Does it matter where you live?

I was talking with a colleague recently who was thinking about applying for jobs across the country. She’s always thought she’d be happier on the West Coast.  “But really,” she said, “Aren’t I fooling myself? Wouldn’t life be pretty much the same, just somewhere else?”

I feel I know something about this. I spent 15 years living in a city I didn’t like. I won’t say which, so no one feels the need to defend it. Cities are as much a matter of personal taste as clothing or food. And I did try to like it. I explored different areas. I made friends, a career and a life. When I longed for other parts of the country, I told myself life wouldn’t really be any different there. And long I did!

During high school, visiting the hometown my family had moved from was especially painful, because I not only missed the neighborhoods, my school, the walkability, the trees, but I also missed my friends. As I grew older, I was jealous of others things: affordable real estate, the friendliness of strangers, better ice cream stands and grocery stores, even the night sky. So many more stars for these lucky bastards!

For that matter, I felt jealous when I visited almost anywhere. Sometimes on a weekend trip to St. Louis, or Portland or Vermont, I’d say to my husband, “Why do people get to live here when we have to live somewhere so sh*%ty?” That’s right, I said St. Louis. Sure, I had grass-is-greener syndrome. At least, that’s what I always told myself. But I also had a whole life, one I wasn’t ready to abandon for no good reason.

But one day, pregnant on the front porch of our beautiful Victorian row house we had purchased only 9 months earlier, I looked down the pretty city street and thought, “I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE! I HATE IT! MY BABY CANNOT LIVE HERE!” And so we did. Not three months later our house was sold, and we were on a moving van on our way to a city I hadn’t lived in since I was in high school. I was leaving a job I loved, friends I’d spent two decades making and probably all my common sense in the rear view mirror.

It’s been three years since that irrational decision, and the happiest of my adult life. I no longer discount how important it can be to feel spiritually aligned with the place you reside. It took leaving to realize how much energy I spent, for years, just trying to feel at home with things and places that felt unnatural to me. The panic disorder I thought was just a part of who I was? Gone. I’ve had exactly one panic attack in three years: on the trip home from visiting the East Coast. And I am a happier, more peaceful person here. Of course, I miss my friends. But overall, I can breathe the sigh of relief that I am finally, once again, home.

The irony is where I live now is hardly everyone’s dream. It’s a city about as sexy as your grandmother. But it doesn’t have to be everyone’s dream. Turns out, it was mine. So that’s my answer, but what’s yours? Can you be happy anywhere, or did a certain place call out your name? Are you there yet, or still dreaming it will happen some day?

3 Responses to “Does it matter where you live?”
  1. writerdood says:

    I love where I live, and my family is here, but I’d still rather live someplace warmer. Could I live anywhere? Yes, I have no doubt of it. I’ve lived in some pretty undesirable places before, and therefore I can’t complain about my current location really. Other than the climate, it’s perfect. The thing is, I have a family to consider, and so its their preferences that keep me anchored in place. If I were still single, I have no doubt that I’d be somewhere else far from where I currently live. But the kids have friends, and my wife has friends, and we both have parents and siblings that all live here. We’re not locked in place, but we’re settled. Still, I often dream of a tropical island somewhere.

  2. Skinny Sushi says:

    I think it matters…. some. Every place has a different character, so everyone will feel different about each place. So to some degree where you live can either play toward your interests and needs, or not. But for me personally, it has more to do with living near the people I care about. Of course, right now I am WAY too far away from my parents, but the husband’s job requires it… and if I’m honest, I do like Maryland. If I had my way though, we’d move to somewhere a little more… connected. Right now I feel like we live in the middle of nowhere, and we’re at least an hour (and usually more like two) from nearly all of our friends and family.

    All of that aside, I’d move to Rome in a HEARTBEAT if it wouldn’t bankrupt us.

  3. itisis says:

    I love where I live – Beijing – Woohoo! It’s far away from home, but it’s definitely worth it all. People often ask me, ‘can you stand with people spitting around all the time?’ my answer ‘would you like to come and spit next to me too?’. Ignorant people don’t bug me anymore. I think choosing to live in Beijing has been one of the best choices I’ve made in my life so far!

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