Some people depend on astrology, and they knowingly smile when you state your star sign. Others focus on personality types or the introvert/extrovert dichotomy when trying to understand themselves and their relationships. In recent years, I’ve begun to develop my own theory: people are either movers, or stayers.
The terminology is a bit simplistic, but I find that it is evocative.
I’ve met people who have lived in the same town their whole lives, and never felt the need to leave. Often, their family has lived in that place or region for generations; leaving for a job or anything more than a short vacation seems unthinkable. These are the stereotypical stayers. I’ve met others who have “itchy feet” and are constantly on the move: six months here, two years there. Sometimes they’re world travelers, sometimes they’re not; either way, they’re movers.
I’m a mover, descended from movers. My mother’s side immigrated to this country from Ireland and Scotland around the turn of the century. My father’s side moved to Maryland long ago, and slowly moved west until they reached Iowa. My grandfather and great-grandfather were pilots. Both sides are spread all over the Midwest and East Coast. After I was born, my parents moved our family five times before I was in third grade. Whether by nature or nurture, or somewhere in between, moving is just part of who I am.
I remember being astonished as a child, and then in college, to meet people who could state with pride that they had never left their state. Or that they had never been west of the Mississippi River. All I could think was, “why?” There is so much world — how could you write it off so easily? Even from simply moving from state to state, I have always found that an artificial border can create different, fascinating cultures and senses of identity.
Of course, the bias goes both ways. As a professional architectural historian and historic preservationist, I encounter stayers on a nearly-daily basis. I love entering new communities, learning as much as I can about their history and architecture, and helping people understand and preserve their heritage. However, some stayers are baffled by this and occasionally discount my knowledge and experience. They seem to think: how could someone so new to my community/region/state be of any help at all, when I have lived here my whole life and know every brick, road, and family name?
Through my moves, I’ve become very close friends with stayers. One is a committed Pittsburgher, who believes the former industrial city is a hidden gem. She loves its steep hills, rivers, countless bridges, and thriving arts community. She’s never really lived anywhere else, but in her travels she’s never found another place she’d rather be. Another is an Adirondacker through-and-through who loves the sight of mountains, smell of wood, and honesty of small communities. He’s traveled all over the world — he’s climbed mountains in Pakistan, hiked in New Zealand, surfed in Hawaii, drunk beer in Ireland, explored ancient wooden structures in Slovakia — but he has always had a home and many acres of land adjoining his family.
I like to joke that historians are better at understanding dead people than living ones, but for some reason this concept really resonates with me. Recently, I shared the concept with a mover acquaintance who was wrestling with the concept of beginning to consider dating a stayer more seriously. She hadn’t thought much of his offer to move to be with her, until I emphasized that that was one of the biggest leaps a stayer could ever make. Suddenly, she saw the situation with new eyes.
I’m a mover, desperately trying to be a stayer. I’ve found a great job in a great new place, but I’ve never stayed anywhere longer than ten years. It’s hard to say what the future will bring.
So, I’m a little curious, Offbeat Homies: where do you fall on the mover/stayer spectrum? How do you think it has affected your personality?