Probably our worst fight—maybe, really, our only fight?—happened just before you moved to California. You told me that I was the only one of your friends who wasn’t being supportive about the move. Man, that pissed me off.
But you were probably right. You were right. I wasn’t the least bit supportive. In the weeks leading up to your Bon Voyage, I brought up all the things about California that suck—you know, in an off-hand, jokey sort of a way. As if the crowded Costcos would convince you to stay in Kansas forever.
My motive was simple: your moving would not be cool for me. You would get to go off to a new land and a new house and a new adventure, back to the beaches and palm trees and In-N-Out Burgers that I was still missing in Kansas. And I would still be here, except it would be a little bit worse because I would have no one to try and convince me to smoke hookah with her. And even though you should have felt the teensiest bit flattered that I like you so much, I know that I was being really selfish. And I was wrong, even though I was right about the Costcos.
Not yet two years later, I find myself in a similar position. One of my closest friends, Megan, just got a job in Indianapolis, and I feel like the selfish girl who can’t see past her own issues to be happy for this exciting new stage of life that awaits my friend and her family. This one hits particularly hard, as Megan used to live right down the street from me. She stayed home with her kids, who are close in age to my kids, and we’d have play dates or go to the grocery store together or take walks. Before that, she was there when both of my children were born. And before that, she and her husband and me and my husband would get together every week to eat dinner and watch LOST. Now, I know you’re not a big TV watcher, but people who ARE know that people who share LOST with you are special people indeed.
We had this easy sort of rhythm going where we could walk into each other’s houses without knocking. We never needed a big event to get together, or even a “company-worthy” meal. We knew where things like the extra toilet paper were kept. We preferred if you didn’t call and instead just stopped by.
Probably most of my anxiety about your move, and about Megan’s move, comes from my own feeling that I’m not quite settled yet. We moved to Kansas for Scott to go to school. We thought he’d finish school and then we’d be back in California, where both of us had grown up. That didn’t happen. I went to graduate school. Scott got a job. We got pregnant.
Our situation is not abnormal. The average number of times a person changes jobs now is up to twelve or thirteen times in a lifetime. Our culture is a mobile one; we are all on the go—sometimes out of desire, sometimes out of necessity. We are people who change locations, jobs, dentists, pediatricians, churches, yoga classes, favorite coffee shops. (For some reason, we tend not to change hair stylists. At least I don’t. Not unless I have to. Please don’t make me.)
I’ve been reading a book called The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture. The author, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, has this to say on the subject:
Staying, we all know, is not the norm in our mobile culture. A great deal of money is spent each day to create desires in each of us that can never be fulfilled. I suspect that much of our restlessness is a return on this investment. Mobility has a large marketing budget […] But I am convinced that we lose something essential to our existence as creatures if we do not recognize our fundamental need for stability. Trees can be transplanted, often with magnificent results. But their default is to stay.
I don’t blame you or Megan for moving any more than I blame Scott and me for the decision to move away from our own family and friends six years ago. Of course not. Moves like these are part of our lives—sometimes magnificently so. But I do long for stability and for a place, probably because I know how valuable it is to have it—even for a little while.
But maybe that’s a benefit to our mobile culture? A silver lining? The ability to see and appreciate good friends who never have to knock. The stability that we do have, even amid all the movement.