Monday, August 14, 2006

Moving With the Brazen Careerist

Brazen Careerist says, "I'm moving out of New York City", which by itself wouldn't interest me much, but the post is a rich mine of lifestye values and choices, all with happiness as the goal. She wisely leans on Daniel Gilbert's genius to try to apply what he's learning about happiness to her decision on where to move.

This reminded me of my enthusiasm last year about about Find Your Spot. I wonder if Penelope would have arrived at Madison, WI if she had done their quiz? Probably would have been somewhere on the list. My obsession with mountains seems to plant me firmly in Oregon when I do the quiz.

It's cool to have the freedom to choose from anywhere in the country (or the world!) to live, based on school quality, crime rates, real estate prices, or whatever...but I have two main reservations about this approach.

The first also comes from research that shows that meaningful relationships are probably the greatest predictors of happiness. Moving away from friends and family might satisfy other lifestyle values (leisure, work, climate, culture), and I guess most people are better at making new friends than I am...but it would seriously compromise my happiness to start new somewhere, for relationships alone. It's probably true that "People are happy if they earn what their friends earn", but I don't think it follows that having no friends in your new location is going to make you feel rich (financially or otherwise).

The second reservation is more of an observation triggered by The Clustered World, which basically translates into the idea that we tend to have more in common with people in our lifestyle cluster no matter which city they live in. There are a few neighborhoods in nearly every city on the continent that would fit my preferences and values. I wonder if we'd be better off finding the best (for us) neighborhoods close to our families and friends, rather than looking at the averages for entire cities far away from our networks and resources.

All of this said, I love Penelope's approach to this adventure. I also strongly agree with the belief that people are terrible at predicting what will make them happy. Even if you had the perfect tool for simulating your life in a new place, it would be very, very difficult to figure out how you'd really feel about it in the real world, in real time. At some point, you just have to try it and see.


Anonymous said...

Re clusters: I liked that idea. But what I found in NYC is that the cost of living makes a slew of lifestyle choices unavailable. So the clusters grow around who is frustrated about what. I have also lived in LA, though, where the cluster theory seems to be more true.

Jeremy said...

Interesting, Penelope. I should have added sufficient disclaimers to decouple these arguments from your personal journey -- I think it's exciting and bold. I'd also love to hear more about what you feel you're leaving behind, and what you think about the difficulty of forming new close relationships in Madison.

What a cool transition.