WRITING SHORT: 2/50

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[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.] 

We moved to Princeton in February 2006, more than nine years ago. Yet walking and driving its streets bring back no particular memories. I know only that these streets aren’t new to me; I’ve walked or driven them before. That wouldn’t be true in New York or Boston, if I’d stayed put in either of those two cities where I lived most of my adult life, and where many neighborhoods and streets would bring important past events to mind.

I therefore sometimes wonder: Is it better to have been a rolling stone as I was, cutting geographic connections to my history as I go? Or would I have been happier, now I’m in my eighties, if circumstances hadn’t continually uprooted me?

Not that I really had a choice.

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28 thoughts on “WRITING SHORT: 2/50

    • Interesting take, Isabelle. However, moving to an entirely new city where you know no one isn’t exactly “a little change.” Until what point in life does such a big change remain beneficial? Or — put another way — when might it become detrimental to happiness?

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  1. It seems to me that when we move, it’s either because we’ve seen a place we like better, or company we like better, or certain conditions we prefer. As long as you haven’t been thrown out of anywhere, I would assume that the movement was truly, negotiating circumstances.

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    • There speaks an autonomous, rational man, Shimon. Unfortunately, my generation of women in marriages, or close relationships, often had less autonomy in the matter. In any event, the question posed wasn’t whether to move or whether not to move. It was whether one way of life may have provided more long-term satisfaction than another when one looks back and reflects.

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  2. A close friend told me many years ago that he brought his kids up to be independent and independent they were. They all live in different states. I saw him about 6 months ago. He is 72 with a long term terminal illness. He was longing for the days of his childhood where family all lived close by. Maybe the answer depends on your stage of life. As you get older familiar is comforting. However, many retirees move cross country for various reasons. Maybe satisfaction with where you are is transient depending on how you feel at the moment.

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  3. Nina, always something to think about in you posts! I’m stuck with “common sense over imagination” when I think of where I live, where I’ve lived, and where’s the best place to be. All that history’s tucked away in my head. I’m old, but not ill. For as long as I can, I’ll hang out here in the California sun. The Welcome mat out for family. Christine

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  4. Your post may be short, Nina, but the thought process behind it…not so much. We only moved 2 times ( out of about 8) when it was not driven by job/economics. Those were fabulous, and welcome.

    For the others, we just learned to adapt. It worked well when we were childless, or when they were very young. It is rare to find a family today that has been able to put down roots, and stay for a lifetime. We have a different world, not sure it’s a better one. Van

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    • “Adapting” gets harder as you get older, especially once the children are grown and gone. It is certainly a different world, Van — better in many respects, at least in developed countries like ours. (Medicine, creature comforts, life span.) In other respects (familial closeness, emotional values over material ones), not necessarily….

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    • To me, 38 years is “staying put,” Hilary. My guess is that when you’re much older, it will be a comfort to have all those connections. But it’s true: regret is useless. Edith Piaf: “Je ne regrette rein.”

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  5. Nina…I think about this a lot; I live next door to the house I grew up in. My immediate neighborhood is so familiar that sometimes it disappears from view. Fortunately, I lived in another city for eight years and I have traveled a lot. I’m 68 now, but when I was young, I wanted nothing more than to leave home forever and live in New York. Over the years, though, many smart, interesting people have taken a chance on my hometown (and region). So, while my city is familiar, it has changed a lot (mostly for the better). What comforts me is both its history and its potential. By chance (?) my close friends now, and my spouse, all moved here from other parts of the country. Yes, appreciation of place evolves with age.

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  6. Today in the paper there was an article about happiness. One of the things the survey reveals is that living in a country town brings more happiness than living in a major city. Interesting thought. We moved to a country town 8 years ago and do find it a friendly and happy place. So many variables though, aren’t there!! 🙂

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      • James

        If it were always enough I would be confronted with perpetual ennui. That would lead to a “poor me” attitude.

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      • My question, James, derived from the issue posed by the post: Is it better to roam, cutting your traces, or to remain where your roots are. Although your answer tells us something about you, it’s not really responsive to the point of the post, is it?

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      • James

        I have learned to share from my own experience rather than to tell others what I would have them do. However since you asked: The concept of ROOTS is all about living in the past. That is yesterday and it is gone forever. Today is the most important day of our lives. It is the only day we have. There is very probably going to be another important day tomorrow. If we find ourselves in a new/strange location it is very likely wise to look for opportunities to use our inherent talents to see how we can be of service to God (in whatever form we believe), our life partners, our neighbors and ourselves. This is merely being positive about reality today. That way we will feel useful rather than depressed.

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