The correspondence of Apartment 5402 in exile


November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
May 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Home sweet home

Hi ya'll,

First off, I took Beatrice to the vet this morning for the first time since we got her third year. You'll all be happy to know she's healthy, but she screamed her head off the entire time we were there. The vet had her wrapped in two towels, and still couldn't do part of the exam. Of course as soon as we got in the car to go home, she was quite and happy and now she's sleeping peacefully right next to me.

Secondly, congratulations to Rita on your fine academic achievements! I am extremely excited that you may now be moving to New England, my homeland. I am equally pleased with how well that fits in with what we're talking about here. When I was deciding where to go to college, moving far away from home was appealing, as it seemed to be to many high school seniors. While I certainly don't regret going to Chicago, pretty soon into my first year, I realized that it didn't really work for me to be so far from my family and everyone I knew. Until recently, I felt like I was a little bit lame for feeling this way. Like, I missed mommy and daddy and had to go back home to be close to them. So many educated young people move far away from home and seem to relish that distance, and I was self-conscious about my desire to be close to my family and hometown. Obviously I got over it, as I'm back in New England, although not in my hometown (yet!).

It makes sense to me to move to a new city or country for a specific purpose, a job, a relationship, a school, given that the new opportunity outweighs the downside of leaving friends, family and home. Given that, Alex, your travels and the various cities you've lived in, make sense to me. Of course there are people who have very specific reasons to leave "home", whether it be dysfunctional family, lack of opportunity, or general dissatisfaction with where home is. Excluding these specifics for the moment though, the part of Julia's post that you quoted doesn't ring true for me personally. Not only do I still feel tied to my parents, but I have zero interest in living with strangers. Maybe this is why I never like those novels about exploring and finding yourself, where vagrancy is made out to be romantic and life-changing. (Although, for the record, I acknowledge Julia's point that "vagrancy" is not really the right word. I'm going to keep using it though, because you all know what I mean.)

Alex, I think your categorization of your situation as "deeply weird" while at the same time being very common, is accurate. On the one hand, it doesn't make sense to leave the places where we are comfortable and the people who know and love us to go somewhere we are not known and that is full of people who don't know us. On the other hand, there are always other places and other people and some of those places and people might always be better than the places and people we have now.

Julia, you said that you are automatically wary of people who have lived in the same place their whole life, and they "must at least be curious about what it's like to live in, I don't know, Philadelphia or Hackensack or wherever." But curiosity about what it's like to live in Hackensack does not seem like a significant enough reason to actually pick up and move there. Also, don't you think there's something great about being a born-and-raised local of somewhere in particular?


P.S. Julia, I very much want to hear about how your vagrancy has been life-changing! When are you coming home?

P.P.S. Alex, have you been watching the current Friday Night Lights? Did you watch the one from a few weeks ago about Smash? I just watched it this afternoon, and bawled my eyes out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tie me down!

Dear Non-Random Former Roommates,

I am co-opting Rita’s place in line, since she is presently too freaked out and unhappy about all the amazing grad schools she’s been accepted to think about her impending vagrancy.

I agree and disagree with you, Julia. It’s hard for me to say that moving around is a bad idea, when a lot of my decisions are geared toward exploring new cities, and I’ve never had too much trouble building new social networks. It never occurred to me to stay close to home for college, I loved study abroad and interning in NY, living in Madrid after college was perfect, and I was willing to move to almost any city that would offer me a job afterward. All in all, I do not consider myself to be too deeply held back by my roots, and my life has been better because of it.

But that’s only because the opportunities offered to me at those times were good opportunities. Chicago is better than any school in Florida, who would turn down a Fulbright, etc. My having to move didn’t make them what they were. If I enjoyed the living in new places aspect of it (which I did) it’s only because it’s a personal interest of mine to see and live in new cities. That doesn’t make it an inherently good thing. If someone is lucky enough to live in a place where there are great schools and jobs and other opportunities, I don’t judge them for not moving. And if someone who feels deeply rooted is unlucky enough to live in a place where there are no opportunities (relative to what they want), I don’t judge them for being unhappy about moving. The only time in my life where I had to move was as a child, from New York to Miami, and I hated it. I can’t say that moving to Miami was a positive life change. It turned out fine, but it would have been equally fine to not have moved.

This passage of yours struck me: “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.” And while I agree that this is how I am choosing to live my life at the moment, I’m not so sure that it is the best way for everyone. I am occasionally struck by how deeply weird my life is (despite being very similar to many other young adults I associate with.) I live in an apartment that I found online, with a girl I had never met before, who wasn’t even a friend of a friend. No social vetting. I left my family to work at a job that pays about the same as one I could get at home, and now I spend the majority of my day with people I had never met four months ago. I like my co-workers, but every once in a while, I stop and think about how I spend more time with people who are not my family, and whom I didn’t chose as friends, than any other human beings on the planet and...well, I guess I just stop and think that it’s weird. The fact that I have absolutely no obligations, not tied to parents or tethered to children, as you say, also kind of bothers me. I could be lying in bed, eating mayonnaise out of a jar, for the eight hours a day I’m not at work and no one would know because no one depends on me or expects me to be anywhere at a certain time. Strange!

Anyway, kids, this is no way to treat the 5402! Becky, I know you are planning a wedding, and Rita, I know you are huddled in a dark corner with your Nick and Nite, but we need updates! Julia, you are excused since you are somewhere in Asia, practicing your vagrancy.


PS-Now that I have seen all of Friday Night Lights, I need a new show to be obsessed with. Suggestions? I started watching 30 Rock, but it was boring, and Big Love, but it freaked me out.