Some people grow up and grow old in the same place, whether by never moving away or by returning home. Others wander around like gypsy souls, waiting to find that place to set down roots, personally, professionally, or both. And others are content to wander always, finding home wherever their feet land.
Where do you fit in? Counting my current residence, I’ve lived in 14 different houses/apartments in five states. It’s clear that I like to move within states, even within the same town. There’s always another building to love, a new neighborhood to call home. I’ve learned the fine skill of packing, moving, and downsizing (but only when necessary).
Why do I move so often? Life, school, job opportunities, restlessness – the same reasons as anyone else. And I suppose all along I’ve been looking for my place. We’re all told to find our people; those who get us, who support us and who help a place become home. Well, we also need to find our place; where we fit in, where the landscape and the built environment make sense to us, where we want to be. Aside from growing up in New York, I’ve lived in Vermont longer than any I have lived in any state. In fact, after one year in Vermont, I declared that it had cured my geographic commitment phobia and my gypsy soul tendencies. And four years later, has it? For now it has, which is good enough for me.
Lately I’ve been realizing that my place has many locations; I’ll never have just one, for all chapters of life will fit in different places. And those chapters might take me someplace new. Slowly, I’m realizing that that’s okay. There’s no rule that I (or you) have to live in or feel at home in just one place. Not every town or city will feel like home, but then I’ll find it in the next one.
Instead of a geographic place, I find my place in other ways. Take, for instance, a track. Give me a 400 meter running track (preferably with a red surface) and I’m completely at home. Nine years of competing on a track team and four years of coaching and years after of running workouts, a track brings a calm feeling to me, one that is filled with good memories, strength, clarity, comfort and a knowingness of who I am. Or give me an open window with a breeze coming off a body of water and my heart swells with the feeling and memories of Point Lookout and family, my favorite place to be. And even though I’m not there, the comfort of that breeze brings a smile to my face. Give me sunshine and warmth or a crisp fall day, and I’m supremely happy to exist in that moment, wherever I might be.
So what defines my place? Aside from landscape and climate, maybe much of it is intangible, varying for all of us. Memories from previous places help to fill a new place and keep me connected from one to another. Yet, I move to find something new, so memory triggers are not the entire list of attributes of my place. Each place, geographic or otherwise, gathers its own memories.
It’s a complicated topic, perhaps one that deserves additional discourse. I’m learning that I’m happy to have my gypsy soul tendencies, and I’ll love new places because I know that I can always find home in each of them, at least in some elements. Yet, I know that Burlington, VT is one of my places, whereas Omaha, NE was not, even if I have good memories there. So maybe I take those memories with me and move somewhere new that becomes (one of) my geographic places, one of the places that I do feel at home. And then that gives me a complete place; my place.
Tell me, what do you think? How would you define your place? Is it geographic? Is it anywhere your family and friends are? How do you know when you found your place? Do you have one or more? I’d love to hear what you have to say.