Currently Local

“How about you?  You a local?”

“Currently local.”

~Snippet of a conversation.

I make a lot of single-serving friends in my life, usually in bars.  When I first moved here, I stopped into a local bar, sat on a stool and after a couple drinks struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to me.  A few of her friends joined her later, I met them, and then at some point I excused myself and walked home.  (I guess if I was a normal guy that would have been a one-night stand opportunity.)

The other night, I sat in a bar watching a KU basketball game and I met a few strangers, one a family of Jayhawk fans, another a group of fans rooting for our rivals, the Mizzou Tigers.  I had brief conversations with both groups at different points during the game, talked about what I did, asked them what they did and, for that brief period, enjoyed the companionship of total strangers who I will now, almost certainly, never see again.

We all have these moments, especially those of us who drink in bars.  Get a couple drinks in most anybody and they’ll suddenly become best friends with anyone around them.

But what struck me during one of my conversations the other night was one man asking me if I was local.  He asked because most of his companions were from out of town.  In comparison to them, I’m local because I actually live here in Seattle.  But I’m not a local, and I will only be here for seven more months.

So I answered, ‘Currently local.’

Despite my best efforts to ground myself in the city and make it a home, albeit temporarily, I am not from here.  I don’t feel like I’m from anywhere.  Yes, I grew up in Kansas for most of my life, but so much of who I am is a product of my life on the road, away from my hometown, that saying “I’m from Kansas” always feels like half the story, and not the important half.

Of course, the other side to being ‘Currently Local’ is that my life is always in a state of chaos, whereas most everyone else is gradually moving along a timeline.  It’s not that they aren’t changing, it’s that those changes are following a natural progression.  Friends are getting married, having kids.  Ex-girlfriends are dating new guys.  Family members are starting new careers or moving up in their current ones.  And I see it all (thanks in part to Facebook’s relentless timeline), sometimes to my dismay.

The most common refrain I hear from people about my project is, “Good for you, do it while you’re young.”

And yeah, I’m 28.  That’s still young.  I know that.  I’ll be done with this project shortly after I turn 32.  That’s not old, that’s not even kinda old (especially for a man, especially in the modern world).  And when I’m done with this project, I’ll have accomplished something unique and possibly career-defining.

But there are times when I feel like my permanent impermanence is holding me back.  Not so much financially or in terms of a career (though, obviously, yeah), but in terms of relationships and fundamental life choices.  I’m not sure I want to get married, have a family, do the whole domestic thing, but I certainly want the option.  And fatherhood, at least, appeals to me (I don’t want my idiot friends being the only people repopulating the earth).

28, 32, these aren’t exactly the last years of life.  I’ve got plenty of time.  Yet, it’s hard not to look around at a world of people who have set down roots and found their place without wondering if I’m too far adrift.  When I was 22 and watching my friends marry, I pitied them (still do).  But as I approach the end of the project and the number of unmarried friends without careers continues to dwindle, I’m starting to get the sense that I’m the one being pitied.

Maybe that explains why the urge to move is hitting me so early this year.  Usually, at around the 9 month mark, I start feeling that unmistakable antsy need to pack it all up and hit the trail.  But I’m only 5 months in and I can’t help but contemplate my next move, what I’ll do next.  It’s certainly not a strike against Seattle which has been a great city to live in.  I’m just finding it hard not to look ahead.

It’s difficult seeing the end of this project so close on the horizon (only 2 1/2 more years before I reach my ultimate destination, New York City, the 10th city) and not feel a kind of winding down.  There are still two more years before NYC (and two cities I definitely want to live in), and plenty of travails and adventures to have before then (I’m not even sure how I’m going to survive this year, frankly).  But I can’t help but anticipate the end, both as a way of having a resolution and as a way to feel settled.

That’s not to say I’ll stop traveling.  Not by any means.  I expect to be spend my life exploring the world at large, getting away from the States as much as possible.  However, I want to do it while having a residence in New York, a place to call home and return to when my trips are over.  My ideal career would involve traveling one to three months at a time, with prolonged periods back home to write and have some sort of ‘normal’ life, whatever that means.

In other words, I think a permanent address would be kind of nice.

And then, for the first time in 10 years, I will be more than just ‘currently’ local.