For the 40 years I lived in Manhattan, it was well known that many people there, when they reached retirement age – especially in the Jewish community - moved to Florida. Some were immigrants from around the world and from other states in the U.S.; others were life-long New Yorkers, born there.
Either way, they trekked off to Florida (and probably still do) without, it seemed to me, a backward glance.
I always wondered how, without a compelling financial reason, they could just pack up their homes and go to places where they didn't know anyone. There is – to me, at least – extraordinary comfort in the familiarity of everyday life that I am loathe to give up.
Friends, neighbors, local shop keepers, knowledge of the best, worst or just-okay restaurants and stores, ease in getting from point A to point B because you've been doing it for decades.
To start over building all those connections anew would be, it seemed to me, an emotionally wrenching difficulty.
And yet, I did it when I moved first to Portland, Maine, and then in 2010, to Lake Oswego, Oregon. But although I selected the locations, it was definitely not my idea to leave Manhattan.
And maybe that is the difference in the emotional ease with which others appear to make big moves – they decided for themselves while the choice was forced on me.
It is probably easier for retirees to move far away when it is done to be near their grown children and grandchildren. Maybe others return to their hometowns. I know that some of those elder Florida residents say they are fleeing cold and snow which is also the attraction of another retirement haven, the desert southwest.
As common as retirement relocations are, few people talk about making new homes from scratch in their late years - how it works out, what is good and what is not.
It was only in March that I wrote about adjusting to moving far away from a bit of a different perspective. Today's post came about when a Manhattan friend who moved to Georgia a couple of years ago recently suggested that we are exiles, she and I, expats who have been banished like those in ancient times were for having committed a crime against the king.
It's funny how one word can make a big difference in one's thinking – in this case, exile. It feels exactly right to describe my feelings about no longer living in Manhattan – not of my choosing, missing the sense and sensibility of that particular place that I knew so well.
I am making a life here in Oregon. Volunteering with local organizations has helped me meet new people. I particularly appreciate the natural beauties of northwest Oregon. And I'm learning my a way around although it's much harder when you can't walk to everywhere you want to go.
And I am nothing if not a realist. Whatever circumstances I find myself in, I do what I can to make it work for me and now that it's been three years, I feel quite settled here.
But that doesn't mean I don't feel exiled from what is my real home. I'll let the poet Maya Angelou help explain it - from her book, Letter to My Daughter:
“I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one's skin, at the extreme corners of one's eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.”
Any other exiles out there?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Jimmy