued in the society. People are also very ambitious and self reliant. Families are important, but beyond that, there is little sense of community. It probably has a lot to do with the population density of the region and wave after wave of new immigrants. Whatever the reason, I did not like how disconnected I felt from everyone else. I appreciated their existence, but I didn’t feel as though I was a part of it.

Comparatively, the south is much more rural and much more racially/culturally homogenous. People are much more comfortable talking with each other – they are generally friendlier. I don’t think people in the northeast are mean, they are actually very helpful. They just always seem to be inconvenienced by strangers. They are too caught up in their own existence. It might have something to do with the fact that they know they are sacrificing their time for someone they have a near zero chance of seeing again (and even if they do, they know they won’t remember them). In the south, people seem eager to do things for others. They welcome the opportunity to help a stranger or even offer an opinion (think of the cashier who comments on what you are buying and smiles at you versus the one who just holds her head down and looks at the register only giving you a pensive stare). They don’t triple book plans for the weekend, they don’t just ditch you, and they feel like they owe you something if they did something to hurt you. Most would actively seek to make amends.

As far as climate goes, both have negatives. The South is hot as hell in the summer and the northeast’s winters last way too long. The change of seasons is something I will certainly miss. All in all, I think I would still choose the south given so much of the year is useless in the Northeast. It is way too many consecutive days of being couped up. I am sick of winter by Christmas and I am miserable by March. A quarter of the year is too much time to waste. Living near the ocean helps to moderate this a lot. I don’t think I could handle being much farther inland if I went back.

What does this mean?

Well. I don’t think I could ever live in Salley again, at least not for a long time and not without some huge changes in the way people communicate (which is possible). Currently I don’t mind sitting at home all day chatting online, getting on a webcam or talking on the phone. I just need contact with interesting people. As more of our society shifts online and we become better and helping people meet each other I think a lot of the isolation that can come from living in a small town will be alleviated. Then the question of where to live might not be as big of a deal.

I also don’t think I could ever live in the heart of a major skyscraper city like Chicago, New York or Boston (though the Cambridge side was fine with all of it’s trees, grass, and relatively low skyline). I need personal space. I like having room to walk around in a house, work in my yard, sit on my front porch or walk down the sidewalk in my neighborhood alone (without bumping into strangers) and reflect or just listen to some new music. I also like having the option of meeting with others doing interesting things. In Columbia, I can pick up a copy of the local paper, the Free Times, and find something to do almost any night of the week. I might not have a wide selection of things to choose from, but that is not a concern right now. I just need novelty – something to keep my mind active. Right now I have several outlets where I can connect with small spheres of people who are interested in similar things – the Unitarian Universalist church, the gym, the pottery studio. I found these same places to be much less sociable in the north. Columbia also has a lively bar scene where I can go be mindless and dance and drink. In short, I can be alone in peace and quiet, find new acquaintances, or go hang out with friends anytime I want. Wherever I life, I want to be able to do all of these. Really rural areas and really urban areas don’t offer these options.

Another aspect about living in the south I like is the cost. I certainly like the fact that I can afford to do more things (ie have a higher quality of life), but that’s not necessarily it. I think it has more to do with financial stress. Losing everything is a very real fear in CT/NY. If you don’t work, you will not survive. In the south, I feel as though I can work part time and support myself. Even if I don’t have a job I can still tell myself I’d move in with mom and dad and farm my own food or just get a tent and sleep in the woods. It’s stupid, but it helps to put my mind at ease. I really enjoy working and being industrious, but I hate feeling compelled to do so. I want to work because I want to, not because I need to survive. I really hate worrying about my financial security and it really isn’t an issue in Columbia.

For now, Columbia is about right (it’s a little light on culture). I want to stay here until I am bored with it and feel as though I have taken from it all I can. It’s also a great place to decompress and heal (need a separate entry on this) after somewhat failing at BW. I need to get my confidence back. I also need to do some stuff I have wanted to do for a long time before I go back to work (need a separate entry on this).

What next?

In the next year or two I will most likely go back into finance and if I do, it will probably be in the northeast. I need to put more thought into selecting where I will live, not just focus on my commute. Generally speaking one thing that is nice about midsize cities is that they have real neighborhoods around the city center. I like that setup. I’d like to find something like that near a big city. Basically live in a place like Columbia, where I can have the type of life I want but have the additional benefit of being able to go into a cultural metropolis like NYC anytime I want.

If I go back I think I would live in a place like Greenwich or Stamford. It would allow me to go into NYC more. I didn’t go enough when I lived in SoNo, I stayed in my room too much. It was too much of a trek. I would also like to have a crashpad to take away the stress of going in so regularly and having to worry about accommodations (or at least just pick a hostel, get to know the people that work there, and try to make it feel like a home). I will also make it a point to make a wide network of friends outside of work. Seek out a church, a gym and other social outlets. I didn’t do this in CT. When I left BW, my abstract goal for the year was to “be a part of a community.” I think it was because I had been so detached from one while I was there. I definitely need to work on that next time I go back.