Sunday, August 07, 2005

Where do we belong?

I've finally gotten around to checking out, at the recommendation of Write Again Soon. It seems my top 5 of the exact same as Red, although in a different order. [Red, refusing to blog herself, has posted her thoughts on Write Again Soon.]

So here's my top 5:
1. New Haven, CT
2. Providence, RI
3. Boston, MA
4. Worcester, MA
5. Hartford, CT

There were many MA and CT cities, as well as a healthy peppering of the rest of the Mid-Atlantic, with occasional representation from the South and the West Coast.

But what's a bit disturbing about the website is that it seems to believe that at least a small fraction of those who take the survey will then start apartment/house/job hunting in one of these destinations they have identified for them. As I already elluded to in my comments to W.A.S., what this survey ignores is the relationships one has developed in our current cities, friends and familial, that can not be replaced easily were I to uproot and head to New Haven.

This is, in short, one thing that I think is wrong with America. We think we're so very independent, and that we'll be fine, so we discount the importance of these relationships as we go off chasing some other priority. I'm not saying I didn't do it as well, heading to NYC for school, but the assumption was that I would return. On the contrary, I get so mad at people who decide to retire and then move to the Southwest, only to bemoan their distance from grandchildren, depleated water table, excessive forest fires, etc. WELL WHAT THE HELL DID YOU THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN?!

On a smaller scale, I even get annoyed when people move across the region. Is the size of your house really more important than proximity to friends, family, work, and community? I know its not that simple, and I know I left the town my parents raised me in. But then again, we were relocated there when I was younger anyway, and EVERY SINGLE FRIEND has left that town since I left for undergrad (albeit not far). But my relationship with my family does suffer as a result -- I see my parents and brother perhaps monthly. The rest of my family, having been left across the country as we moved when I was younger, I see no more than once annually. On a day-to-day basis, I act as a sole individual, with no family.

I see this in the cities all of the time. The Lower East Side of Manhattan used to be the vibrant center of the immigrant Jewish community. Its still Jewish, but its mostly the grandparents, while the following generation moved to Long Island and the generation after that has moved beyond. Did running to L.I. find better schools and bigger houses, at the expense of the community lost by not being in a place entirely surrounded by the people you live and work and worship with? Did that second generation get fat with consumption and the other ills of suburbia? And all along, they probably applaud their choice every day, except maybe when cursing the traffic on the Long Island Expressway when heading back in to see grandma or go to a Broadway show.

I see it in DC too. My neighborhood is littered with old churches, almost one per city block, which largely sit dormant all week long, as voids in the neighborhood's fabric, only to be under-attended each Sunday morning by a congregation that drives in from PG County and chokes our streets with their double parking. The churches provide no sense of community to the residents who live here (since they are not ours) and the traffic just gets in our way. Meanwhile, these weekly visitors imply to me that they have not found a replacement community in the suburbs they ran to. So what was the point?

So no, I will not be going to New Haven. DC is my home, and my relationships are here. I am invested in its past and future. I hope to travel for work, and can't say I won't have stints in other cities, but I'm not going to seek it out as a panacea. I'll strive for employment here, I'll look for love here, and I'll hope to raise a family here. And if I don't like the schools, or the crime, or something else, I'll do what I always do -- write a letter, get involved, inform myself and my neighbors; not run.

O.K. Grandpa :) Not all people who give another city, country, or culture a chance are lazy fools seeking a "panacea" or "running" from civic action. It seems a little too easy to just declare that people should stay where their current relationships are, and it seems especially harsh to insult those who do otherwise. What if everyone just always stayed where they were? How boring--- and impractical. Should individuals from separate places avoid forming relationships, since both can not return to their separate homes? Don't you acknowledge the different passions some people have to seek out new places, people, and relationships? And how your own community can be enriched by the diversity that comes with new people choosing to move to your community? There is so much of the world out there to explore, so many new relationships to be made, and good work to be carried out with networks of people and infrastructures that may not be a 10 minute walk from your apartment (where luckily you currently want and can afford to live). There is so much of experiencing other places and people that can not be done on short tourist/work trips. I think it's wonderful that you have access to jobs that you enjoy and that you may obtain that are near friends that may stay in the same city and near family that may do the same, and that you, your friends, and your family are blessed financially so that you make choices based largely on what you want, not need, to do. But certainly people shouldn't be condemned for evaluating their own desires, needs, and capabilities (or sacrifices for greater causes that require more than "stints" in other cities), and potentially coming up with the decision, that for whatever reason, relocation is for them--and I don't thing the potential benefits of relocation should be disregarded so flippantly either. Obviously for some people, staying where they are is ideal and can work. And I think for so many reasons, other people will have different, and equally acceptable paths, that will see them forming a new home, or homes, in another place, or multiple places. Also, in terms of prioritizing relationships, I have often found that even living within 10-15 miles (or 1.5 miles!) of friends and family does not mean the quality and quantity of time spent together exceeds that of when I live hundreds, or thousands of miles away. So often, people are tired and busy from their routines and other reasons. But when people live further apart, they have to make real effort to be together, and when they do the quality of this time (and sometimes the quantity!) can be even greater. Email, blogs, posting photos online, and long-distance and international phone calls (no, calling isn't that hard. and with a little computer savvy, these phone calls can be absolutely free: I heart SKYPE)are also great ways to maintain relationships in between in person visits. But it is heartwarming that you care for your DC friends and family so much that you don't want anyone to move away :) Love you too!! :) --Ms. Imay Move
This entry reminds me of a scene from Friends (doesn't everything!!) :)

Rachel: I got a really incredible job offer.

Joey: Hey, great! All right!

Phoebe: Good for you!

Rachel: It's in Paris.

Joey: What? No, no, no! No, no... no... no, no... No, too much is changing, okay? First, Phoebe getting married (to Phoebe sarcastically) Congratulations! (pointing to Monica and Chandler)... and then these two move into a stupid house in the stupid suburbs...

Monica: Hey, this afternoon you said you'd be supportive...

Joey: Well, it comes and goes. I wouldn't trust it.

Rachel: Look, you guys... this is really, really important to me. And it means a lot if you could try to get on board.

Phoebe: Of course we can. Congratulations. (they hug, but Joey shakes his head.) Yay! (she gestures Joey to come and join in) Joey...

Joey: No, no, no. My hugs are reserved for people STAYING IN AMERICA.

Rachel:(walking towards Joey) Joey, it would mean so...

Joey: Hey! No! Get your France-going-arms away from me. (He walks out, and Rachel follows him)

Rachel: Joey...

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