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So, why did you move to North Carolina?

New Home Sweet Home

“So, why did you move to North Carolina?”

This is a question I’ve gotten a lot since I moved to Chapel Hill six weeks ago. Yet every time it is asked—by the mail man or the insurance agent or the bank teller or the sofa delivery man—I hesitate. I’d like to say something simple, like “for work” or “for school,” which is easy to understand. People move because of work and school all the time. I could make up a boyfriend and say I moved here because of him, or pretend I moved for a job, only these lies would then mandate follow-up lies. I don’t want to have to discuss my fake job and my fake boyfriend every time I deposit a check. Also, I am bad at lying. It takes far too much energy to keep track of two separate realities in my mind.

Despite all the self-promotion I’ve had to do for my books and my blog, I’ve never quite gotten over the uncomfortableness I feel talking about myself. Uh, yes, I realize this sounds bizarre coming from a woman who has written two memoirs and blogged about her life for over five years. But with blogging, if I’m boring you can click away and I never know about it. Bub-bye! Thanks for the pageviews! Whereas in a conversation with a living person, I get instant feedback and feel some sort of responsibility to be entertaining and charming and interesting and to give coherent answers. I can’t get over how stupid I feel telling someone I moved because of the weather or just because I liked this city and no, I don’t have a job here. But why the hell shouldn’t I move?

The most compact version of the real answer is, “I felt an existential need for change.” But I would feel weird and insecure saying something like that even in a liberal, hippy, college town like this. I suspect an answer like that would be greeted with confusing and a general “huh?” look on someone’s face. It changes small talk into weird talk. You mean you moved here because you wanted to? How BIZARRE.

It’s made me realize that most people end up where they do because of their job, school or family. Moving because you feel like it *is* rather odd. But isn’t it odd that it’s odd? I’d never thought about it before, but millions of people in the world must live where they do just because that’s where they’ve always lived. It makes me question how much control we actually have over our lives and how much power we give up by simply believing we don’t have any power.

I suppose the real thing to do is answer the question with confidence and moxy, no matter what I say. If you’ve got the right attitude you can get away with saying most anything. Next time I’ll say, “I had to escape the epicenter of the upcoming alien invasion!” or “I’m studying the mating habits of wasps!” Or not. I’ll probably just say I moved because I felt like it and leave it at that.

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65 Comments

Hunter • August 18, 2010 at 8:21 am

Very thought-provoking post. I applaud your courage to actually follow through on something that made you happy. I guess I never thought about moving before. I moved for employment purposes; not because I wanted to. But, for the most part, I’m happy; I lucked out finding a nice mix of city/suburb/rural and a job that is actually in my field of study with a decent salary. More and more though, I’m doing what makes me HAPPY, even if I risk “looking” weird. Your post just reaffirms my belief in that a person has a right to do what they want (causing no harm to others or themselves) without having to defend themselves. Brava! =^..^=

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Sarah Fowler • August 18, 2010 at 8:49 am

Say “I have my own business and get to move wherever I want! I like it here so here I am!” I think it’s a pretty awesome thing you’ve gotten to do, and it’s liable to elicit jealousy, not confusion :-)

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jez • August 18, 2010 at 9:23 am

I have an odd mixture of towns that I’ve lived in. I was born outside of Houston, moved to a small town in Oklahoma around preschool age, and then shortly after I turned 18 I packed up (a single bag) and moved to Southern California. Anytime anyone would ask me why I moved my response was typically “Because I lived in Oklahoma for 14 years.”

That tended to confuse people because I guess they saw it as a non answer. I didn’t move for the same reasons you didn’t move. Neither school nor work nor love nor family. I knew a single person there, though we later fell in love and that’s what kept me there for 5 years. After 5 years and the end of a relationship I got tired of the expense and packed up again and moved to Dallas. Though Texas is my home state I had never lived in Dallas and only by sheer luck happen to have an Uncle that lives here. Additionally, I have family 4 hours North and 4 hours South, but neither of those had anything to do with why I moved. I again knew one person (outside of my Uncle) and now my answer when people ask me why I moved here is “Why not?” or “I wanted to” both of which tend to be the end of the questions.

Whew! Lots of words!

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Lindsay • August 18, 2010 at 10:10 am

See, now, I am in love with the Chapel Hill area. I have a friend who moved there for work and when I visited, I didn’t want to leave.

I decided I wanted to live there whether or not I had a job or family in the area. I just want to move there.

One day, it will happen. Right now, not so much.

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Amy • August 18, 2010 at 10:11 am

I moved to Atlanta back in November 09 because I just felt like it. Back in June ’09, on the way home from visiting a friend, I thought, “I like Atlanta. I think I’ll move here,” and that was that. I quit my job of 10 years, sold all of my belongings (well, all but the essentials), and moved.

I really think it’s something every 20-something, single woman should do. It’s part of learning who you are, discovering what you’re made of, and showing yourself that you really can do anything you put your mind to. :)

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ladyloo • August 18, 2010 at 10:12 am

“Why not?”

I think people move places like California and New York City for the hell of it. Why not Chapel Hill?

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Colleen • August 18, 2010 at 10:26 am

I’ve moved to Tennessee, New Orleans, and Madison, WI on a whim. When people asked, I just said, ‘I like to try out new places.’

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schmei • August 18, 2010 at 10:30 am

I often feel the same way about small-talk with nigh-strangers. One way to reduce the awkwardness could be to just say “It’s so nice here” or “I was looking for a change of weather/scenery and Big Brother lives near here” or something, and then – THEN! Say:

“I’m still learning my way around. What’s your favorite place to go/ thing to see/ food to eat here?”

Then they’ll get yammering about themselves and what they like and they’ll stop giving you the third degree. Plus they think you’re extra nice because you asked for their opinion. Works for me sometimes.

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Stephanie • August 18, 2010 at 10:44 am

I think it must depend on where you live. I live in Charleston, SC and LOTS of people move here because of the weather or because they just like it here. Several people from Ohio and Nebraska have said something along the lines of “if you lived in Nebraska for 20+ years you would understand.”. I have to say, talking to people who have moved here “just because” has really made me appreciate this wonderful city I live in.

The residents of Chapel Hill should feel honore. You could have moved anywhere in the world, and you moved there!

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Carbzilla • August 18, 2010 at 11:01 am

Short of “Shhh, I”m in the Witness Protection Program, ” I think that “I was just really ready for a change, and I work for myself so I can actually go anywhere” is a totally appropriate response.

I’ve found that moving, like Networking, is beyond a lot of people. It’s just easier to stay. People are curious because not everyone has the gumption to do it. When we moved from NY, we left people who were going to be born, live, and die all in the same small town. They looked at us like we were nuts, but I could tell they were wondering what they might be missing.

We’re thinking of moving again ourselves, and it’s a daunting task, but I think there’s something about a new environment that can open up possibilities and energize you that would make it all worth it. As you get older, there are just more considerations, and it gets harder.

Let them have their reactions. Take pride in doing the hard thing!

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Tricia • August 18, 2010 at 11:19 am

I moved out to the northwest because I love it here. I’ve never got a negative or confused response when I say that is my reason. Plus it usually leads to a nice conversation about what we both love about it.

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katie warren • August 18, 2010 at 11:27 am

This post took the words from my mouth! I am moving to Chicago in a few years (just because I want to), and some people just don’t get it! What makes it even funnier is that I am actually not moving now BECAUSE of school. I can’t even use that as an excuse! But I don’t worry about it. I just close my eyes and tell people…they can deal with whatever issues they have with where I choose to live!

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Ro • August 18, 2010 at 11:46 am

@Amy – yep why not. You show yourself you can responsible for yourself. And make life interesting.

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Lanie • August 18, 2010 at 11:55 am

How ’bout “I couldn’t think of any good reason NOT to move here.”

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Christine • August 18, 2010 at 12:14 pm

I completely understand what you’re talking about. I moved 3 years ago from Michigan to Denver because I wanted a change as well. I got the same reactions from people when I told them why I moved, but I didn’t care. It felt so great to make that change in my life. So tell them with confidence why you moved. In my opinion, everyone should move at least once in their life to a new place just because they want a change.

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kris • August 18, 2010 at 1:08 pm

I feel an existential need for change too, but I don’t have the guts nor the means to make a move, although I would love to.

Kudos to you for being able to “be” where you want to be. I am jealous.

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Debbie • August 18, 2010 at 1:58 pm

My boyfriend (now husband) and I moved from Indianapolis to Colorado Springs 14 years ago. Why? because we wanted to! We fell in love with the city after living out of our car for 3 months, touring the western US. Leaving our jobs, and homes, and especially family was not easy, but I look back that decision as the best one I ever made. Good luck to you in NC.

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ChrissyS • August 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I liked some of the comments here like “Why not< Nice area!" or something like that, although that doesn't create much conversation. That is usually what the asker is going for, I assume, conversation.

I think what Sarah Fowler suggests would lead to possible inquiries regarding your work, etc. This could lead to contracts for you, or meeting ppl in a similar line of work..(yes, it IS good to meet ppl..make some new connections here. =)

“Because I can?”

schmei & carbzilla had good suggestions…wow this is a great network you have here.

I hope things are going well for you.

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Jackie • August 18, 2010 at 2:36 pm

You must be meeting much more curious people here than I am! Or you are more outgoing and talking to more people. I’ve lived in Chapel Hill for 3 years and I don’t think anyone has ever asked me why I moved here.

FYI We went to Asheville for the first time last weekend and it’s wonderful there. I think you’d really enjoy it. It’s about 3 hours away. I hope to go again soon as we decided to skip the Biltmore Mansion on this trip as that would not have been fun with three teenage girls in tow! I’m sure some teenage girls would love it there but mine are the type who would whine and complain and ask when we’re leaving.

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Rebecca in SoCal • August 18, 2010 at 4:09 pm

If it’s just a “filler” question, I like “Because I wanted to.” If the person is really getting to know you, then is the time for more in-depth answering.

When I moved away from my home town in my twenties, where I went was decided by who I went with (now my husband), but I was ready for a change and wondering where/how to go when I met him.

Can I just say that we don’t get asked why we moved to southern California? (heh) A much more common question is “where are you from?”

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Pam • August 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm

How about, “I’m a freelancer, and I can live anywhere in the world. I picked Chapel Hill.” I think that will make them feel good about their city and you at the same time!

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MB • August 18, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I like to mess with people so I’d probably tell them I moved there because that’s where the witness protection program made me go. ;) Hope you’re having fun exploring your new neighborhood.

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adrienne • August 18, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I doubt many Hoosiers have asked you why you moved. The weather here is brutal this summer with an unlivable combination of heat and humidity.

You could say you moved to be closer to family. Or you could just say “Who wouldn’t want to live here with the friendly people, lovely atmosphere, and great weather?”

Between that and the free IKEA furniture, you’ve got every Indiana reader wondering why we didn’t hitch along with you.

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Crys • August 18, 2010 at 5:01 pm

If you don’t want to lie about having a boyfriend, I’m sure you’re also adverse to telling them you’re in the witness protection program too?

I went to school in that area! You’ll love it.

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Cheryl • August 18, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I’ve moved 4 times as an adult, cross-country every time. The first time was because I needed a change. The second was because I had a great job offer and I needed a change. The third was because I needed a change. The fourth was to marry my husband, plus I needed a change. I suspect that most people move because they needed a change. No harm in admitting to it. Heck, I might be needing a change again soon!

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Dee • August 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm

So interesting… I never thought to analyze it before, but I too moved just because I felt like it and this decision, which felt just normal to me, triggered intense reactions from people around me. I was very surprised by everyone’s shock.

Your analysis is so dead-on- most people only move for an external reason. Which is fine too, I guess.

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Dee • August 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm

–meant to write, from Northern California to Philadelphia. And then back again, and everyone thought, “oh you moved to be back with your family”. Nope. But okay.

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Jennifer • August 18, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I’ve moved twice on a whim, both times 2100+ miles away from the prior residence. When people ask, I just say, “To try something new.” I’ve never received anything but awe or appreciation.

Many wish to be able to move, but family/work/school keep them planted. I think you’ll find, as I do, that people won’t find it bizarre, but will be envious of your bravery (although I never considered either move brave, just exciting).

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Debby • August 18, 2010 at 7:09 pm

I think saying that you moved there because you like it is just fine. I went to Italy for the first time last October and if I were 27 instead of 57, I would quit my job and be living there right now just because I like it. Good for you for having the guts to make the move! I hope you have a wonderful life in Chapel Hill.

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Redneck Mama • August 18, 2010 at 8:39 pm

I say go in another direction all together. Tell them Indiana’s laws about where an ex-con can live and work were too restricting. Then leave it at that. Just see what happens.

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Another Fatso • August 18, 2010 at 10:06 pm

It is odd.

But it’s normal to tell people you moved south for the weather (and that the nice town didn’t hurt either). The existentialist answer would be pretty awesome to give though. At least once. :D

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Mrs. Thighs • August 18, 2010 at 11:07 pm

As someone who’s lived in the same general area all of my life, I admire you for havng the guts to make a change because YOU wanted to. There might be some people who are taken aback by this, but I think most would respect it — not that it should matter what they think, anyway,

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Lydia C • August 18, 2010 at 11:33 pm

I think weather is a GREAT reason to move. Saying you moved because the freezing-cold Indianapolis winters were getting to you is very understandable. Also, family . . . you wanted to be near family. That’s a good reason, too, although you might want to make sure your mother’s out of the room when you used that one.

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Charlie Hills • August 19, 2010 at 12:46 am

I suppose that’s an obvious question. Only second to, “Why didn’t you move to Austin?”

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Lunch in Paris • August 19, 2010 at 4:42 am

Yup, after nearly a decade in France, I too have lost my American style gift for self-promotion. Which is especially inconvenient when you have a book to promote…

Happy New Life!! EB x

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magnarama • August 19, 2010 at 9:12 am

Schmei has got it exactly right: you shift the conversation to the other person, and furthermore are flattering the locals — their hometown is so appealing that it draws folks there by sheer power of attraction!

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Sarah • August 19, 2010 at 9:26 am

I moved from the south back up north not long before your move. I also am often asked why I moved. I should preface this by noting that this is my third large move since college. When people asked, the obvious answer is ‘the job’ — because I moved here because I got a new job. HOwever, I chose to find this new job because I watned a change. I wanted to leave the south, and live somewhere that the summers weren’t all 100+F and 100% humidity. I wanted to live in a city where public transportation existed and I wasn’t a freak for wanting to use it! I wanted to live somewhere that recycling wasn’t considered a crime, where there were men my own age who i would consider dateable, where I was within a half a days drive from family in case of an emergency.

So when I meet people and they ask why I moved this time, I tell them that it was for the job. If they ask more I go into wanting some changes and what changes I wanted and why I chose to apply for my current job and how it turned out to be the right change for me (right job for me, perfect city, met the right man)

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jennifer rose • August 19, 2010 at 10:25 am

“Because I could” is the best answer.

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Suzy • August 19, 2010 at 11:21 am

How about mentioning that you are participating in the witness protection program. Or, you could just go with “because”.

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Susan • August 19, 2010 at 11:56 am

I’ve lived alllll over the place, and the truth about why I move is that I thrive on change.

Believe me, I’ve gotten some odd looks in my time when I’m asked that question!

Perhaps the answer to give is “I needed a change and I was sick of all that cold weather” ? It is the truth after all, short and simple.

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Natalie • August 19, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I thought you moved there to get a fresh start with the added benefit that your bro lives there

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Amelia • August 19, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I get the same thing when I am talking about moving to Portland, as I live in GA and have no family in Portland it does get you some strange looks and conversations. What can I say? I love the area.

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Kara • August 19, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I too moved because I wanted to. After graduating from college 10 years ago, I decided to escape the Texas heat and move to a town I had fallen in love with on a visit – Boston. 10 years later, I’m still here. Now, I’m married with a young child and hate that I live so far from my family but still love where I live (and have my in-laws family close which is great).

When I moved here, I told them I moved here because “I wanted to.” It was a great conversation starter and folks always love to hear why you love their home so much.

Even though you have bravely satisfied your need for “existential need for change,” the transition time to a new place can be overwhelming for both the good and bad. Best of luck to you!

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Clare • August 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm

You are a writer now you can live where ever the hell you want. It is odd and sad that most people live in place because they feel they have to. I think moving because you want to live in place is much more interesting and shows way more chutzpah than moving because of a job or a even worse a boyfriend. You moved because YOU wanted to and not for any other reason. How great is that.

As for feeling uncomfortable talking about yourself, take it is a good sign, it means you are not unreasonably self satisfied or narcissistic.

I have to say, I have never replied to any blog in my life but you website has been inspiring to me I have lost 85lbs so far and have 79 more pounds left to lose.
I can’t make the claim that I live where I do because I chose it, but I live on an island on the west coat, so even though I didn’t choose it I would have had I known about it. Every day I can walk to the beach at the end of my street.

Someone once told me that people will move when they want to make a huge change in their life. It looks like you have moved to a wonderful location good luck in your new self chosen home.

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Jen • August 19, 2010 at 3:33 pm

My guess is they’re just making conversation. I think you had pretty good reasons to move — nicer weather, family, a need for change.

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Sarah • August 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm

i also like to tell people i moved because i am part gypsy… every so often i need to uproot and relocate, aka change. that always gets a good reaction.

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Quix • August 20, 2010 at 3:03 pm

I left Reno after college and moved to San Diego because I needed to be anywhere but there. Didn’t have a job, had family in the So Cal area but that wasn’t a reason at all. I just always wanted to live in Cali, by the beach, and fell in love with SD when I visited.

It was always a long diatribe and I was happy when I moved to Austin, that I could just give the “I moved for a job” answer.

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marti • August 21, 2010 at 12:44 am

I recently moved, for no real tangible reason. I usually say I moved for family, which is about 20% of the reason and most of the time people don’t really care they’re just making idle conversation. Another good tactic is to ask them of a great restaurant, place to visit, etc.

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Johanna • August 21, 2010 at 5:47 pm

I’m a little confused about the “Paying the bills” area of your blog. I know that you’ve just made the big move, which might explain why you’d want to get everyone else moving as well … but still, are you aware that the green car ads on the right hand side of your blog are written in Swedish?

I live in Sweden. Do you want Swedes to move? Or is it the Ikea experience? :-)

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Johanna • August 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm

*Green Card, sorry! :-D

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PastaQueen • August 21, 2010 at 9:14 pm

@Johanna – The ads are targeted depending on the location of the visitor. So, since you are in Sweden, you see Swedish ads. American visitors see ads in English, etc.

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Deanne • August 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm

You’re not living by default – that’s prob. challenging for most.
And you also have the perfect storm of circumstances to allow you to have done that, which for many you might meet, was a brief moment that they let slip by. Enjoy!

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Jen • August 23, 2010 at 10:39 am

You write:
“but millions of people in the world must live where they do just because that’s where they’ve always lived. It makes me question how much control we actually have over our lives and how much power we give up by simply believing we don’t have any power.”

I’ve wondered about that a lot myself. I was unsurprised, but still a little sad to see how many classmates at my 20th year high school reunion still lived within 20 miles of where we went to school. I think that even if you do want to live where you grew up, it’s still really good to live somewhere else till – that way, going back is a conscious decision.

About five years, I moved from eastern WA state to the DC metro area (prior to that, I had lived in three other states for work and school). This was the first move that I got to fully call the shots on. Yes, I had a job out here, but I went on the job market in order to move. I really like this area and have no plans to leave, but again, it’s a conscious choice. Even with the down economy, no one is forcing me to live here.

I think that many of us do erect false prison bars around ourselves – we can’t do something different, because we’ve always done this (and boy do we resent it!). I know I have…

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Angela • August 24, 2010 at 12:11 am

If I had a portable job or if I were a trust fund recipient or won the lottery or…well, you get the picture…I would move around just for fun. I moved from Idaho to LA and that showed me that people can move to a new place and start a new life. And, living in a variety of places kind of gives you a better perspective on the world. Visiting a place for a week or two isn’t nearly as educational and enriching as living somewhere for a while.

Just imagine, your next move could be anywhere in the world!!

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kazari • August 24, 2010 at 4:21 am

I think moving because of the weather is perfectly legitimate. You don’t have to be as extreme as my parents, who moved from Manitoba Canada to Western Australia.

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Teresa • August 24, 2010 at 12:10 pm

The most interesting move I ever made occurred because I closed my eyes and pointed somewhere on a map.

It was somewhere I’d never been before, but what the hell… On the day I arrived to “check the place out” I ended up finding a job and buying a house.

I don’t live in that city anymore, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. In my opinion, real life is interesting… “normal” is, well, boringly normal.

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Sarah • August 24, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I think you should tell everyone that your celebrity status in Indiana was just too much to handle (what with the stalkers and paparazzi), so you’ve moved to a quite town where you’d expect people to respect your privacy ;)

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Anna Guest-Jelley • August 24, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Love this–so true!

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Ariella • August 25, 2010 at 1:31 am

This isn’t really a comment about this post, but I didn’t know where else to say this:

PQ– I totally applaud your decision to make your blog work for you, and not post out of any sense of obligation.

That said, I really miss my more-frequent dose of witty and fresh insights about the world, through your awesomely unique way of looking at things.

Just wanted to say so.

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Merry • August 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm

@Ariella – I think PQ is probably off having a fascinating time exploring her new world.
Either that or she just doesn’t like us any more :(

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PastaQueen • August 25, 2010 at 3:51 pm

@Ariella – @Merry – Aw, you are sweet to miss me. I’m just tired, y’all. Not of life or the blog or anything, just literally tired. It’s the chronic pain thing. I promise to write something eventually.

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PastaQueen • August 25, 2010 at 6:14 pm

@PastaQueen – And upon further reflection, my tiredness might also have to do with the whole “no caffeine” think my doctor has me on.

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Pubsgal • August 26, 2010 at 6:27 pm

I’ve always followed the jobs, moving-wise, and I had the pleasure of calling Chapel Hill home for 6 months during a college internship. No “splainin” needed for me–it’s lovely! Hope you have a wonderful time living there.

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Linda • August 27, 2010 at 9:49 am

I moved from Massachusetts to Kentucky for a number of the usual reasons (new job, divorce) but I like to say I was suffering from the Monty Python Syndrome–it was time for something “completely different.”

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Kate • September 3, 2010 at 10:15 am

For the past 6 years, I’ve moved to new cities every 2 years. Not for any particular reason, it was just time for a change. My family thinks I’m nuts. I just moved to Denver in Feb, and when people here ask me why, my standard answer is “It was time for a move, and I love Denver. So here I am!”
I’ve reconnected with tons of hs and college friends thanks to fb, and I’m amazed at how many of them are right where I last saw them.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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