The place you live in is never wrong

By Anastasia Baraeva
6 min read

There are two types of people: the first follow the rule, “If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree,” while the second, in contrast, consider their place their root system and have no intention of hitting the road in search of a better place. As a teacher of English, I often ask my students if they like traveling. The majority of them usually nod yes, but when they hear the follow-up “why”, I see confused faces. Yes, there are oft-repeated cliches such as getting to know another culture, meeting new people, trying traditional food, finding inspiration, and so on. However, listening to them, I always have a gut feeling that this is not the whole truth.

One can never go wrong when choosing a place to settle down because it always has all the necessary features to serve a person’s life goals and, as they say, complete the mission. The place is an encapsulation of one’s fears, wishes, dreams, and opportunities, whose acceptance opens a door to another version of themselves and, as a result, to another life. Every adjustment jolts a person, and therefore the place into something closer to the truth of what they are supposed to be.

A changed mindset can result in understanding the world through a lens of oneness, where what is good for the person is good for their physical environment as well. The more self-conscious an individual is, the more reasonable decisions they make. That’s why humans, by turning their inner demons into pets or taming the monsters of their emotions and, consequently, raising their consciousness, play a key role in the transformation of the planet too. Contact with human consciousness allows nature to change, or even level up, its features and characteristics, and as creators, humans get to contribute to evolution. This world view can be supported by every gardener. Gardeners are able to either breathe life into a plant, or, by withdrawing emotionally, cause it to wither and die. Unfortunately, the spiritual decadence of modern society has turned humans’ role as creators into that of consumers, which has led to climate change.

Hence, avid travelers don’t search for inspiration or some kind of cultural exchange. They are actually looking for suitable surroundings to grow, expand their consciousness in significant ways, and thus contribute more to life. To do that, people are supposed to completely embrace who they are. And traveling is an excellent way to find evidence that everything is fine with who they are, that there is no single standard of life, success, relationships, or happiness, and that people do have the right to live their lives as they please, unless, of course, they inconvenience or endanger their fellow humans by their actions. And, if it is the main reason for journeys, educating oneself through good documentaries and books is a solution for those who cannot go on trips practically.

We are always cast for the main role of our life, and the place where we live is a part of the big game too; no one is ever free from their physical environment. This principle can be found in books, movies, and computer games. Filmmakers, writers, and other creators usually place a hero into various metaverses with different scenarios and observe how they affect each other. The types of plots we read or watch can be numerous, but the reason to live remains the same: to see if the hero with the thousand faces can cast away their misconceptions and act with love despite dull towns and different, or even unbearable, circumstances. In “Sandman”, for instance, Morpheus (Tom Sturridge) makes a man’s dream not to die come true. Every 100 years, they meet at the same bar, and the King of Dreams asks the man the same questions: how it is to live endlessly, and if there is still something to live for. Every time, for 600 years, the immortal man, having different life experiences—from a wealthy man to a homeless man who cannot die and cannot eat—has replied yes.

I, too, sometimes feel like a character in a 90s sitcom, perpetually plagued by their neighbors. I live in a block of flats where there is a lot of noise from people who live close by: loud music, rattling doors, a hum, a barking dog upstairs, and a child playing basketball downstairs. As a person with an ear for music, my brain notices and processes every sound in the background. This inherent ability drains me; the often constant hum makes me feel like I am under siege. I sometimes dream of an AI program to reduce the background noise, like the same program I use for making zoom calls on my laptop. Ha-ha. But the most tempting thought that comes to me is to sell my apartment and move to a different city or country, perhaps on a different planet in a galaxy far, far away..

Thinking about moving gives me pause, though. I actually love my hometown; it is the place where I was born and raised, where I learned what the world was like, where I realized what I wanted and didn’t want, and where I found my intimate friends. That said, the inner voice lures me into a web of self-doubt: “What if your well-being will be better somewhere else than it is here?” “What if “you” are wrong, and I’ll turn another place into the same nightmare I already have because of my ability to pick up every sound from the broadcast? What if the place is neutral, and the only person who consistently colors it is me? What if I miss out on something important if I move away?” I defeat myself.

In such dialogues, I sometimes lose myself and forget the rule: the place you are living in right now is ideal for going through whatever lesson life has in store for you at this point in time. It’s got a perfect set of tools: a particular sort of people you are familiar with; a job you have; events you attend, etc. I’ve noticed that the deeper I delve into something interesting to me, the less important the place becomes. For all that, when I feel lost or get stuck, my job, the sum of money I earn annually, the people I have relationships with, and the apartment I live in all become more significant than ever before. As far as my outer self replaces my inner self, the desire to move to anything else arises. I call this desire a sign of losing the deep meaning of life.

In Sandman, when Dream loses the meaning of his existence, his sister, Death of the Endless (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), shares her experience with him: Once, I thought about giving up until I realized that the purpose of our existence is to serve people. It is not about quests, or finding purpose outside our function. Our purpose is our function. I need people as much as they need me. I learned that all they really need are kind words and a friendly face as they had in the beginning.

You need the place where you reside as much as it needs you. Moving to another place is the right decision only if you’ve learned your lesson, and for another one, the current place has exhausted its learning opportunities. A new place can be a chance to recalibrate thoughts, redirect yourself, and create an environment for potential growth and expansion. The location, however, is meaningless without you; wherever you go, you take yourself with you. Since we are multifaceted creatures, one place might be an all-round excellent match for us too. A home isn’t just where you are, it is who you are. One Chinese master was once asked if he had been tired of making a cup of the same size, shape, and print for 70 years. “No, – he replied, with each new cup, I learn more about myself.” Similarly, passing by the same streets on our commute to work, or hanging out at the same bars on Friday nights, we’re not stuck in a maze like lab mice – we’re tracing new routes and our perspective is never quite the same, and we’re the richer for it.