It says a lot about the state of your life, not to mention the state of the economy, when your job search targets half a dozen cities and a variety of institutions, organizations and positions you never thought you would consider. Apparently, the job situation is improving in that more people are finding work. Unfortunately, unemployed persons of a certain age like myself are most likely finding work they thought they had moved on from in their 20s, when anything would do to pay the bills – part time, unskilled, underpaid, whatever, whenever, wherever.
I am not a prideful person. Say instead that I am unapologetically proud of the knowledge and aptitude I’ve spent all these years acquiring, and which deserve to be put to proper use. But it turns out that an Ivy League education, post graduate degree and decades spent in a particular field prepare you for a lot of things in life, with the exception of a gracious acceptance of the harsh reality that you are pretty much back to square one in terms of making a living, and that any decent job that opens up will be pounced upon by a hungry horde of job seekers who are either older and more experienced or younger and more eager than you. And thanks to the Internet, and the desperation factor, and the general transience of modern life, those seekers are as likely to live across the country as down the block.
But this was not supposed to be a post about jobs. It’s about cities. It’s about my mother in New York City, which I left behind in 2002, saying just the other day “I want to see you happy and settled. Mirollos aren’t nomads. You can always come back, you have a home base and family here.” Let’s set aside the bittersweetness of any mother in her 80s offering welcome to her returning 50 year old prodigal daughter. Let’s set aside that positions in NYC have now become part of my online job search, which takes over an hour every day and parades before my eyes potential future lives so different and so equally possible and imminent, it makes my head spin. It’s about why I am not still, or already, in NYC living and working as I was 11 years ago.
|Not Far Afield|
Mirollos (and also my mother’s Di Tieri side of the family) are not nomads. My grandparents never left the city they arrived in as young immigrants. My parents occupy the same apartment they took possession of in 1971. My brother moved to the Boston area in the mid 80s and in spite of a few house and job moves, remains to this day. My uncles and aunts dispersed into the Greater Metropolitan Area and lived and died in homes they established there. Their children haven’t strayed much farther afield. The one aunt who left the east coast landed in San Francisco decades ago and has not budged. Until 2002, I was honoring the family tradition of remaining on a short leash in terms of never venturing too far from some invisible but unbreakable central point of attachment. I went to school, and took apartments and jobs all within a few miles of my childhood home.
I left New York because I came to understand that, just like a man wonderful for a casual or long distance affair, but hell in a serious cohabiting relationship, it really was a nicer place to visit than to live. For all the amazing times to be had, living there was often sad and always hard, and was quite nearly killing me as a single working girl in her 30s. I moved to Boston, where the living was easier, but where I so completely failed to make a connection with the city, I only found happiness traveling around beyond it. Including trips back to New York, which turned into the ex-lover you still don’t want to live with, but are thrillingly and undeniably in love with, so much so, you can’t resist the occasional tryst, regardless of, or perhaps due to, your lack of desire to pursue it further.
It was around this time that I became entirely rootless. In my 40s, I became the first Mirollo Nomad, experiencing a greater sense of peace and identity when I was on the move, belonging nowhere and everywhere. Planning future trips made my bleak present life bearable. I caught a glimpse of myself in a reflective shop window early one morning, alone on the streets, on my way to catch a plane or train, walking briskly with a broad determined smile on my face, and one thriftily packed duffle bag slung over my shoulder, and thought “that is the image of who I am, a traveler.”
The problem with exchanging a life of extreme rootedness for one of having no ties to the place in which you are supposed to be living, is that it eventually leaves you with a profound understanding of the good and bad in both ways, no decided preference for either, and a sharp longing for both. I want a home base in which I feel safe and surrounded by things and people and activities that matter to me. I want familiarity and permanence and being able to know with some certainty that my address, job and companions will be the same 6 months, or even 6 weeks from now.
And I still love the freedom and sense of purpose in being on a train headed somewhere, with only the essentials for a few days of existence in a bag by my side. I love discovering new cities, and rediscovering old ones. There are so many nice places to visit. But would I really want to live there? What would those cities reveal to me over time if I stayed there longer than a long weekend?
|Not a Place You Need to Leave|
As much as I love New York, and it is no flight of literary fancy that I characterize my relationship with the city in such intimately human terms, my heart has also always belonged to Vermont. When it came time to leave Boston in 2011, and put down roots, surely Vermont would prove to be a place I could live without needing to escape it every weekend. Like the man of your dreams you have been working and waiting all your life to meet, Vermont to me was a place you leave other places for, not a place you need to leave. I still believe that. And yet, my time here thus far has not done much to support or encourage that belief. Times have been often sad and always hard. Something has gone wrong. More and more I doubt my decision to move here. Is my love of this state just the fond memories of a visitor whose perceptions are based on a brief encounter untested by the daily realities of actually living and working here?
|It Could be Anywhere|
It may be that I am in the right state, just not in the right city. One thing is certain amidst all the uncertainty – if I am one, I am a nomad made not born. I want to be as happy and settled as my mother hopes I will be. But I am willing and able to keep moving to find that happiness. It could be any city in Vermont where I can earn a living and look up and get up from my bills and accounts long enough to enjoy the beautiful view, clean air and deep peace and quiet. It could be back in New York, which may by now have earned a second chance, as we are neither us who we were a decade ago.
And it is of course the city to which all travelers, born or made, eventually return.