Monday, October 17, 2005

From Cheesehead to Hoosier

Recently, after much angst and whining, I relocated from Wisconsin to Indiana. My husband, whose salary is considerably larger than mine, works for a very large corporation which decided he would be better used working in another state. We had been talking of moving anyways, but were interested in a warmer climate and in a future timeframe - like retirement.
Since both of us were originally from Chicago, even after 15 plus years, we were never really at home culturally in Wisconsin.
Please don't get me wrong - Wisconsin is a beautiful state with much land devoted to public use and parks, the people of
Wisconsin have had the foresight to dedicate huge tracts of land to conservation. Which is why we considered moving there in the first place. But the people of Wisconsin traditionally are from agricultural beginnings, although this is not so much the case any longer. There are still family farms and miles of corn, sorghum and wheat, but more and more Wisconsin is becoming the land that wants to be like Chicago. It is competitive, anxious for it's future and bitter about what it sees as the high cost of living. It is also somewhat shortsighted in so far as it does not recognize that it is it's own fault, by virtue of population growth, that costs are rising.
On the other hand, Indiana is for me, an unknown. My father's family is from Indiana. But we lived in Chicago and the difference between how we lived and my distant relatives lived kept us from becoming close.
When informed about relocating to Indiana, I envisioned endless corn fields and a paucity of trees, a strong tie to the past through history and heritage and a loneliness I did not look forward to.
On our first excursion into Indiana to house hunt, my preconceived notions were almost proven correct. Our first realtor, a misogynist, narrow minded, Walmart shopping red neck, did his best to show us (with pride) new housing developments which happily claimed close ties to the farming community. It looked like corn stalks and I would become intimate. I was devastated. Not that there is anything wrong with corn, after all, central and south American indigenous people survived with maize as their primary food source for thousands of years. But I am an artist, and a temperamental one at that and prone to fits of needed mental and visual stimulation. Which was not to be found in the vast fields of corn.
Our second trip to Indiana and a new, cosmopolitan realtor was much more familiar. We saw miles of shopping malls full of the brand names we knew. Shiny malls with full parking lots of gleaming cars and minivans. Looked like northern Illinois.
This wasn't much better, but at least the choices of restaurants were more suitable to us.
"Moving house" as my British and UK friends call it, is hell. From the loss of privacy from the first moving estimators to the endless packing my life took on a feel of the surreal. The first thing to be gone was the sanctuary of home. With realtors and potential buyers coming through the house, it seemed like from the time I signed on with a realty company, the house was no longer mine.
Now, it is almost 4 months later and my first admission is that I am exhausted. Not tired, but exhausted. I don't want to deal with the minutiae of 'the last electric bill' or transferring insurance, paying vehicle registration fees and establishing new services. Prior to the physical move, friends reminded me of the stimulus of fresh decorating new configurations of furniture. Well, I'm tired of that too.
Today, with map in hand, I ponder the choices for new stores, new neighborhoods, new back roads that want discovering. Yes, a move can be refreshing. Yet I wonder at career choices which determine where we live. Wasn't it just the opposite a scant few decades ago? Didn't we all find jobs in our neighborhoods and communities? It was the rarity rather than the norm, that people traveled for their jobs. Now a career dictates where we live and how we live and the community we move to. If one is relocated once, chances are, relocation will happen again. And once on that treadmill, employers "suggest" suitable areas for living - based on resale value of homes.
I am fortunate as I have no children which needed uprooting and introduction to a new school and to new friends. I can not imagine what the difficulties of relocating with school age children are. And then, is this a fair and equitable way to live? What about the spouses of relocated employees? Many people need double incomes today, and many spouses want to have careers as well. Being self employed, and employed online (a virtual job, so to speak), I can in essence go anywhere and still do what it is that I am good at. But in families where both husband and wife work, someone is going to have to give up their job, and friends and community. Is there no consideration for the spouses of relocated workers?
Life has become very complex when one can not rely on settling down in a home that one has made their own. Or keeping the friends they have made, the social lives they have built, the community of closeness that so many of us count on.

Within a couple of months, the agony that I felt at the prospect of moving will be a dull memory. The home I have moved into will be personalized and it will feel like it has always been mine. Yet, the specter of having to do it all again in a few years may haunt me until my husband retires or finds another job.

1 comment:

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