Saturday, 25 January 2014

Relocation- a Reflection on our Turbulent Society

by Holly Govey

For many, the Christmas holidays symbolised a time of relaxation and recuperation, a chance to get away from their busy and frenetic lifestyles and spend time appreciating the tranquillity that comes with the winter months. However, for my family, the majority of December was wrought with petty arguments, minor conflicts and irrelevant disputes as we endured the significantly earth-shattering event that is moving house.
Albeit exciting and exhilarating, the act of leaving one’s past can be upsetting, because, as we shed the protective skin of our familiar surroundings, we also to an extent abandon our memories and a part of our identities. In my case, the departure from my childhood home was particularly moving due to both the physical knowledge of every aspect and defect in the building, but also the emotional connection- through the collection of memories associated with specific rooms and events.
Moving day itself was fuelled mainly by adrenaline, anticipation and tea, as we attempted to force sixteen years of accumulated possessions into 42 cardboard boxes, a feat that can only be accredited to the persistent presence of motivational brownies. Once packed up, time allowed for only a brief tour around our now empty shell of a house, before we began the long (roughly three minute) journey to our new home- the height chart etched on the kitchen wall the only stain we left for the subsequent owners to remove.
Retrospectively analysing our departure, I realise now that the reason I do not miss the old house lies not with its faults (the third, seventh and thirteenth steps on the stairs creaked, the downstairs bathroom lock was broken and the utility room sink tap dripped) but in its insignificance. Despite my earlier recollection of my emotional attachment, in the end a house is only what it is defined as: a building providing space for accommodation. So without our material possessions and our presence, it could no longer be called our home- therefore the entrance into our new house seemed like a natural progression of maturity rather than a shift in time and place.
In our contemporary society, moving is said to be the third most stressful event in life, following death and divorce. However, despite this, the average person born in the UK will move house a total of eight times during their life, but peculiarly will not end up too far from where they started. Research confirms this idea- showing that on average people will travel 32 miles during each move, and eventually will live in a house that is 63 miles away from their birthplace. Also, it seems that people stay true to their local area, as just one in five people end up living 200 miles or more away from where their first house was located. In this way the cyclical nature of our society is highlighted, as people rarely stray outside of their comfort zone, preferring instead to hold on to the residue of their domestic history. Therefore the question is raised: why do people bother moving in the first place?
To attempt to elucidate the motivation behind the tiring and traditional ritual of repetitively moving house I have composed a short list of the top 9 reasons why people move:

1.     Home is too small.

2.     Upgrade. The grass is greener on the other side. People often want what they don't have and long for a bigger, more expensive and grander, upscale home.

3.      Job transfer. Relocation makes it necessary for many to pull up roots and move.

4.     Personal Relationships. Moving in with a partner or getting married/divorced

5.     Neighbourhood changes. The neighbourhood might have changed for the worse, economically, socially or physically.

6.      Empty nest. The kids have grown up and moved out.

7.     See family more often. 

8.     See family less often.

9.     Financial difficulties. Changing situations cause once-affordable housing to become a major drain on financial resources.
Although not exclusive, this list provides some of the basic incentives for moving; however, these motives are overshadowed by a further psychological quality- the notion of restlessness. Humankind’s inability to settle is epitomised by our constant changes in residency, which harbour a sense of our ephemeral quality and the idea that life is considered boring and meaningless when it becomes static. Therefore we are encouraged by society to climb the social ladder by refusing to settle for simply what we need, but constantly striving to achieve higher and reach further- summarized by the words of the world’s most well known scientist:
“Life is like riding a bicycle, in order to keep your balance you must keep moving”- Albert Einstein.

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