Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What I've Been Reading: This is Where I Belong

I don't really need convinced to love where we live.  Other than my 4 years at college, Matt and I have both lived our entire lives living in the same town.  I was born at a hospital less than a mile from where I currently live.  We've stayed here, long past when we could have moved, largely due to family.  Both sets of parents are here.  Eleven of our fourteen combined siblings are in the area.  Thirty-nine of Luke's cousins are here (current count: 43).  We have friends here.  But beyond all that, it's also a pretty great place to live.  Sure, I dreamed of leaving when I was a bored teenager but when I actually had the ability to leave...I didn't.  Or well I did for college but then came right back.  We have a very affordable cost of living, 4 seasons, and a small enough city that it's easy to get around but still not know everybody.  As adults, I'd say we love most things about where we live.

That was not the case for Melody Warnick, the author of This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live.  She and her husband and kids had moved many times and were now in Virginia, a place they ended up because of a job but no other connections.  No friends. Nothing particularly exciting about the area.  Nothing to make them want to stay other than the job.  But they also didn't have strong roots anywhere else, having lived in many states in a relatively short amount of time.  If those other places didn't stick why should this one?

In this book, she examines America's moving culture, how many people move many times in their lives while others just stay put.  She was also determined to love where she lived.  It might be only temporary but why not fully enjoy it while they were there?

I can't relate much to the moving, other than college, I've only lived in 3 houses my entire life and they are all within 6 miles of each other.  I haven't done much moving (again, outside of those college years when it felt like I was constantly packing up and moving) in my life.  I like to put down roots and stay.  Actually the thought of moving terrifies me and I don't want to do it until necessary, as much as I like the idea of completely renovating a house.  (I also like the results of doing that...the expense, stress, and work...not so much.)

But who couldn't love where they live, even just a little bit more?  Sure we love where we live but couldn't we like it even more? Get more involved, put down even more roots?  Yes.  We could.  We should.  We're pretty intent on living the rest of our lives here so why not fully embrace it?

Melody identified 10 steps to loving where she lives:

  • Walk more
  • Buy local
  • Get to know my neighbors
  • Do fun stuff
  • Explore nature
  • Volunteer
  • Eat local
  • Become more political
  • Create something new
  • Stay loyal through hard times

Some are rather self-explanatory.  Some we already do rather well, some we could definitely do better.

For each step, Melody made a plan for how she could it out, and the results to most were that she felt more rooted and more connected to where she lived.  Just little things like taking cookies to new residents on your block or going for hikes on local nature trails (check on the latter and comment on the first).  Most of the things are fairly easy without a big money commitment, other than things you are purchasing for personal use/eating/gifting/etc. 

While we are pretty rooted here, it's largely due to our families, we could definitely do more buying local and getting more involved in the community outside of our family and church (where basically all our (meager) volunteering takes place).  I have a few ideas of things we could do better in some of the categories and am trying to force myself to actually implement them. 

We may love where we live but this book, even without any additional steps, already makes me love and appreciate it a little bit more.  Definitely recommend to anyone struggling to feel a part of their community, who have recently moved somewhere new, or are living somewhere with no roots.  Or even those of you like us who already love where you are!

Additional reading:
I've already praised the book Walkable City and would recommend it almost as companion to this book.  Both made me want to get more involved in my city! 

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