“The picture of dissatisfaction presented by a street, where everyone is perpetually lifting his feet to escape from the place on which he stands.” Franz Kafka, Diaries, August 21, 1912
Always moving and not being satisfied. I understand this. I wasn’t happy because everywhere I went, there I was. Changing one’s geography cannot make one happy.
As a child and teenager moving around I experienced the paradox of the dread of moving and changing schools and the excitement about new opportunities brought by this change. I don’t remember being anxious about moving because my parents were careful to find good neighborhoods, good schools, and a welcoming church, but the one thing I always felt missing was a history with my peers. Without malice, they would discuss their childhoods and growing up together. I was not intentionally left out, but I didn’t fit into any of the stories. I did not fit into the conversation. Of course, I could enjoy their lives and their memories, but with each new school and new group of friends I was always the outsider. Each move sealed the way I felt about me. I was an outsider. My thoughts were incongruent with my personality. I appeared positive and outgoing, but deep down there was such sadness. I was an interloper. A stranger even to myself. The more I moved, the more outgoing I became. This was to mask my sadness. I didn’t care about fitting in; I just wanted not to feel like an outsider. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was more of the way I saw myself.
At the beginning of our marriage and when my husband and I began our family we began to create a history with our friends and we passed that on to our children. We had our family, and we had our community. I now had a history. When we moved after ten years of marriage, I lost my center. I had survived and flourished as a youngster even when moving around, but once I gained this history and then felt as if I lost it, I lost my way. I wanted my feet to keep moving because I thought I was meant to be an outsider. I began to get my groove and worked on growing where I was planted, but my alcoholism along with my unhappiness escalated. I have made dear friendships, but I believe I was conditioned by my own thinking. I didn't fit.
I feel very at home in New York is because so many people are not from here even if they have been here for years. In my experience, this tends to make them inclusive. I have found even the native New Yorkers enjoy meeting new people. Perhaps I am the new weird Southern variety. Maybe it’s because as a child and as a young wife the moves were out of my control. After college, I moved to Birmingham, Alabama and I thrived. It was my decision. Maybe this is all about feeling in control of my own destiny.
Do we find life more unsettling when we don’t feel in control of our lives? I don’t know the answers to my own questions, but I do know I am grateful for where I am today. I am grateful for a husband who supports me. I am grateful that we have created a business model where I can continue to work remotely for him as I live here and write. I am grateful for each of my children who are equipped with the tools to live their lives always knowing we are a family unit despite our geography. I am grateful for sobriety and the clarity of mind it brings to me. I am grateful for my friends all over who send me messages of encouragement. These friends are friends I have made during my life with each move and each new city. I am grateful for the new friends I am making here in New York. I do have a history. I have a history of making the kindest most encouraging friends wherever I go. I am happy because here I am.