How many places have you lived in your life?
Hmmm, good question. By the way, I understand “places” here to refer to every house, apartment, or sleeping bag I ever called home (and not just every town/city):
- 1966-88: I lived in two places in northeastern Oklahoma. The first, where I lived until I was 11, was out in the sticks. It wasn’t quite a small farm, but there was an orchard and a large vegetable garden. We occasionally had some livestock. There weren’t many kids around, and I was fairly lonely. Just before I was about to enter junior high (excellent timing for my social development, huh?), we moved to “town,” mostly because my parents feared (correctly, I think) that the rural school I’d been attending wouldn’t well prepare me for college.
- 1988-91: I moved to northwest Ohio to attend graduate school. If you’re attentive, you’re probably wondering now when/where I went to college. Well, to save money (and there wasn’t much of it), I commuted from my parents’ house to a nearby public university. Yup, I lived at home. (Is it any wonder I didn’t meet Mr. Right in college?) Anyway, after college, I landed in a small town in northwest Ohio that was a strange mix of the prototypical dusty, Midwestern farmtown and a cosmopolitan university village. I lived in a horrible, horrible upstairs apartment—with incredibly uneven floors and ugly green carpeting—that cost only $300 a month.
- 1991-93: I ditched grad school (with a degree, thank you very much), but I still didn’t know what to do with my life. This lack of planning caused me to wind up back at my parents’ house. Rebound child! I really think—know, actually—that my parents were happy to have me at home again (i.e., they missed their baby), but no 25-year-old ought to be living with his mommy. Take my word for it.
- 1993-96 (exceptions noted below): Back to school, and I did it in New Orleans. I finally felt like a grown-up, I think. Despite the pervasive poverty, the constant sirens, and the widespread social dysfunction, I loved living in New Orleans.
- Summer 1994: For an internship, I ended up back at my parents’ house for a few weeks. It was nice just to be visiting, and everyone treated the quasi-New Orleanian as some kind of social sophisticate. Hee.
- Summer 1995: For a different intership, I lived for the summer in Oklahoma City. You should’ve seen this apartment, which was one of those, um, establishments that cater to short-term residents. For the entire summer, I felt like I’d checked into the worst Best Western on the planet. Once, after a spectacular Oklahoma thunderstorm, the electricity went off, and it didn’t come back on again for four more days. What a week! It was hot and, um, dark. At least I couldn’t see the ugly (also green!) carpeting.
- 1996-99: Hello, Philadelphia. Newly credentialed, I had an actual grown-up job, and it was in the biggest city I’d ever even contemplated living in. I immediately hated it. Philly seemed to offer an appalling lack of, well, baseline politeness, and I just didn’t take to the rust on the buildings or the haze in the air. But I loved my job, especially the people there, and finding the right allergy meds helped me to cope somewhat with the Philly haze. (I lived in two different apartments during this time frame.)
- 1999-2001: Fed up with Philadelphia, and a job that was perennially temporary, I arranged for a transfer to a related New Orleans office. The ex moved with me, and rough times ensued. He detested New Orleans as much I’d hated Philadelphia, and he just couldn’t find a good job. Plus, the office I joined was filled with unhappiness. I couldn’t wait for each and every workday to end; unfortunately, there was so much work to do that the workday inevitably stretched into the night. It’s no fun living in New Orleans (or anywhere, I suppose) if you never get to see it. (P.S. We actually lived in one of New Orleans’s burbs.)
- 2001-present: So, naturally, we ended up back in Philly. When a permanent position with my employer opened up, I snapped it up. For about a year, we lived in the same area I’d lived in from 1996-99, but in 2002 we moved to my current neighborhood. Over the years, I’ve grown to like (but not quite love) Philly. There’s something to be said for living in a big city; there’s always something to do, for instance. And after a few years here, I do feel like I know my way around. I don’t quite feel like I “belong” here, though.
So, let’s see. That’s either nine or 10 different residences, depending on whether I separately count living in two different apartments in a single complex. Oh, let’s count them both. 10. Egad. And that’s only counting my parents’ house—which, of course, (warning: loser alert!) I repeatedly called home—once.
That’s too much moving and not enough feeling at “home,” I’m afraid.