We sat outside and watched the sprinklers and the dog and I wondered what it is that a place does to a person: maybe for other people, it doesn’t do very much (and these are the people who stay anchored with exercise or weird protein-heavy diets, or for whom the main thing is stock-market watching, or rugs, or managing their money, or collecting staplers or competitive dating). Maybe it’s a hygge gene, or maybe it’s something that happens to kids whose lives change with every move to a new state — eventually you come to think that any kind of emotional affliction can be solved by a change of scenery; each new bedroom’s blank walls and each new first day of school in a different zip code gives you the chance to reinvent yourself, and as an adult you channel that into becoming a different person whenever you first put the dishes away in foreign drawers. You feel a sense of control over your destiny because you’ve disassociated from whatever bogeymen lurked in the old closets.
This quote perfectly encapsulates something that i struggled with for a long time. Growing up, I attended 7 different schools, lived in at least that many different “homes” (all in all I think the number was closer to 11 or 12, counting temporary apartments), and traveled all over the country every summer.
None of it ever really seemed out of the ordinary to me then, but years later in therapy I’ve realized how growing up this way has affected the way I make personal relationships, and sadly, how disposable they can be for me. As the old cliche goes, I’ve forgotten more people than you’ve likely ever met.
In addition to being a family somewhat on the move, both my parents worked long hours, and my sister was in college right as I reached adolescence. I came to depend entirely on my own wits and developed my own set of survival skills. This has some advantages to be sure but has certainly come at a cost.
As an adult, it’s often frustrating, I’ve grown so used to being alone or having to do so much independently, that I rarely look to my friends for help. So when I struggled with addiction for many years, I also had to keep up the appearance of someone who has it together. I grew ever more anxious and depressed. I never “lived up to expectations” cos my reality was never what anyone else saw.
But even that was just an adult extrapolation of my own developing behavior and personality as a kid. Back then, I never thought to talk to my parents, and I never felt close enough to my own sister let alone my friends to navigate the choppy waters of growing up. I changed friends all the time, became interested in nearly everything, not just cos I’m naturally curious and nerdy, but even more, so that I could talk and make friends with just about anyone. I learned to have something in common with EVERYONE so that I’d never “be alone.” But I was always alone, no one ever knew who I really was on the inside, including myself. I manufactured my own destiny, but at the expense of molding it to whomever I was friends with in that particular moment. I became interested only in pleasing others that my own feelings became second-class.
Now that I’m coming up on my 10 year anniversary of living in New York, I’ve lived in 7 apartments in 10 years — but I’m on my 6th year in my current one. Should be no surprise here, I’d lived ALONE in it for the first 5 — only having my girlfriend move in in the last few months. I finally realized I have what I’d call a steady home life. I’ve got friends who I’ve had for a decade or more, my best friend lives in the apartment above mine. Without this stability and opportunity to stop practicing extreme self-reliance, I’d be a goner. It was only when I came to that conclusion that I had the ability to free myself of my addictions and really allowed myself to TRUST others with my own struggles.In that I’ve found some truly amazing people and my life has turned around 100%.
I often wonder if my childhood had been more conventional, would I have handled myself in the same way? The answer seems like it should be obvious to me, but since I know nothing else, I’ll never truly know.