We humans like new beginnings, the chance to start over. We make resolutions on New Year’s Day and whether we keep them or not, we enjoy the idea of a clean slate, the opportunity to do things better in the coming twelve months.
Birthdays hold the idea of a clean slate too, along with graduations, new jobs, marriage, even divorce and – a new place to live.
On Sunday, I go to Portland, Maine for most of the week to find a new home to buy. The decision to leave New York, forced on me by circumstance, was made six weeks ago and since then, in the busy-ness of preparing this home for its sale, I hadn’t realized until a few days ago that this move is a new beginning for me.
Looking back, it appears that I’ve made it a lifetime career to start over. I left home at age 16, one week after graduating from high school. I married and then I divorced. I’ve had four careers, starting at the bottom of each one, whatever my age. I’ve lived in six cities, liking some better than others. And now there will be a seventh.
I didn’t expect this at my age. Sixty-four, when it’s written out like that, seems a time for being settled, and when I moved into this apartment 22 years ago, I swore they’d take me out feet first. I held fast to a lyric from Manhattan Tower: “New York’s my home, let me never leave it. New York’s my home sweet home.”
But today, I’ve got a giant case of the can’t-waits. A whole new city to discover. Different customs, sensibilities, ambience, rhythm of life. Every place, large and small, has its singular myth and to maintain a cohesive culture, everyone living in that place must buy into the local myth which affects politics, schools, building codes, transportation, elections, how taxes are spent - everything.
New York believes it is the center of the universe. It is brash, arrogant, loud and in your face. I wonder what Portland, Maine believes about itself…
I won’t find the answer in one week of house-hunting, but this trip is the beginning of my new beginning. And I can’t wait.
[You will find another take on all this at A Sense of Place. It’s somewhat more maudlin but no less true of the mixed emotions I’m juggling.]