Does place equal identity?

I’m reading Under the Tuscan Sun for book  club this week, and I’ll be honest with you, it’s not the easiest book to get through. There are parts that just drag me through. I think it’s due to the lack of dialogue..and the fact that while you see the world from the author’s eyes, you don’t really get a great sense for who she really is. It’s hard to relate to her.

amazon.com

In the course of reading this book, though, I’ve picked out a few morsels that were worth underlining and page-marking. The one I found last night is this:

“Where you are is who you are. The further inside you the place moves, the more your identity is intertwined with it. Never casual, the choice of place is the choice of something you crave.”

This caption spoke to me. I’ve always felt like I was in the wrong place, like my life was supposed to exist in another location. I always chalked it up to dissatisfaction with my life, discontentment with myself that would transfer to another physical location with me. “Wherever you go, there you’ll be,” right?

But then I read this section of Under the Tuscan Sun last night, and it made me wonder whether I’ve been shutting up valid voices. What if I really should be considering the possibility that my life would be better, I would feel more like me if I lived in a location that I felt something for. Because let’s face it. Roseville is nothing to me. It is simply a location that’s far enough away from where I grew up to be tolerable and close enough to “stuff” (ie grocery stores, a mall, etc) that I feel a sense of convenience (even if not when it comes to feeding my face). It’s also within driving distance of work (back up there where I grew up) and close to family. Those are about the only good things about it.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve felt like I belonged somewhere else. The East Coast, specifically. Even before I’d been there, I had this sense that that was where I belonged. I’m not sure where I got it from. Maybe I watched too much television…more likely I read too many books. We didn’t have power where I spent the majority of my childhood, so I was either reading books or climbing trees…or reading books up a tree. We would watch a couple of shows in the evening, as a family, using the generator that powered our necessary electronics. So it was probably more likely I got the idea from a book than from television.

One of my favorite books as a child, about a girl who flies across the country with her grandfather in a Piper Cub

But I digress. The point is, somewhere along the line I drew up this fantasy of “living on the East Coast.” And you know what? Being over there makes me immensely happy. I won’t lie. My dream come true is to have all of my family and friends and Jim’s family move to Connecticut. Although I’d take North Carolina too…or Rhode Island. I adore Newport! Or the Boston area. I LOOOOOVE Boston. I’ve spent so much time trying to learn to love myself so that I can be happy wherever I am. But is that really the answer? Would I really be just as dissatisfied if I lived somewhere I loved instead of somewhere I nothing?

Seriously, look at this house! They don’t have houses like these where I live…not that I could afford the $7.7 million price tag, but still, it’s there if something comes up… (source)

Roseville is full of chain stores, chain restaurants, cookie cutter houses. It’s a total suburb. It bores me. I long for a quaint downtown with little cafes and cute shops. Roseville has a downtown, but it’s sorely lacking in the cafes and shops. I long for streets lined with trees that change from green to vibrant yellow, orange and then red as the year progresses toward its end. I want to feel the pride of a place, the history, the culture, the little quirks that make it unique.

Famous Bannister’s Wharf in Newport, RI. Photo taken on Jim’s and my trip around the country two years ago

There isn’t a single unique thing about Roseville. If you closed your eyes, someone could pluck you out of any spot in Roseville and plunk you down in any spot in any other suburb, and you’d barely know you’d moved. I feel miserable when I think of living in Roseville for the rest of my life. But I feel trapped, some of which is my own doing. I can’t help that I would miss my family, Jim’s family, our friends, if we were to move across the country. And even though he says he would consider it, I think Jim really wants to stay here. And why wouldn’t he? He grew up in San Jose. Roseville is probably paradise in comparison.

At least you could ask the neighbors for decorating advise…they have the same house. (source)

But there’s another element to my hatred of Roseville, too. It’s still far too close to where I grew up. I feel like I haven’t branched out, started my own life yet. I don’t want to live a reasonable distance from where I grew up. I want new experiences. I want to feel like my life is of my choosing, not someone else’s. And who knows? Maybe I would choose blasé old Roseville. But how will I know that unless I try something else first?

My question to you is this: do you love where you live? And if so, do you think it has anything to do with your sense of self? If you don’t, do you feel like a relocation would change that?

 

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6 Comments to “Does place equal identity?”

  1. My words of wisdom for the day…… On the east coast, you have to prove yourself, and then you are accepted…, on the west coast, you are accepted and then you prove yourself. When going to the east coast, (especially the bigger cities, i.e. Boston, New York) it is always best if you have the “latest” copy of Emily Post’s Etiquette” book in your pocket. (Do no use the condensed version – they take this very seriously!) unless as you say you wind up in CT or Washington DC , and then of course you would want Amy Vanderbilt – (her version of Etiquette for Military functions and protocol far surpasses Emily Post) I do remember seeing “something” similar to the home you posted above, except I think it was in a more “moutainous” area outside Roseville. (Smile) A place you can always consider a 2nd home!

    One always seems lost for awhile, but you have to remember you are where you are for the reason that you are susspose to be there. Or in the words of the great WInston Churchill….. “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom in not putting it in a fruit salad”. You are a wise woman, and you will make the best choice of where you are to be. As far as me, relocation would not change the person that I really am; it is the wisdom that helps me accept the reasons that I am here.

    Always remember, we love you!

  2. I don’t love where I live – to be honest, I find Vancouver overpriced and cliquey, so it’s tough to meet people. The people you do meet tend to be spread out all over the place so my closest friends are all a 40 minute drive away. Considering I grew up on a tiny island with just 30,000 people, this feels really odd to me. I have to learn a little bit to enjoy where I am because I always think moving will solve everything and I think it won’t necessarily, but I am curious about trying out somewhere else. Or going back home, though that feels repetitive. I do love where I’m from though – my island will always feel like home! And it’s warm there all the time 🙂

    • I think a large part of my problem is my proximity to where I grew up. I want to get out and figure out my own life, not mold it around my parents’ decisions. From all the comments I’ve gotten about this post, it seems most people who are happy with their surroundings have moved away from where they started. Then again, maybe I’m just bored. lol

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