The correspondence of Apartment 5402 in exile


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

no loitering allowed.

Yo homies,

As you all know, I will be leaving the country in week and a half, to take an extended trip to the other side of the planet. It is quite possible that if you add up all the hours I have spent obsessing about this trip, I will have spent more time planning it than I will actually spend taking it, but I refuse to consider this a waste. It's like having a crush on someone from afar; you may spend more time daydreaming about them (in sosc class...) than you do actually enjoying their company, but ultimately, isn't daydreaming half the fun of having a crush? The reality may also be amazing, but the expectation is certainly worth something too. I'm not quite sure where this point is going, but you're catching my drift, right?

So anyway, our next topic here is vagrancy, and what it means that most of us move every couple years, only to live with random people we met through Craigslist when we get to our next destination. First off, vagrancy is not a word I would use; only someone with a seriously parochial outlook (ahem, Rita) would consider any of our lives to be vagrant. We do not wander idly, we migrate purposefully - for jobs, or education, or relationships, or with the not-unrealistic expectation of attaining these things.

Second of all, for a long time I assumed that relocation was a strictly modern phenomenon; just one by-product of multi-national corporations, specialization of labor and improved modes of communication and transit. (Old people always seemed to like staying in place, too, and that supported my conclusion.) I've changed my mind, though, because it seems to me that, while for most of human history the vast majority of people never ventured farther than the next village, as a species, we like to move around. No one would ever have made it to Australia, or Siberia, if this weren't the case. The history of the United States (colonization, manifest destiny, etc) also proves that point quite nicely. Moving from Chicago to New York or LA to Dubai in the 21st century presents a whole different set of challenges than what, say, Pizarro faced, but the goal is basically the same (better opportunities, Inca gold, etc). Whatever you want to call it - relocation, exploration, migration - moving around has always held a certain appeal.

In fact, I am automatically wary of people who have lived in the same place their entire life. Have they no sense of adventure? Even if you live in the best place on earth (New York, obvi) you must at least be curious about what it's like to live in, I don't know, Philadelphia or Hackensack or wherever. After all, if Adam and Eve hadn't been exiled from the Garden, how would they have known what they were missing? Or what they wanted? Living in paradise must have been boring! If Dante hadn't been exiled from Florence, would he have written The Divine Comedy? And where would we be if Shakespeare had never left Stratford, or Chaucer had never taken a pilgrimage? Machiavelli (who spent a great deal of time traveling, and was himself exiled from Florence) once wrote that the easiest route to heaven was to learn the road to hell in order to avoid it, and I happen to think that makes a lot of sense. How will you know where heaven is, if you never look around? In short: like failure and regret, a little vagrancy can be a good thing.

That said, moving around is hard. I've lived more places than most people, but I've either moved for school or with my family, and even that was hard. Building a social network from scratch takes eons, and can be quite painful, and often the allure of moving to Austin/Sydney/Rome is not enough to entice one to give up the comfort of friends and family. I would, however, be game for moving to Austin/Sydney/Rome if I had a job there, or friends, or really any reason at all. Why would this be a bad idea? As newly minted adults, we are free to explore! No longer tied to our parents, and not yet tethered by our children, there is no better time to move places and live with strangers. We are just beginning to build social networks and create spaces for ourselves in society - new places and strangers are part of this process, and those who move around may end up richer in both friends and experiences in the long run. Case in point: I am coming down to DC on Saturday, to see two of you, and while I'm there we have plans to meet each others friends and mingle. Cross-pollination! Exciting!

Hugs and bunnies and daisies,


Blogger Becky said...

Aww, what the hell. I'm jealous.

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