Wednesday, April 17

I feel torn between two cities. How do I reconcile where I want to be? | Health & wellness

My dilemma lies with not knowing where I should be. I have moved between two cities during my 20s and feel as though I have strong communities in each place. While both offer beautiful friendships, experiences and feelings of home, both also (inevitably) have their drawbacks.

One city is where I created a lot of independence away from family and friends and found new parts of myself. The other city is the one I grew up in, where my family and old friends live, where some of the deepest parts of me reside. I spend so much of my time in one city wishing I was in the other, and vice versa, never finding myself present to create a life in one place. How do I reconcile where I want to be?

Eleanor says: As with so many life decisions, I think the key here is to stop trying to make the right one. That sounds counterintuitive – like what else could the goal be but to get our big decisions right? But sometimes chasing the best choice can undermine us.

I like to think about a psychological experiment from researchers Daniel Gilbert and Jane Ebert. Here’s how it goes: undergraduates are taught how to take photographs. At the end of the semester they’re told they can select one of their pictures and the school will print it large enough to hang on the wall – it’s theirs to take home. Some students are told they have one shot to make the choice. Whatever they pick now is the one they’ll take home. Others are told they can change their minds for as long as they like, including after the print gets made. By far, the people who thought their decision was final wound up happier with the choice they’d made.

Also Read  Male violence against women is about so much more than toxic masculinity | Sonia Soda

It can be that way with places. You mention daydreaming about each place when you’re in the other – I think that’s a common experience for emigrants or people who split their time. And there, the choice isn’t something external like what to hang on a wall – it can feel like a choice about who to be.

You’ll know the weird phenomenon where your personality shifts depending on where you are – I know someone who thinks he’s a nicer person in Spanish, someone who thinks he’s less neurotic in Australia. Each home brings out different parts of who we are, so when we daydream about the smells or rituals of each place I think we’re also daydreaming about the person it lets us become. No wonder it starts to feel each decision is one you’ll regret – how can you pick just one way to be?

But there are two lies in that way of thinking. One is the phenomenon those students taught us: sometimes it’s the act of making the decision that makes you happy, not any belief about how it turned out. The students who turned out most content with their photograph didn’t get that way because they gave an affirmative answer to the question “did I make the best choice?”; it just didn’t occur to them to keep asking it.

The other is the thought that you mention when you talk about where the “deepest parts” of you reside. The truth is that both parts of you – the independent part that set out on your own and the part that longs for your first home and friends and family – are all aspects of the same self. Different parts are more accessible in different places, but the fact you can access them at all tells you they’re enmeshed with who you are. In whichever home you choose, you’ll be the person who built both these lives – it’s like the more reassuring version of the adage “wherever I go, there I am”.

Also Read  With 37 million in lockdown and Covid plans under fire, Chinese ask: what comes next? | China

So it won’t be the particulars of the place you settle in that make you feel you made the right choice. It’ll be the act of making the choice at all, and bringing as much of your whole self as you can to the place you decide to call home.

Ask us a question

Do you have a conflict, crossroads or dilemma you need help with? Eleanor Gordon-Smith will help you think through life’s questions and puzzles, big and small. Questions can be anonymous.

“,”alt”:”A form to ask advice columnist Eleanor Gordon-Smith a question”,”index”:13,”isTracking”:false,”isMainMedia”:false,”source”:”Formstack”,”sourceDomain” :””}”>


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *