In 2015, I chronicled all the towns I had lived in during my lifetime as well as shared some of the more significant firsts that I experienced in each of those towns. But an aspect that I did not address in that post to any large extent, was the friends I had to give up each time we moved.
While modern social media and electronic communication tools have allowed me to reconnect to some of these old friends, they can’t make up for the many years of lost opportunity for staying in touch.
While getting the chance to live in different cities throughout your life can certainly broaden your horizons in terms of experiences and even opportunities, I am actually jealous of my wife who has lived in the same town her whole life and still has friends from when she was five years old. And she even got to live in the same town with many of her aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as some of her grandparents.
For someone under the age of 18, the main reason we move is for one of our parents changing jobs. In my case, it wasn’t so much changing jobs as it was changing churches. My father was a Presbyterian minister and so each time we moved was when, as he put it, “we were called to another church.”
The first time I moved, I was only four years old so I can’t say that I really even had friends at that age that I gave up in moving.
The second time I moved was in the mid-1960s when I was 10 years old and I certainly did leave friends behind. I had both friends at school and friends in our neighborhood. This was before the age of any electronic devices so most play was highly interactive with other kids outdoors.
The third time I moved was absolutely the hardest. Not just because of the friends and activities I left behind but also because of what I faced in my new town. I was 14 years old—just barely a teenager—when we moved during the summer between my 8th and 9th grades. At that time, the 9th grade was the upper grade of junior high school (no such thing as middle school then). I walked in the door that September as an outsider. Most everyone else in school had gone to the same elementary schools and so had been friends for eight years already. What would most of them want to have to do with somebody new when they were at the pinnacle of seniority, their “senior” status so to speak?
It was very difficult to make friends in school that year. I was able to join the school newspaper so I could at least fit in somewhere and was able to make some friends serving in that capacity.
On the other hand, it was very easy for me to make friends at church as everybody knew who I was coming in, one of the PKs (preacher’s kids).
The following year, I started high school where 10th grade was new to all of us. Some groups of friends carried over from junior high school but with other junior high schools feeding into my high school, I was not the only new kid in town. In high school, I mostly made new friends with other kids in my classes of interest, science and math.
Once I graduated from high school, the whole dynamics changed. No longer was I moving somewhere to make new friends, everyone was moving on—to college.
In spite of graduating with over 650 fellow students, not one of my friends attended the same college as I was enrolled in, Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College). But that was OK as everyone in the freshman class was also new to the school.
After graduating college, people scattered all over the country, some returning to their hometowns, some moving onto graduate school in other cities, and some starting jobs throughout the country.
And all this time, college and two different graduate degrees, I stayed in the same town. It was quite ironic that now the roles had reversed and everyone else was moving away leaving me behind.
Even as a married adult, friends have continued to move away to other jobs and other opportunities and yet my wife and I have continued to live in Memphis, for my 35+ year professional career.
My wife wrote a very thought provoking blog post several years ago about friendship foreclosure and how it really takes a tremendous active effort on the part of someone to maintain friendships. I don’t know if I have used the excuse of me moving or other friends moving away to prevent me from having a large number of friends. I am an introvert so it is certainly much easier for me to do something on my own rather than to call up a friend and do something together. At the age of 60, I have two best friends—my wife of 35+ years and my only brother who is a couple of years younger than me—and one long-term dear friend, R, who I still regularly correspond with via e-mail and text.
So moving a lot growing up as well as friends moving away has definitely contributed to me not having many friends at this point in my life. But interestingly, moving is something that we are considering now that I am approaching retirement. We have always lived in Memphis throughout our marriage because that is where my job has been. In spite of numerous work force reductions and company buyouts, my job has remained, at the same location and even in the same building.
But that all changes the day I retire. No longer are we tied to this city because that is where my employment is. We are free to move almost anywhere we want.
My wife and I have already made a list of things we would want in a home and in a town if we were to move after I retire. We drafted this list in 2011, just after our two oldest kids had gotten married. Another “want” that has arisen since we created that list is living close to our grandkids, three so far.
Not that this is a decision we will rush into or one that will be easy. It will take some time and extensive research. For my wife, it will be a big change since she has never lived anywhere else. As for me, it will be my first move out of town in over 40 years.
But no matter where we move to, we will still have our midtown condo to come back to be able to visit with friends and family in town. And in our new home, we plan to live near family as well. Because even though friendships have developed and then waned over the years due to my moving and theirs, our family will always remain.