I hate moving house. Sometimes, depending on where I’m living at the time, I enjoy having moved house, but I can’t remember enjoying the move itself. I don’t like having to move on so often, but I’ve come to realise that their is value (to me, at least) in finding things to appreciate in the place that I live, even if they make me feel like a tourist.
So far, what with university, university, and university, and then working at universities (can you see a theme developing here?) I have moved (counting on my fingers) 9 times in 14 years. This isn’t record-breaking, I’m sure. But compared to my parents, who have only moved house a few times in their lives, it feels like a lot. You’d have thought that I’d have gotten used to it by now; I have not.
I’m increasingly fed up with where I live right now, having only intended to live here for a year but having been trapped by The Event. I will be moving soon, in one direction or another, because I have a new job (I say new, it’s been about 8 months now…) and things are starting to re-open. But I’ve been thinking about how I relate to the places I live.
I usually tell people that I feel like when I move to a new place I have 3–6 months of exploring or doing touristy things before it feels odd. After that, ‘I live there’ so doing sightseeing things feels weird. I assume this is mostly because all my moving about have been within the UK.
With the pandemic meaning that regular socialisation has been shut down, I’ve been trying to visit more things around me that I might have previously dismissed. I’ve tried to go to things like nature reerves that I’d not visited before, or to museums and galleries that I’d ignored. This has been especially helpful when I’ve felt trappd and isolated, with nothing to do; especially since most of my local friends have moved away to other jobs.
Despite what I said previously, where I live right now isn’t all bad. When I made this move I was still working at the University of Liverpool, so I thought that while I was still living in the city I should spend some more time around the river. It feels like the river is part of the idea of the city. This was extra helpful as the pandemic lockdowns happened, because a helpful (if, sometimes, a little too popular) walk wasn’t far away.
But I’ve come to realise that living near the river, and so spending more time walking along different stretches of it, has made me feel more comfortable with living here – even though I still feel ‘new’ to the city. I suppose it gives me the confidence to be able to see pictures of Liverpool or a report on TV about it and be able to point out bits and say “I know where that is”, because that place is now ‘mine’.
Looking back, I did this before I left York. Walking around the old city walls is a very popular touristy thing to do (when the weather is nice). Of course I’d done that before, but didn’t walk along them very often while I was studying there, partly because ‘its what tourists do’ and partly because of the traffic! But I was unemployed for nearly a year before I left York for Liverpool, so the fact that walking the walls was free became even more appealing.
It’s only with hindsight that I can see that things like walking the walls in York (because they were there) and walking along the river in Liverpool (ditto) have been helpful to cement my sense of belonging in the place that I live. Perhaps it takes an amount of repetition that makes the touristy thing feel normal before I’m comfortable? I’m still not sure, but I think I’ve come to see that finding things like this can help me feel less like moving from place to place is a waste of my time.