Last week, on my post that was mostly about the new paint job in my apartment, Lee left this comment:
”Ronni, you and Celia started a conversation I’d like to eavesdrop on a little longer about moving to a new place when one is no longer young.
“When I was young, I moved constantly: If I got a pay raise I could move to a safer neighborhood; if I found a cuter apartment or wanted housemates, I’d just move. It was never disruptive, only exciting. I didn’t have much stuff and it was all used, anyway, so I’d have a garage sale and then buy new stuff (also fun) at my favorite thrift stores.
“But now that I’m grayer, the idea of a move as dramatic as yours, Ronni, is kind of intimidating. Did you already have friends in your new home after Maine? I know you’ve written that you like your own company, but what was it like to uproot like that?”
Did you ever have sleepless nights? Or is it still an adventure to you? I’d love to hear TGB readers on that one, especially if they’ve moved to completely different places, even to another country, after they’ve left career jobs.
That’s a worthwhile discussion for us to have today. I can speak only for myself, so here goes.
I’m not new to moving. Like Lee when I was young, I moved often and on whim for many of the same reasons. After I married, we moved from city to city until we landed permanently in New York City. It was love at first site, I never tired of it and I would go back in a minute if I could afford to.
I had every intention of living in my Greenwich Village apartment until I die. But a long bout of unemployment made that impossible; the only way to go on eating was to sell my home and find a less expensive way to live.
That was the killer decision. Agony. It took a three-day, sleepless weekend of wailing and sobbing to make peace with the inevitable. But because my survival was at stake and I am nothing if not practical, I emerged – however exhausted and sad – ready to move forward.
Since New York had become my home over 40 years, I had nowhere to return to and had no idea where to go. So I made a list. Although it might be an adventure to live in another country, I didn’t want that much new in my life and did not consider it.
I eliminated the entire lower half of the U.S. because I deeply dislike hot weather. Then I got rid of the middle northern part because I like oceans. And I like cities. So I winnowed it down to Seattle, Boston and the two Portlands – Maine and Oregon. I didn’t put San Francisco on the list because I’d lived there during my late teens and half of my twenties – been there, done that.
I’d worked in Boston for short periods over the years and it never sang to me. Seattle seems to me to have all the disadvantages of big cities, but few of the advantages.
In the end, I chose Maine for its proximity to New York and the idea that New York friends would be more likely to make that trip for a visit than clear across the country to Oregon. And I could visit New York in a one-hour plane ride.
After four years, I knew I had made a mistake. Portland, Maine with 65,000 population is not a city by my definition, and I was beginning to wonder how much longer I would be physically capable of digging my car out of snow a couple of times a week for six months of the year. So in 2010, I moved to Oregon.
Because my initial move to Maine was due to necessity, I did not, could not, spend time thinking about the enormity of leaving everything and everyone I’d known for 40 years. (I think I got through that part over that long, weepy weekend.)
Although I didn’t think of it as an adventure, it was exciting to contemplate a new kind of life while my apartment was on the market and I traveled to Maine half a dozen times to check out neighborhoods and homes to buy.
A number of people suggested I rent for a year while I learned my way around the city and I could see the wisdom in that. But I was on a tight budget and didn’t want to throw away thousands of dollars that I could put toward the purchase a new home, the need to own a car and the costs of the move.
Using common sense and, after the experience of 42 moves in my lifetime, I chose well, within my price range and was happy with the apartment in Maine – just not the town.
There were no sleepless nights, Lee, but that isn’t in my nature. Sleep, in difficult times, has always been my escape. So I think it’s important in big moves, to know yourself well.
In a new location, it is not as easy to make friends as when one is working. It was a long time, in Maine, before I found a few people to hang out with. Again, I think one’s nature is important in this regard.
Since childhood, I have always spent a lot of time alone and it’s not a burden to me. Additionally, during the 1980s, many of my closest friends – the kind you don’t replace easily in any circumstance or at any age – along with neighbors and acquaintances died young. I learned then that friendship is not forever. I welcome it, but I don’t count on it.
Without a job in a new town, we need to make other kinds of effort to find people with whom we are simpatico and all I can suggest is to follow your interests. Here, I have my brother and his wife and I’m meeting people through my t’ai chi classes, the local library, local politics and my ongoing research into all things aging.
And here’s an advantage to blogging: Over these eight years of Time Goes By, I’ve made many good friends. Yes, most are at a distance, but they are no less important to me for it.
Once I was unpacked and settled in Maine, having these daily interactions through the blog, email and, sometimes, phone meant I was not alone. That part of my life went on uninterrupted and I suspect the continuum of it was important to being comfortable in a new place.
Overall, the moving itself is big-time pain in the ass. I wish never to pack or unpack a hundred or more boxes again. I will go to great lengths now, after having done it twice in four years, to never do it again. So choose your destination carefully.
It doesn’t seem like I’ve really answered your questions, Lee. Except for missing New York which has become something I just live with, I’m happy with this last move. And maybe I’m not the one to answer since the first move to Maine was a financial necessity and the second one to Oregon was a spiritual necessity. I think there would be different considerations without those imperatives.
So now it’s your turn, TGB readers. In addition to Lee’s questions above, if you are contemplating a move to a new place, how do you feel about it? How are you choosing the new town or city? And, of course, why are you moving?
If you have already relocated, how has it worked out? Have you had second thoughts? What has settling in been like? Tell us – and Lee – your stories.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Aunt Knett