I wish I had taken photos of all the places I have lived in recent years. No kidding they have all been so different, in style, age, decor, location; you name it. Capturing the rooms and the stories I can tell of the people I have lived with is a grand tale in itself. Last week I moved to Selly Oak in Birmingham. Almost 37 years old and living in a student area; how did this happen? I just spent 6 months in Balsall Heath and really started to appreciate it, then my landlord decided to sell the house so I had to look for a new place. Since 2008 I have moved from place to place about 20 times, that’s quite a lot of moves.
There is a lot of respect for spending extended lengths of time developing one’s craft, staying in one place, routine, quality over quantity and that sort of thing. There is value placed on this and over time we can observe someones commitment and consistency to a skill or location, that we interpret as success and highly valuable when we see great outcomes. And it is of value. But in today’s world of growing uncertainty, change and sometimes increasing fear of the unknown, flexibility can be more in demand and we have to change and be increasingly adaptable.
Sometimes I think I am tired of all the moves, and change seems to follow me regularly. But deep down I probably revel in the last minute rush to get things done, the opportunity to meet new people and experience new things in life, and having to adapt to new surroundings. On the one hand I get attached to people in the places I go, but on the other I have grown so used to moving on that I am perfectly capable of navigating life and the world alone, as it allows for an exciting adventure and challenge. As far as I’m concerned this is an art in itself. Living in very different types of places challenges the ego and one’s identity; if we let it. They say our homes and where we live do not define us, but in so many ways they can, and we can be judged in a certain way by others based on this. We even judge ourselves.
Seven years ago when I lived in Birmingham I was proud to live in Moseley, the arty part of the city. I felt like I had moved down a peg or two going to Balsall Heath, but changed my perception and love the diversity of it now. But I’m still not used to the sofas that you will see in the streets for months on end. Now I’m in studentville and it really did mess with my head initially until I relaxed into my room and smiled at my old-fashioned furniture and cosy armchair, that have so much personality and character. I haven’t lived in a house where I have to go downstairs and through the kitchen to go to the toilet since I was about 8 years old.
From a sociological and anthropological perspective I feel I am having the opportunity to challenge my values, perceptions, knowledge and judgements about a range of different people and cultures. I have placed myself in suburbs in a range of cities in and outside of the UK with very different demographics, and observed a range of individuals with many different personality types and sometimes disorders. I did not plan to do this, its happening organically and now I am more conscious of this as a thing in itself. I’ve rarely had the budget to live alone so sharing with others adds to the experience and my learnings about the world, sometimes to the point that I almost don’t know who I am anymore, or how to define myself as this constantly changing (and perhaps transitioning) being.
But when I look in the mirror, and look around the room I am currently in, I realise this is a part of me, the choices I have made, and one of the creative projects I am constantly working on. It is not paying me a salary or fee, but is pushing me and adding layers to my character and resilient nature. This is my journey and I don’t always have control of it, but learning to see the beauty and art in the changes and new environments allows me to value the process and not be too concerned with the destination.
If I ever arrive and find a long-term home I’ll probably just get bored anyway.