Anne Notations

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sand in my shoes

Oh, I was a rammmmm-blin' girl. Which is to say that my parents and I had relocated seven times by the middle of my freshman year of high school. My brother, born more than five years after me, experienced fewer uprootings and remained in the same school system from third grade through 12th. Moreover, he and his family have lived in our Massachusetts hometown for nearly 20 years, and for the past eight have occupied our late parents' house – our childhood home. Whereas I have stayed in Rhode Island all my adult life but am now on my ninth home since I graduated from college in 1973.

Fascinating, then, to read in the New York Times about a study, “Residential Mobility, Well-Being and Mortality,” that appeared last month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Among the findings: "The more times people moved as children, the more likely they were to report lower 'well-being' and 'life satisfaction' as adults." Introverts seemed to suffer the most long-term damage, and the study's author cautions, "Parents who are considering moving need to think about their children’s personalities and the potential risk.”

There are a number of reader comments on this article. I was most struck by those that confirmed what I've long suspected: My ultra-mobile childhood has made me restless and residentially fidgety. Not only did I apparently became inured to frequent moves, as an adult I have craved them. I can't seem to make it a full decade in any domicile; nine years has been my (and by extension, Michael's) limit.

Also, I have long wondered why I have only a small handful of true, lasting friendships. In the comments, I read of others who likewise feel deficient in sustaining deep friendships over long intervals. Well, duh! We never stayed anywhere long enough to cultivate them properly, and/or we have subconsciously shied away from the prospect because it wasn't part of our early development. Now, as I approach my 60s, I find myself wanting to hold friends closer, both emotionally and physically. I crave the comfort and connection of friends, particularly those with whom I've shared important life experiences and milestones, friends who "get me" as I believe I "get them."

Here's my response to the Times article. (below)

I was an extreme introvert (read: painfully shy) as a child and adolescent. My father's job for a large corporation kept us moving – 7 times – until midway through my 9th-grade year, when we made a last move and I finished high school in the same town where my parents retired finally.

But: I found that perhaps because of the frequent need to survive those fearful first days in new schools and neighborhoods, I began to morph into an extrovert. I became adept at adapting to my environments and eventually had close friends in several "hometowns." By the time I went away to college, I was good at the process and even relished it.

The downside for me hasn't been a difficulty making friends (I'm extremely sociable,) but … in maintaining long-term friendships except through social media. What I have struggled with even more noticeably is staying in one place. My husband and I have lived in three apartments and five houses in the past 3 decades – all in the same state. I get bored or stifled or claustrophobic after about 7 years of living in the same abode, and begin combing the real estate ads and driving around different towns and neighborhoods and going to open houses. Consequently, as we near retirement age, I do not feel firmly rooted anywhere, although I love the actual relocations, fixing up houses, and discovering new communities, stores, roads each time.

Perhaps I'm simply more comfortable with the role I played in my first 15 years: The Eternal Newcomer.

What about you? Is "home" still the same town where you were born and raised? How has that stability or its opposite – a childhood of frequent moves and changes – affected your choices in life, your relationships, and your personality? I don't regret my own experience; I believe it made me flexible and friendly and socially brave. I hope our kids, who at least always stayed in the same schools, don't feel they have suffered from living in three different houses.


  • I was just trying to count how many times I moved as a kid, but gave up when I got to third grade and had already topped seven times. I wonder about the double whammy of parents who get divorced in the middle of it. As an adult I've moved transcontinentally three times. Now that I'm living in the "land of steady habits," where no one moves out of the town their great-great-great grandparents lived in, I wonder if the moving thing was more a phenom of the post-war generations?

    By Blogger Katherine Hinds, at Sun Jul 11, 09:45:00 AM EDT  

  • Boy, do I feel your pain! I do not have any "life time" friends. I have a hard time even feeling friendships with those I worship with. I can't stay long in any organization. Usally about 2 years is my max...then I feel the seperation of knowing these people, but not being friends with these people. I see people who laugh and cry together and who have led a life together for 30 plus years. I just don't belong anywhere. What will happen in my 60, 70's or 80's. Now I worry. But am paralized to do anything about it.

    By Blogger Joan, at Sun Jul 11, 03:49:00 PM EDT  

  • My spouse and I have lived in our 5th wheel RV fulltime for the last 6 years. We love it. There is nothing like having your home on wheels.

    Maybe your future holds an RV!

    By Blogger Savvy Psychic, at Fri Jul 23, 09:06:00 PM EDT  

  • Food for thought, thanks. I grew up in an apartment for the first five years of my life and then a house, which is still the home of my father, he should live and be well. I have been in the same neighborhood myself now for about twenty years. I've been in the same job for (going on ) fifteen years. My father had the same job for well over 40 years. There's a lot to think about. I'm kind of the reverse of what this article was about. And yet...

    By Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann, at Thu Aug 05, 11:49:00 PM EDT  

  • With a dad in the Air Force, the numbers of different schools we attended and houses we inhabited are oft-repeated family stories: for my parents, 17 houses in their first 19 years of marriage; for me, 7 school systems before high school graduation, grudgingly spending my senior year in a new school and state. I never managed to acquire the extrovert qualities, Anne; so for me, once we left the "all newcomers all the time" cocoon of the military in 5th grade, the recurring experience was being the outsider in a settled community, waiting to be invited in. Even today it's a struggle to make the effort to reach out rather than assume I'm not welcome unless invited! But I have managed to maintain some long-term friendships, mostly from college; I treasure them.

    Thanks for sharing this article and your own experience!

    By Anonymous Dorcey, at Thu Aug 12, 09:35:00 PM EDT  

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