I currently live in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina. I have been living here for about two years. Like most people who live in this area, I am not originally from here. I grew up in a town called Avon, Connecticut. I went to college in Boston. I lived in Washington, D.C. for a stretch and then went to law school in New Orleans. While in New Orleans I met and married my wife who grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. After law school we moved to Scranton and lived there for a year. Then we moved to Philadelphia and lived there for ten years.
In Philadelphia I worked for a big, corporate law firm performing a job I hated. It paid me well but I hated it. I felt unappreciated, made to perform mindless work and trapped because I had upgraded my life style to match my income and could not move to another job that would pay me as well.
In 2009 the recession put an end to that misery because my wife and I both got laid off. We then moved to Connecticut thinking we could live with my parents for a short period of time until we both found work. That short period of time lasted longer than we expected. But eventually we both landed work from home jobs. Suddenly we were in a position to move where ever we wanted to. After some research we picked a place with good schools and a low-cost of living and here we are.
I look back on all this moving with some regret. Everywhere I lived I always felt like I was trapped in the wrong place at the wrong time. If I had to do it all over again I would definitely have made different decisions.
Now that we live in North Carolina I find myself constantly amazed by how nice people are in comparison to all the other places I have lived. When I first moved down here I found myself in situations where I expected people to f#!@ with me and surprised they didn’t.
I suppose there is some Wizard of Oz message in all this. That I can travel the world looking for happiness but I really only had to go no further than my own back yard. I did move back to my own back yard after I got laid off and it was miserable. But the message is not literal. Dorothy is referring to the back yard of my soul I am sure. I think that is true to a point. Certainly, if you are miserable you are most likely going to take that misery with you where ever you go. On the other hand, if you are miserable there is something about your current situation that is making you miserable so shaking things up can be a good thing. Certainly staying put will probably not change things as I learned from staying at that law firm in Philadelphia for ten years.
I think change can be made, but it has to happen from within and sometimes outside help is needed to make that happen. Growth is possible. I am not the person I was twenty years ago. There’s nothing to do but look forward and keep moving.
For a few years my wife and I had thought about moving to Connecticut where my parents still lived in the house I grew up. I was not all that happy with Philadelphia. I did not like my job and I did not have that many friends. My wife liked it there but she was willing to make a move. So for a few years while I worked for Dechert I had been conducting a job search in Connecticut. I waived into the Connecticut bar (a process which took more than a year of amassing records and dealing with the court system). I was even approached by The Hartford (an insurance company in Hartford, CT) and interviewed for a position that seemed like it would solve all my problems. I ended up not getting the position. After that my wife and I decided to stop looking to move to Connecticut and decided to buy a nicer house in Philadelphia in an effort to commit to the area and establish roots.
This issue about establishing roots has its origin in the fact that ever since I graduated from college I never felt like I belonged anywhere. When I was young I felt like I belonged in Connecticut even though I was bullied, picked on and humiliated. When I went to college in Boston I felt like I belonged there. I was on the same level with all of my peers who were from various places around the country. But once I graduated from college and could not find a job I fell off the life track that I was supposed to be on and that I felt all my peers were on and had left me behind. As such, I was so humiliated and felt like I had to hide from the world because I no longer legitimately held a place there.
This feeling stayed with me. When I moved to Burlington, VT I felt like an outsider there because I was not hippy enough. When I moved to Washington, DC I felt like an outsider because I did not have a good enough (i.e., well paying and connected job). When I moved to New Orleans for law school I felt like I belonged on one level because I was on the same level as all my fellow students. But deep in my heart I felt like I did not belong because I was not a native to New Orleans. After New Orleans, I was an outsider in Scranton because I was not born and raised there. And when we moved to Philadelphia I was an outsider there first because I was not a native to the area but also because the firm I worked for treated me as a second-class citizen.
This feeling like an outsider is a bit of a “chicken and the egg” phenomenon. On the one hand, did I feel like an outsider because I carried that feeling with me? In other words would I have felt that way no matter where I went? Did I attract situations where I would feel like an outsider? The job a Dechert would seem to support this theory.
So my wife and I decided to buy a bigger house during the height of the housing bubble. We made some money selling our starter house but in order to buy our larger dream house I borrowed some money from my father. He seemed happy to give me the money at the time but later I felt ashamed for having done that. Especially after the housing market crashed and I lost my job and we were no longer able to pay the mortgage. At first we tried to sell our house but there were no takers after the crash. During this time I burned through my 401K that I accumulated over eight years at Dechert. Just as that money was about to run out we were able to rent the house. By this time we were living in Connecticut living with my parents.