Moving to a new city when you’re a kid SUCKS. Spending a lot of your childhood doing just that is something that my BFF Anne Marie Sweeney and I have in common, and we’d love to tell you alllllllllll about it.
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02:16 Pod Pourri
– Why the eff did we have to move around so much?
– Having siblings seemed to soften the blow of relocating. Sorta.
– Anne Marie became heavily involved in drugs. Or was it drama club? I can’t remember.
– Eventually, she moved to Pittsburgh! Yay! And we became besties and rode off into the sunset on two white horses who are also besties!
– Imagine an act in a comedy show playing this song. You’d want to run out the door, but you’d be a fool because IT GETS FUNNY I PROMISE. (SPOILER: Anne Marie didn’t run!)
51:47 Games People Play
– We’re a couple of majorly competitive b-holes.
– We each play a card from the game Identity Crisis! READY GO!
– I accuse Anne Marie of abusing the power of “house rules” and she accuses me of being a poor sport. We’re both right.
– Anne Marie, you are a shiny diamond in a sea of poo. Thanks for podcasting with me!
– Check out Hustlebot and the Improv Jam, because they get mentioned on every other episode so why not this one?
– Anne Marie has been doing some acting, so if you’re in Chicago, check out the Hyde Park Community Players!
So I know this is overdue but I always managed to get distracted. I wanted to comment on this podcast topic and share my own experience of moving around as a “kid”. In my case, this wasn’t so much during childhood but during adolescence, which makes a difference. I’ll get into the ways it screwed me up, but I want to give some background first because it’s important.
I want to start by saying that while I do harbor resentment towards my parents for these many moves, I love them both dearly and would never antagonize them with this resentment. Largely because of what I learned as an adult about the background of the move.
My dad grew up extremely poor, but his family owned their house and the plot of land it stood on. A lot of my father’s pride is wound up in American Dream shenanigans because of this. The house I grew up in for most of my childhood was a small but spacious ranch-style house on a couple of acres of land in the countryside of upstate New York. My dad LOVED living in the country. And he loved raising his kids in the country. But one day the dairy co-op where he worked was informed that it was shutting down. It was a satellite branch of a larger co-op and the nearest branch that would take him was located in Buffalo. So we had to move. My parents put the house on the market for sale only to discover during the appraisal that the house was actually a modified duplex trailer. When they bought the house, their appraiser didn’t bother checking the crawlspace and therefore missed all the tell-tale trailer signs. So my parents were essentially ripped off and had to declare bankruptcy to get out from the mortgage. My father’s dream of owning a home and land to raise his kids on and retire in was now being taken away.
Did I know any of that as a kid in 8th grade? OF COURSE NOT!
So here I am in 8th grade, just starting to develop crushes on girls and making friends that I’ll probably have all through high school and maybe even college. Suddenly WHAM!!!! We’re moving. I think my parents probably didn’t want to upset us with the news that we were moving, and were also probably trying everything they could think of to avoid it for our sake, that they just didn’t consider how the suddenness of the thing would affect us. My dad also spent a few weeks at his cousin’s house in Buffalo looking for apartments, but again, I didn’t really know that’s what he was doing. I just knew that there was trouble with his job.
This suddenness would be the modus operandi of my parents for the next 4 years as we moved 4 times and I attended 5 schools (2 middle schools and 3 high schools).
The details are mostly unimportant. Essentially my parents found reasons to move around the Buffalo area 4 times in as many years. These reasons tended to be disagreements with landlords, which I can see as an adult were likely 50-50 the fault of my parents. I remember two of the landlords being real assholes, but the other two were fine. In that first year I moved from my “home” middle school in the country to a new inner-city middle school and then ANOTHER inner-city middle school. To say that my academics were fucked is an understatement, not least because I was generally ahead of most of my classmates. As a kid I went to a very hands-on small-town school that had great funding, so my elementary education was fantastic. Buffalo Public School system? Mmm… not so much. And then because I hadn’t developed in the Buffalo system, when it came time to pick a high school (yes, you applied to a high school of choice – a concept that blew my poor hormone-filled brain) I got stuck with the default, Bennett High. Which is the worst high school in Buffalo, so naturally full of Bad Kids. I don’t know if you get this vibe from me as an adult, but I was never a Bad Kid. Even in the middle schools I was a goody-goody. I won’t get into the whole story, but in the middle school from which I “graduated”, I was a protected friend of two underage hookers (they thought I was funny) and had a crush on a girl who kept a journal of how long she and her boyfriend had sex before he came. Mind you, I was still in the fucking CRUSH stage of my adolescence. I was NOT ready for this.
Naturally as a constantly “new” kid I had a hard time making friends (hookers aside). And my mid to late teens were ridiculously hard on my hormones. AND I’ve always been susceptible to emotional rawness. AND I was a fat kid. So much horribleness stewing in this body and brain already… So I was miserable at Bennett and often scared because shit would happen like two girls getting into a fight on the front lawn in the morning before the doors opened and one of them cracking the other in the face with a board WITH A FUCKING NAIL IN IT! Or that one time a couple of asshole thugs chased a puppy around the lawn and kicked the shit out of it. It was actually sort of a relief when my parents announced yet another move, this time to a suburb of Buffalo. We move, I get into this new school and miracle of miracles manage to make a couple of friends! Okay, they were burnouts who are likely dead or in prison as of this writing but still… friends! I was still too scared to talk to girls but I did allow myself to develop a crush. I’m at this school for half of my freshman year, then sophomore, and into my junior year. Halfway through junior year, guess what? WE’RE MOVING AGAIN!! Ah hahahahahaha…. Moving to my father’s old hometown. My dad grew up in a suburb of Buffalo and we were moving into that suburb, not far from his family’s house (which they long ago sold).
Now, Lakeshore in Angola was actually a huge turning point and a great experience. I was miserable at the beginning because of the obvious reasons, but I very quickly stumbled into a band of misfits who became some of my best friends. You know Truby, obviously. Erik was one of a handful of people who saved my life. I was borderline suicidal for much of my teenage years and having that group of friends made me realize what a fucking idiot move it would have been.
So. Anyway. That’s the moving stuff. There’s more tangential to that (my parents eventually bought a house in that same town and now live there, which was another move but I was in college so fuck it) (and also I had to quit college for financial reasons, which was another sort of move) but that is the big stuff.
So how did it fuck you up, Newt? Wow, let me count the ways.
Most significantly, the suddenness of the move and the lack of communication between my parents and me has bred in me a deep, DEEP hatred of surprises, spontaneity, and change. Even good change. I’m a self-saboteur of the highest caliber because if I allow myself to be productive I’ll get somewhere in my life, and holy shit that would be awful. I like stability, even shitty stability. It’s been pointed out to me by my brother that I took a lot of risks and made significant changes in my life when I went back to college and went to grad school and moved to Los Angeles. That’s true, but whenever I make these huge changes in my life they are inevitably followed by years of inactivity because I’m still emotionally recovering from the shock of change. And I don’t know if you know this, but life ain’t endless. I’m 35 and although I don’t feel old, I’m very much aware of how I work. I don’t want to keep progressing in 5 year increments. This hatred of surprises and sponaneity make me somewhat predictable and not a whole lot of fun, particularly for the ladies. I like my routines. I like making plans. I don’t so much like adventures. (Actually, I do, but they scare me in a way that makes it weird for anyone else involved)
This aversion to change is tied into another issue, which is lack of personal motivation. I am happy to help others achieve their goals. It fills me with pleasure to do so. But I don’t like pursuing my own goals because I often feel like my goals don’t matter. They matter to me, but life is just going to rip my opportunities away from me anyway, so why put in the work? “Newt, you’re just lazy.” No! Swear to gosh, you set me to a task, I will break my back doing it. You tell me to follow my dreams, I will shrug and avoid the conversation. My parents never talked to me about these life-changing moves. I came away from them feeling like it didn’t matter what I wanted or how I pursued it, outside forces were going to interfere.
And of course there are the usual problems you get when you’re a kid who moved a lot. I won’t bother going into them because you already did. And they’re minor, in my mind, compared to the two big ones I outlined above.
I don’t necessarily resent my parents for it, either. I mean, I did back then — but now that I’m an adult, I understand why we had to move and I don’t feel that it severely “damaged” me in any way (despite making me wonder how I’d be different if I’d stayed in Franklin).
My parents both grew up kinda poor, too (it was mostly Dad’s side, and BOY HOWDY were they poor), but with their jobs, the church provided our housing. It was a good thing on one hand, for financial reasons, but the down side was WHOOPS YOU’RE MOVING AGAIN.
Newt, I find it hilarious that you think I would for one second assume you were anything but a Good Kid. I’m so happy that you and Truby found each other eventually, but mostly for selfish reasons. 🙂
As if I didn’t miss you enough already, thank you for commenting and being so open about this. I love hearing other people’s stories, especially when they are my dear friends. <3
Yeah, and you know I just outlined grievances up there, mostly because I don’t often get a chance to air that out, but there were positive consequences to these moves as well. One of the character qualities that I’m often told about myself is that I’m a really good listener, and I attribute that in part to those moves. It was fostered in me young by my parents and PBS to be polite and respectful with people, but the moves were what really made me focus in on paying attention to what other people say. As much as anything it was a survival technique. If you’re the new kid, you have to pay attention to what other people are saying to make your way through school and to make new friends. I also learned to really treasure my education. When I first moved into Buffalo, one of my middle-school English teachers took me aside after class to talk about books and creative writing because I was the only kid in class who paid the poor guy a modicum of attention. Everyone else in that class was rowdy or doing their own thing. I was blown away by how much everyone else just didn’t care. I don’t think I would’ve appreciated school had I not moved. And generally it was good to get shaken out of my white-bread country-style small-town existence. If I had to do it again I’d maybe not jump into the “hooker friends” deep end of the pool, but still… Incidentally, when I said I was a “protected” friend, I mean they actually threatened a couple of guys who were trying to convince me to mule drugs for them around the school. These two dudes figured that since I looked like a Good Kid and I was new, nobody would suspect that I was running drugs for them. I said I wouldn’t do it so they kept hassling me until one day one of the girls stepped in between us and said, “If you keep bugging him, I’m gonna knife your ass.” (Incidentally, this time in my life might be why I have a thing for tough women)
You are VERY polite and an excellent listener. Definitely two traits I appreciate about you.
That is CRAY about the your hooker friend threatening to knife a guy! What a cool story to tell, though. Ha!