Forgive this author, a moment of autobiography
A large part of my early life was spent moving across country. It may have only lasted 2-3 days at most each time, but moving to a new home was something that, by the time I was 10, was normal to me. The progression of grade school was a separate sort of nomadary that compounded upon the amount I was wandered as a child. My life experiences are probably unique, I doubt that more than a few dozen people moved about the country in a manner at all similar to the way my parents, really my mother, did.
It started where all stories in the 20th century begin, in New York City. My parents were living in an apartment in the city; my mother was still working for the city authorities, my father translating at the UN. I was born there in 1985 and 2.5 years ± 2 minutes later my brother was born. Not long after this, we all moved the San Diego. Here my real memories begin. I have vague recollections of New York: a vivid memory of one or two of the few friends I had as baby, a traumatic cut I got on a finger at a zoo, the smell of the subway, flashes of a daycare. All of these connect me to a place that I can only go back to; a place for which the closest ties I have are pictures in my mother's photo-album.
In San Diego we lived in apartments given over to people who were students at the UC there, my father was one of those students. I was enrolled at a college run daycare, if my recollection is correct. I remember getting shots, or my brother getting shots. This time lasted a year, so I won't give it much space here, but it is important to me that here I really remember developing friendships.
After San Diego my mother got her first real professorship, in up-state New York, Ulster County to be specific. (People who know the region will probably be able to figure out where) We moved back to New York, my Father stayed behind to finish his degree and my mother brought me and my brother to live for a short time on a farm in the countryside, which my Mother had agreed to look after for a short time. I have thankfully gotten over my fear of roosters. I was still four at the time and about to turn five and have to enter school. That spring we moved into the house of a friend of my mother's and shortly thereafter to a nearby apartment on Wurts Street. It was here that I began school and for the next two years this is where I lived.
My mother's first professorship ended with her not being considered for tenure so we had to move. She had found herself another in a small town in central Ohio, in the strangely named county of Licking. We started off living another two years there and I went to school at the local elementary school. After two years however, my mother had decided she wanted to own a house for the first time in her life but generally the housing in the village was expensive so she decided to move us to a slightly larger nearby town.
And here, for the first time in my life I was settled somewhere for more than two years. An interesting change though I didn't notice it at the time. I was busy making new friends in the neighborhood, connecting myself with people. There were a number of children living near by and I grew into a number of friendships. I had had friends before, but this being the mid-90s I had no real way to keep in any sort of touch with them. The next two years were spent at the end of elementary school, then a year at a school that my community had sort of rented to deal with the over-flow of people from my community's overtaxed school system. Then finally I went to middle school not far from where I'd gone to the last of my elementary school.
During my 8th grade year a major tax levy to fund the beleaguered schools failed, there was serious talk of cutting funding to language programs. The schools hadn't threatened to cut sports funding, so the working class town of semi-rural Ohioans had no interest in letting them have any money. This prompted my mother to move us again, this time to a town with a really good school system, high property values and a semi-urban setting in the state capital.
I didn't really try to keep in any touch with my friends from that time, which was something of a pity as I had a few good ones. It wasn't really out of snubbing or elitism, I'm just introverted by nature, I never called my friends' houses, and I just interacted with them at school. I had a few friends who were neighbors and it was easier to just walk two doors down and knock. I had only just gotten an email account and my mother was content to just use her then outmoded 2800 baud modem. The result was that when I moved, at the very end of my 8th grade year, I ended up house-ridden and without anywhere to go. I watched an in-ordinate amount of Hogan's Heroes. But I was content to do this; I had grown up jumping between social groups.
Starting high school I made friends, but the effort reduced the number I made. It's harder to make friends when you're not all playing with the same toys anymore. But after high school I decided to change this, college afforded me the opportunity to seriously build social connections, because all at once I was going through what can be described as yet another move, but so were all my peers. I don't think 'took advantage of' is the right phrase for what I did, it has too many negative connotations; I made friends, I joined groups, I walked to the living spaces of fellow students. I used AIM to connect to people and quickly had as many College Friends in my buddy lists as High School friends. Eventually I got a cell phone and I used it, I called people. In many ways I knew I'd grown up from the introverted child I'd been, I'm still afraid of interaction at times, but I do not shy away from parties and events in the way I used to.
The nomad must always move on. In three days college will have ended a month ago for me; a short time, yes, but one which, like all things past, is completely inaccessible. I have been a nomad in many ways. In the locations I've lived, of course, and also in the groups that I have spent time with. Next year, admissions willing, I'll enter graduate school, and continue forward, and probably stay stationary for the longest time in my life. I may eventually settle, hopefully somewhere pleasant. But for now I see myself on a road through graduate school to post-docs and the life of a researcher and possibly professor. I have grown up in an age where I was a nomad amongst so many whose parents have foundations; I was an alien in community after community. I haven't got the sort of anchoring that many of my peers have but I haven't got the burden of a home that many of them have as well.
My perspective of modern life is very much one where home is simply where one lives, and not where one spends their life. My life has affirmed this up to now, each school was only a temporary and short jaunt into a social setting, every home a longer but just as tenuous connection to some small patch of earth. My various connections to people, via the web, have lasted longer than my connections to physical settings or real life groups. I realize that my perspective is skewed toward what I have perceived in my own life, that my own experiences are unique and thus not part of the American zeitgeist. As a result I have a hard time relating sometimes to the idea of being in one place for more than 5 years at a time, because that has never been the case for me.
A nomad is independent; a person whose perception of a place is a collection of things. A nomad can appreciate the history of a town, can enjoy living there, can walk about and commune. A nomad can be neighborly, can go to barbeques, can have picnics. But in the end the nomad doesn't stay in that place, no longer muses over its history, walks in a different town and dines with different neighbors. A nomad looks at one town and sees every other town that they've experienced mirrored therein. A nomad can't be a nationalist because a nationalist must first believe they live in the best place ever, in the best town or village or city. The nomad doesn't live in the best town because they recognize that there is no such thing. The degrees to which neighborhoods and towns differ aside from major societal problems, such as crime and poverty, is minimal and down to the minutiae. The idea of a riot between fans of opposing teams seems ridiculously silly. Race and class seem like the silliest barriers to put up between people. And to me, looking at all the pictures of the Earth that have been made from space, borders don't really exist at all.