Monday, November 03, 2014

Move it or ... well, don't

This article comes to us from Elite Daily, so I’m not surprised that two of the article’s five reasons involve a dramatic romantic arc.

Technically, I’ve moved six times now (two of those were temporary moves back in with my parents, so really it’s four). I’ve had five addresses in four cities in three states. So I feel qualified to weigh in on this.

I absolutely recommend moving away, because it’s a learning experience that not only educates you about how others live, but will also teach you much about yourself.

If you want to.

Because it’s not for everyone. If you’re fully ingrained in your hometown, living a life rich with family, friends, experiences and stability, then you won’t gain much from uprooting. Moving is expensive and is physically and emotionally draining. It needs a purpose. If nothing is missing, some abstract concept of “experience” will land with a thud. To paraphrase the old parable, “So I can make money to do whatever I want, huh? I was doing that before you bothered me.”

However, for those who don’t fit in where they are or otherwise feel like something’s missing, moving can be a most refreshing life change. No, it won’t solve all your problems; most issues can’t be solved by running away. But making a change closer to what you want in life can help your outlook tremendously.

Past living experience often factors into this decision. Army brats and others who moved a lot early in life often want nothing more than to keep a permanent address as an adult. The opposite was true of me — I spent my first 19 years in one house, then 7 1/2 in another, both in my hometown. I was mostly content there, but always felt deep down like an outsider. I got used to that feeling. But as I got older, my desire to try something radically new grew. I didn’t want to be the outsider anymore, and I knew there were other cities where I could fit in better — or, at least, try out some weather that wasn’t oppressively muggy.

Most of all, I knew whatever decision I made would be mine and I could carve out the life I wanted. That power gave me a new lease on life. So it was the right thing to do, and there never was any doubt or regret.

You have to do it for the right reasons. Unless you’re married or are in a committed and steady relationship with someone, moving for another person is generally a dicey prospect. As is moving with no workable plan or purpose. You need to be practical and seriously consider your motives.

Many people have to move out of necessity, but would rather have stayed in their hometown. While they’re away, they’re simply biding their time until they move back. When they do, they usually come away thinking there’s no place like home. Those people learn a lot, but is moving something they should be encouraged to do five times? Probably not.

One wrongheaded motive, albeit one I’m sure is nearly nonexistent, is one article writer Lauren Miller pushes: Escaping your comfort zone. You should want to move for a change of scenery and/or because it helps you improve your lot in life. It should be something you want to do, not feel compelled to do solely because it brings you some pain to work through.

(I think that, in general, we’re overly obsessed with escaping our comfort zones. We’ve moved past the sensible sentiment behind that phrase into fetishizing the idea that we need to feel fire all the time. But that’s a subject for another day.)

For me, moving was not an exercise in getting out of my comfort zone, because I hadn’t felt comfortable in my hometown for a while. There was nothing there I wanted to do, workwise or recreationally. I felt like I’d outgrown it. I’ve been lauded for my “courage” many times, but it wasn’t a courageous decision. It was an imperative. Those who seek to move will understand that impulse. Those who don’t are probably better off where they are.

So, yeah, I’d encourage people to expand their horizons as much as they can and feel like. But one rule does not fit all.

One primary benefit of moving can be experienced by everyone, anywhere: renewal. Whether you’re a bird or a nester, you should always be looking for something new to refresh your life. It can be as major as moving across the country or world, or as minor as picking up a new book. And there’s so much in between. So make a move, if only in your mind.

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