I’m sitting at a little cafe at “Kirby Pines”, a retirement community in Memphis, TN where my widowed grandmother lives. She is sitting across from me eating lunch, and I’ve just had my 30th birthday. I say to her “Can you believe it, Grandma? You have a 30 year old granddaughter. That’s crazy!” My little grandma squints at me over her cup of tomato soup and cornbread, then blurts out, “Yeah! You’re getting old! You’ve got find a husband! Settle down! Have babies!” By this time I am use to my grandmas periodical outburst which are always followed by an apology and a lot of, “you know I am so proud of all you’ve done.” However, I know that my grandma most honestly expresses what most of my friends and family are thinking: that it’s about time I settle down.
In her defense, I have not lived a very “typical” life. I’ve moved around a lot since leaving the small, midwest town that I grew up in. During high school I had this constant anxiety: I felt that I was going to jump out of my skin if I didn’t get out of that town. Most of my friends were happy staying in state for college, but I had an insatiable desire to get out of Missouri and explore something new.
First, I moved to Texas to attend college. Then I was off to Nashville, TN for an internship. After graduating and traveling abroad for a bit I landed in Portland, OR. I worked there for a year before heading a few hours south to Eugene, OR to attend graduate school. Two years and a masters degree later I decided to move cross country once again: this time to New York City. By the time I arrived here in New York my deep desire for change and adventure had led me to six cities in five states over a period of less than seven years.
I often hear people say that they don’t like change, and that they are happy and satisfied staying in their “comfort zone”. My brain, however, seems to be wired quite differently. I have always sought after change. Staying in one place with a steady home, job, and relationships has always been difficult for me.
Now, I have psychoanalyzed this aspect of my character over the years and I’ve formulated some theories that I’d like to share with you today. In order to fully understand why I am the way I am, allow me to take you back to small town Missouri.
The first five years of my life were bliss. My little sister, my hippie parents, and I lived in a picturesque little house surrounded by acres and acres of forest. However, when I was just 5 years old my parents sat my sister and I down and told us they were getting a divorce. That was the first of what would become a consistent series of upheavals in my life.
After their divorce came my parents various boyfriends, girlfriends and eventually a step-dad and a step-mom. Both of my parents married abusive people the second time around and these marriages quickly fell apart. Two more divorces were followed by more boyfriends and girlfriends, and eventually they each remarried a third time. Throughout all of this my sister and I were shuffled back and forth from one house to another. We moved to a neighboring town, switched school districts a couple times, and each time made new friends and found a way to fit into our new communities. Constant change became my normal. Constant change became my “comfort zone”.
While my turbulent childhood has undoubtedly had some negative effects, it also gave me a deep inner resilience that I am grateful for. It produced in me an ability to adapt quickly to new situations. The difficult thing for me now is to slow down: to stay in the same place for longer than a couple of years, and to not run when I feel my life feels “too comfortable.”
I’ve been in New York City now for about four and a half years. At the two year mark I felt that deep yearning to move somewhere new and it’s a desire that still constantly comes up for me. I recently moved to New Jersey, so we’ll see if that can satisfy my appetite for change for a while. It’s worth a try!
There is a popular quote by JRR Tolkien that I really identify with. He writes,
“Not all who wander are lost.”
Next week I turn 31, and I still don’t know if I’ll ever settle down and have a “normal” life. And although some may not understand it, grandma included, I have embraced my desire for change and new challenges. It has led me on some grand adventures, but I’ll save those stories for another time. For now, you’ll find me happily wandering the streets of New York City.