broadsideblog

Posts Tagged ‘where you live’

The quest for belonging

In aging, antiques, behavior, domestic life, family, life, urban life on June 9, 2014 at 3:13 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Is there one more existential?

Maybe not, for some people, who are born, live and die within the same four walls or zip code or area code, state, province or country.

Others, like me, feel both at home in many places yet not really rooted in any of them.

I was born in Vancouver, Canada; moved at two to London, England; back at five to Toronto; then on to Mexico, Montreal, Paris, New Hampshire and then New York.

american-flag-2a

I’m writing this on a park bench in a small town in Ontario, visiting my father for a few days to celebrate my birthday and his 85th next week. He bought a lovely 1860s home a few years ago here and has fixed it up nicely — the garden now has fruit trees and a pond with koi.

To me, it’s heaven, a place I’d be thrilled to own.

But he wants to sell it and move. To where? Anyone’s guess.

Happiest in motion...

Happiest in motion…

Itchy feet are normal in our family.

My mother has lived in New York, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Mexico, England, Toronto, Montreal, Peru, British Columbia; my father in Vancouver, Toronto, Ireland, London and for several years on his boat in Europe.

So I have nowhere to call “home” in the sense of some long-cherished family homestead, nor any expectation of inheriting one.

And longtime Broadside readers know that my husband and I are not close to our families physically or emotionally. Working freelance means those relationships are tenuous and often temporary.

I like living in suburban New York and am always glad to return there, but some of my deepest friendships  remain in Toronto, a place where real estate is breathtakingly and punitively expensive, as out of reach for me financially, even after decades of hard work and saving, as Santa Fe, New Mexico is for Jose, my husband, who grew up there and would love to return. My husband’s late father was the minister for a church there — long since torn down and replaced by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Only a small courtyard and an apricot tree now mark his childhood home.

I joined a local church in 1998 but have not been there much recently, too often feeling out of step with a wealthy and conservative congregation focused on child-raising.

Oddly (or not), these days I most often feel I belong at my local YMCA, as I am there so often for my dance classes and to use the gym. There, I always see people I know and like.

I spent a few minutes in the library here, asking if they have my latest book. They don’t, but the librarian said “I read you!” Which was pleasant.

Then I went to the local convenience store and was thrilled to find my first-ever story in the July 2014 issue of Cosmopolitan.

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Sometimes I feel my work, friends and husband are my real home, the place(s) where I belong and always feel valued — not within family or a job or faith community or specific geographical setting.

Where do you belong?

 

Louisianians Happiest, New Yorkers Most Miserable, National Study Finds

In behavior, US on December 30, 2009 at 12:50 pm
Skyline - New York City, New York at night

Image by Trodel via Flickr

A study of state residents’ happiness by professor Stephen Wu, assistant professor of economics at Hamilton College, finds New Yorkers the least happy of all — unfortunately, it didn’t break out the difference between upstate and downstate, so we don’t know if people in Park Slope or Staten Island are actually ecstatic while those in Rochester or Newburgh or Albany are mad as hell.

Wu’s study found that people in poor states like Mississippi and Louisiana, which, despite chronic poverty, were a lot cheerier than in New York, which came out at the bottom of their list. His research ties into a new book by former Harvard president Derek Bok’s “The Politics of Happiness”; both were interviewed today at great length (43 minutes), on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show.

As someone living 25 miles north of Manhattan in a county with insane property taxes, (mine are mitigated because I own an apartment), I get it. My county lacks many of the things that make me really happy, some deeply personal, others less so, from no decent florists, few cafes or other cool, hip “third spaces”, not enough sidewalks, lousy public transportation to the predictable — it’s boring! I stay for an affordable quality of life and quick, easy access to Manhattan. I enjoy a great view of the Hudson River and would be hard pressed to give it up.

Any New Yorker paying crazy-high taxes to the clowns in Albany, who recently shot down gay marriage, also gets it.

Like my partner, I moved here primarily for work; my family and long-time friends are far away. I certainly do enjoy the amenities and culture of Manhattan, but I won’t describe my experience here as one of relentless joy. It’s too hard, too expensive and you need to hire and pay lawyers for some of the simplest transactions. With long and expensive commutes and tolls of $5-9 each way to cross almost every bridge or tunnel, even going to hang out with a friend face to face who lives some distance away from you can feel like a costly hassle.

I do like the weather, which some New Yorkers find appalling — try Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto winters! I find New York plenty sunny and the cold is nothing as long as the sun is shining; in Toronto, the “lake effect” ensures months of cloudy, gray days, no matter how sunny the day begins. Much as I hate New Yorkers’ elbows-out pushiness, I do enjoy the variety of work and cultural opportunities.

Bok says that it’s social relationships that make people happiest — friends, family, trust, enjoying your neighbors. Wu agrees, that connection is the bigger factor than just knowing lots of people.

Callers to the show, and Bok, suggested that the chronically ambitious — what Bok called “excessive expectations”  — are de facto grumpy. New York City, certainly, attracts those who have extremely high expectations of themselves and others, making it easy to be disappointed about every five minutes if that’s your style.

Time to lower the bar?

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