MovingMonday, May 1, 2017 · 1100 words · approx 5 mins to read
I moved house recently and the new place marks my 11th address across 10 different homes in my 37 orbits around the Sun to date. The first couple I can’t remember. While we believe that humans form memories from a very early age, recall from long-term memory is such that your earliest memories will tend to be from age 3 or thereabouts. I’d already moved twice by then, although I have a few memories from living at that third house, very nearly 3 years old.
Funnily enough, part of my recollection of my earliest memory is in the 3rd person. I can see myself sat the top of the stairs as someone gives me towels to hold. My sister was being born in the house and I was put in charge of the towels. A terribly important job I’ll have you know and to this day I believe it was absolutely critical to the success of what was happening, and not at all to keep me occupied while everyone else worked to get Erika into the world safely. Apparently you modify memories every time you recall then, so I guess that’s why I now see myself in the third person in that one.
I digress. What I really wanted to write about was how progressively moving further and further away from home as the years have rolled by has affected how I think about the notions of home, family and my own roots. When I moved to Sheffield from Scotland in 2004, I joked with a friend at the time that I needed to get as far away from Scotland as I could and that eventually I’d end up on the south coast. Turns out that wasn’t a joke, just a long play.
As I’ve gotten progressively further away from where I grew up, and started to think more about countries, their borders, and the accident of being born within one, I increasingly think that the idea of setting up a permanent home for decades at a time is a bizarre one. Increasingly so against the backdrop of Brexit, where my freedom of movement to EU member states will likely become more difficult as a result.
Moving around — 5 times as a child with no say as to where, and 5 times as an adult with freedom to choose my destinations — although never outside the United Kingdom, has bought me a lot and lost me comparatively little. Moving forces the forging of fresh bonds with new people and forces you to experience the world around you anew.
Custom, community, culture and what the world looks like out of the window might be broadly similar for each move in my case, because comparatively speaking I haven’t gone that far, but new relationships with new people have enriched me more than I’ve lost in those that I’ve left behind.
I’ve never really been one to keep looking back when I’ve moved around. There’s too much new to see, do, walk around, smell, meet, talk to, enjoy, listen to, touch, taste and drink in, even for someone deeply in love with sitting in a chair at a computer for most of his life. I’m doing that now.
I’ve never moved just because I felt like it, rather always for work or the special someone in my life. New jobs are always particularly exciting for me, because they bring both new opportunities to do well in life, and also bring new people to get to know and build various kinds of relationships with. At least for me anyway. So while I don’t like the physical aspects of packing an existing life into boxes to start a new one, the end result has always been worth it.
Maybe the next step, when Christine and I are ready to settle down a bit and maybe have kids, is to settle down somewhere else entirely. Kids, buying the house you want to live in, work, family: they all tie the knot that keeps you where you are a little tighter. Despite those things pulling on the strings, it feels like the right thing to do to at least consider that our next move should be a little further afield.
Christine’s brother came to visit us yesterday in the new place, with his partner. They both live in Denmark — she’s a Dane, he’s British and has moved there in recent years — and both had a lot of positive things to say about living there. Denmark has a very high standard of living, powered by their own variant of the sensible Nordic model of economic and social policies that they build their society and government around. There’s a lot to like about living a country that works like that.
The younger me never thought that a life outside of the miserable one in Scotland was a possibility. He never thought about different social and economic models. He certainly never thought about maybe moving to experience one first hand. Now sometimes the thought of a life different to the one I have now is all I can think about.
Honestly, the notion that there’s an entire Earth out there and I should now mostly just stay in this one bit I’m in now until I’m old and ending doesn’t seem logical. What I’m trying to say, terribly I think because I never really plan writing like this, is that despite any tightening of the knots keeping you anywhere, think about experiencing something else from time to time in a different geography. Even if you’re happy!
Doing that, even just in my own country, has helped me figure a lot of stuff out and help to try and figure out who I am. It’s all too easy to be insular and stuck to your few square kilometres. I see that over and over again, where I believe the narrow thinking that fosters is part of the reason I don’t think we’re doing so well here right now. Venture out a bit, and let your roots be something other than geographical.