I'm Moving And It's The WORST -- Are You A Mover Or A Stayer?

While drowning in boxes, I'm contemplating the definition of home.
Publish date:
June 11, 2013
moving, settling down, packing

Moving is a lot like going on vacation. The planning is the best part.

"Oh, I'm going to see this!" and "Oh, we're going to hang that!" become easy go-tos in conversation. The hope and possibility of free time and blank walls are an end in themselves. It's the anticipation we're really looking forward to. Imagining your vacation self or your new house self and all the amazing things that woman will do is the juicy carrot in the race of regular ole living.

Then you get on the plane or the front seat of the moving van and realize suddenly, "This is really happening! I'm off on a new adventure." And that, of course, is where the two roads diverge -- one leading to margaritas and the other leading to a Christmas morning nightmare, opening presents you wrapped yourself and consisting of stuff you already own. Yay?

This month will mark my ninth move since 2002. I've been in the requisite post-graduation "Three's Company" situation in Harlem, a junior one bedroom in Chicago, another group house in Washington, then my mom's spare room in Atlanta. Then back to DC and a basement apartment, then a sexy "urban loft" in the same city, followed by a nomadic period of self discovery, my good friend's guest room in Maryland, a two-bedroom condo with my boyfriend and now (not finally) a row house up the street.

I told an old friend I was moving -- hoping for sympathy -- and she responded with "Congratulations!" I thought that was odd, before I realized she's been living in her "forever home" for the past five years with her husband and adorable baby. I'm sure for her the idea of moving is still magical, where as I'm all too aware of how the sausage was made or -- more aptly -- how we got that big ass sofa into the apartment.

According to the most recent Census data from 201, Americans have been staying put lately. The percentage of people who moved homes between 2010 and 2011 -- 11.6% -- is the lowest on record. Smart folks have attributed the slowing migration to the aging of America, a crap economy and two-career households because it's more difficult to relocate with two jobs.

The likelihood of a person moving around was also tied to their educational level and geographic location. People from the Midwest are more likely to spend their entire lives in their hometown whereas folks from the West pack up more often. Most college grads -- about three quarters of them -- move, compared to only half of those with a high school diploma, according to an old survey by Pew.

I'm standing firmly in the intersection of the moving-est bunch. I'm from the wild wild West and I have a bunch of diplomas boxed up somewhere around here. For years, signing a lease was a lot like climbing up somebody's ladder because each move was facilitated by a major resume bullet point -- a new school or a new job.

But now that the race to the top has slowed down considerably, so has my enthusiasm for perusing Craigslist. It's a quiet function of getting older when the thrill of new becomes more burdensome that beguiling.

What I found most interesting about the Pew survey was respondents' definition of "home." The further away I get in years from my first home in Los Angeles the more often I find myself saying "I'm from there, but--" At this point I've spent nearly half my life somewhere else.

"Among U.S.-born adults who have lived in more than one community, nearly four-in-ten (38%) say the place they consider home isn’t where they’re living now. But there’s a wide range of definitions of “home” among Americans who have lived in at least one place besides their original hometown: 26% say it’s where they were born or raised; 22% say it’s where they live now; 18% say it’s where they have lived the longest; 15% say it’s where their family comes from; and 4% say it’s where they went to high school."

And there, I think, rests the sinking feeling of moving, the idea that home isn't where you're living now. If that's the case, then what exactly is the place you're living now? A prison cell? A bat cave? A bird cage?

The older I get, the more I want where I park my body to be home, a la Diana Ross in "The Wiz." And with every new move there's been the possibility of that happening. But there's also the can't-shake-feeling that there might be another place, a better place, waiting in the wings.

That's why we've decided that this is it -- sorta. This is the penultimate pack-up before the big one. We've told ourselves it's because no one in their right mind likes moving, but really it's because we're looking to settle in. I'm not interested in a French revival with benefits -- I want something that sticks.

Am I the only one looking for a permanent address? Where do you fall on the moving scale, one for still looking and five for never leaving?