franzferdinand2 said: Of the places you've lived, which one feels most like home?
Oh, nice one. Complicated question about abstract perceptions.
Here are the places I’ve lived for any meaningful amount of time:
- 8 months to 18 years: Northbrook, Illinois, home of Ferris Bueller
- 18-22: Madison, Wisconsin for college
- Assorted time periods: northern Wisconsin for summer camp for most of my childhood and young adulthood, and a couple summers working in Simi Valley, which I’ve already discussed.
- New York City: age 22-33
- Silver Spring, Maryland: from September 2013 to right this minute
The concept of “home” is a funny thing to me, and I’m not entirely certain how I’d articulate it to myself. For the first half of my life, Northbrook was pretty much all I knew, so I couldn’t compare it to anything else. It’s where my immediate family and friends were, and it’s where I was. I don’t have much of a relationship to Chicago as a city, though I do have a deep affection for the history and mystery of the place, but it feels almost detached, as something I developed through consuming film and books and subsequently cultivating an affinity as a result of “it’s where I’m from”.
The strange memories and stories that I have from that place mean a lot to me, whether it was spending four years in an Orthodox Jewish high school despite not being orthodox, or hanging out in Evanston with my best friends all night on the weekends and getting into random trouble. I don’t know if I’d ever move back there for any reason other than to be close to my family, my best friend, and his family, but those seem like good reasons these days. The older I get, I’m less inclined to move to a place out of attraction to the city (unless it’s San Francisco) and lean more towards practical and emotional concerns, i.e. we can afford it and we’re close to loved ones.
That brings me to NYC. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a living cliche like a million others who had a love affair with the city, but I will say this: I’ve always had this weird sense in which I’ve known whether I could live somewhere the minute I got off the plane.
Landed in LAX for my first job interview, which is a whole other story: wasn’t sure
Landed in New Orleans for an interview in 2004: no
Landed in San Francisco for a visit in 2007: hell yes
Landed in cursed LaGuardia for an interview in 2002: immediate yes
So I spent 11 years in New York. I lived in Flushing, Queens for a year, which was weird, three in Manhattan, and something like sevenish in Brooklyn. It felt like home until it didn’t. I had cool jobs, learned a whole hell of a lot, collected a lifetime worth of stories, succeeded and failed in relationships, saw amazing things, saw dumb things, found/built some incredible communities, Jewish and otherwise, and I met my wife.
She was offered her job right before we got married, so I had to spend a lot of time with her weighing this huge decision during the honeymoon. I was scared of leaving New York, but only because I’d never seriously considered doing so, and the prospect of such a transition was daunting as hell. It turned out to be surprisingly easy. Once we decided to go, I knew I’d been ready for a long time. In fact, the moment we drove out of the city and the whole thing became real, I felt a weight lifted off of me. I was more surprised than anyone - I’m not known among my loved ones for being good at dealing with major changes in my situation.
When people ask me if I miss New York today, I say that I miss our lives there, but I don’t miss the act of living there. That place can take a whole hell of a lot out of you, and unless you’re rich, it can be a challenge. You can get by if you want, but then you don’t have the money to even enjoy it. We’re trying to build a life, so I’ll refer you back to that thing I said earlier about practical concerns.
Today we live in Silver Spring, Maryland. It’s not home, but it’s mighty cozy. I have nothing to complain about.
Now here’s the sappy part. As our wedding neared and the big decision loomed, I made a weird decision to change my wife’s listing in my phone. Ever since about mid-June 2013, it doesn’t say Keeli when she calls, it says “Home”. You’re welcome to roll your eyes at that if you want. It was motivated by the idea that if I’m marrying this person (and I did), then from now on, home is wherever she is.
Adopting that mentality made it really easy to decide to leave New York with no regrets. It did get confusing at first, though. I’ll confess that until that point, I had my parents’ landline listed as “Home” in my phone, so I guess it’s got that symbolic “oh look, you’re a grownup now” thing to it.
Also, for the first few weeks, I called my parents a lot expecting Keeli to pick up.