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Fear of freedom: A child of the foster system, now grown, moves out on his own

By Chris TimmonsJuly 9, 2015

Tampa, Florida
Tampa, Florida Joe Rosh/iStock

I recently moved to Tampa, Fla. For some time, I had been anxious to move somewhere else. Anywhere. It didn’t matter. Somehow, Tampa struck me as the ideal place.
For being a relatively big city — the 53rd largest in the country — Tampa seemed relatively clean and orderly. It was approachable and not as intimidating as places like New York or Chicago. 

As someone who has lived in a mid-sized city (Tallahassee) for more than a decade, a change too stark would have made me stall. It’s not that I couldn’t make it in those cities, but admittedly, the adjustment would have been extraordinary. 

My aversion to moving to one of those big cities was based on two main things: First, the general reputation of New York City (see: Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind); and because I enjoy the Southern culture that I have grown accustomed to, which is decidedly different than the culture of bigger cities. 

So Tampa it was. 

Despite deciding to move, I couldn't seem to get my mind off Tallahassee. There was much I liked about the government-university town, which I called home for most of my life: its compactness, its friendly people and its civic culture. There was much that I disliked, too, such as the slow-moving, insular and self-satisfied air it gave off.

My overall despondency to move was largely connected to the transient nature of my teenage years

It took me two years to ultimately make the resolution to leave for good, and the reasons why it took me so long eluded me for a time.
Until I actually moved to Tampa, I had not realized that my overall despondency to move was largely connected to the transient nature of my teenage years. 
During three to four years of my adolescence, I moved from one aunt’s home to another — and then another. For a time, I moved to a group home, then to a foster home, and so on. Permanency was in short supply.

It wasn’t altogether awful: I have always found myself an adaptable and optimistic sort of fellow. But I certainly believe the time in my life, during which I moved frequently, resulted in the default stasis that made me irresolute — even as I wanted to make the move somewhere else. 

To make the move, I had to overcome other fears: those formidable exigencies, which moving tends to impress on the imagination. From making new friends to being alone to finding a place to work, all was a subplot to my stasis.

The past is implacable: Freedom is lonely — even tragic — and limits have their uses

According to the U.S. Census, most Americans move to either flip homes like TLC’s “Flip That House” or for more lucre. I’d say, in the American imagination — historical and literary — there has been a tendency to lionize moving: You think of the Pilgrims. You think of Huck Finn. You think of the California Goldrush. You think of Jay Gatsby. You think of the black pioneers of the Great Migration of the 1920s through 1970s

Moving, in those cases, has always been interpreted in the heroic vein: as the embrace of freedom, the rejection of limits and the rejection of the past. But the past is implacable: Freedom is lonely — even tragic — and limits have their uses.
Beyond that, I am simply happy to have overcome my despondency and made the damn decision to move. Heroic or not, it was the right one.