You know that phrase, “Keeping up with the Jonses”? Like, you’ve got your eye on the neighbors and are trying to, well, keep up? If they get an Audi, you need an Audi. If their kid goes to violin lessons, you’re off to the Stradivarius factory? (At which point you realize that you will also need a time machine or a billion dollars because there isn’t one and they haven’t made a violin since the 1720s and Stradivarius.com has been hijacked by a company that makes weird tunic-y clothing that you don’t want your kid wearing because how is that keeping up anyway unless you live on in a German suburb or a pricey commune?) You get the idea.
I don’t think my subconscious has really absorbed the metaphorical meaning of the phrase because my version of keeping up with the Jonses is apparently quite literally wanting to keep up with them. Like follow them around.
Here’s what: every time a neighbor moves, I feel like I should move.
It has nothing to do with where they’re moving to: the last examples I can think of were Dallas, Los Angeles and now our current neighbors are off to San Luis Obispo which was nice the one time I drove through there and spent $500 on an Apple Time Machine (because, apparently, a road trip to LA and seeing all that plastic surgery got me super worried about whether I had enough back-ups of my originals…?) but is in the middle of nowhere and just not my bag at all.
But I still feel left out. I feel like your puppy that whimpers at the door when you head to the car even if you’re going out to run a really boring errand. Why would these people want to go places if they aren’t better than here? It must be better than here. Something amazing must be going on where they’re going or they wouldn’t be going, right?
It doesn’t seem to matter that the “something amazing” might only be amazing to them and not me, like getting into a graduate program in a field I only care about only very slightly because I’m a nice person (rainforest monkey evolution) or pursuing a career opportunity I admire but would not want (portrait photographer) or moving to be closer to other people’s grandparents who would probably not be keen to babysit my child so I could go see Transformers 3 on a weeknight.
I don’t want to be left behind. Period. I’m kind of a joiner and I’m pretty competitive. I need to make sure the party I’m not at isn’t better than the party I am at.
I don’t want to get too into the psychology of it, but here’s what I think: when I was kid we moved and I hated where we moved to, so I’ve wanted to keep moving on ever since. Which is weird ’cause really if I’d have just stayed put in the first place and I’d have been happy, but some switch got flipped and I got hooked on, “Change is good!” It probably didn’t help that home life was kind of a wreck, so “elsewhere” was generally pretty attractive.
So travel I did and I moved around a lot for a few years. Turns out “there” is often just a different version of “here” as far as your head is concerned, so eventually I settled in New York, which worked out well, because “there” and “here” converge in New York. It was the perfect location for a here-and-there-r: I never felt bad coming home because New York itself was so great, and I never felt like the people who were leaving were really going anywhere better because where could be better than New York?
Then I got cocky and left myself, assuming I’d be back soon. That was eleven years ago. San Francisco isn’t bad – I definitely think it’s better than Dallas or LA – but I’m back to my puppy at the door behavior whenever anyone goes.
Of course the other part of the move envy is that I’ll miss the people who leave. If they were jerks, I’d probably wave from the porch, secretly snide. But our neighbors are great. Two little kids, helpful, willing to chat a bit on the sidewalk. It’s quiet without them and I’m sad to see them go.
Like a number of parents I’ve known, they’re going to where help is – multiple grandparents and siblings to assist with kid care – and maybe we’ll eventually do the same. I’m going to start working on getting all my grandparents and the siblings to move to Brooklyn so when we get there, we’ll be all set. That’s almost the same thing, right? Then everyone gets to move! Winners all around.