Single-Minded: Committing to a City

Settling down isn't just about getting married and having kids. At some point, you just have to stop moving.

Two years ago my mother came back from a trip she’d won to St. Croix and told me she was moving there. Period. That is what Frances does. She’s a doer.

When I was a child, I’d follow her anywhere. I attended as many elementary schools as there are grades in elementary school, because changing scenery was the only constant backdrop in our lives. In my version of my childhood, constantly being the new kid made me stronger and definitely not socially awkward.

Today my closest friends refer to me as “the nomad” with a combination of awe and sympathy. In the last decade, I’ve called a three-bedroom in Harlem, a studio in Chicago, a row house in D.C., my mom’s extra bedroom in Atlanta and then two luxury condos in “transitioning neighborhoods” in Washington home.

No wonder that, whenever I call my aunt’s house in Compton for Christmas, more than one cousin will ask, “How’s the weather in New York?” I haven’t lived there in six years, but the East Coast is the East Coast is the East Coast to them. Plus, it’s easier to picture someone with a steady background, and New York is as good a place to fantasize about as any.

For a while I’ve assumed that Washington would just be my life. By the start of 2011, I will have officially been a D.C. resident for six years, which for me is a long time. I think it’s an unwritten rule that wherever you turn 30 is where you have to turn in for life. Seriously. One of my best friend’s parents convinced her to move back to Southern California before she hit the big three-oh because she wasn’t doing anything of note in New York (apparently, being a corporate attorney didn’t count).

A girl I grew up with has had Chicago on her mind since college, but for now being close to her family trumps 10-degree winters. Not too long ago, a woman told me she’d feel like a failure if she ever moved “home.” Not in her parents’ house, mind you, but just in the same ZIP code. Last week at lunch, another friend asked, “Why are you still here?” And I had no answer for him then besides, “I work here.” But do I really?