A couple of months ago I copied the Proust questionnaire after hearing Rolf Potts talk about it on one of his podcasts. Borrowing from a Vanity Fair segment on the topic, “The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.”
Since copying it and dumping it into my drafts folder, I’ve largely ignored it. But today I was so repulsed by the news that I sought it out to pull my mind off of the darkness in the world so often spotlighted by those who leverage it for gain. And I settled on one question from the list that made me pause and think more than any other: Where would you most like to live?
I think a lot about traveling. And lately, despite extensive home renovation projects this year, I’ve thought a bit about where I’d move to should I really get sick of parking myself in this same place. The answer to this question is easy for some people, but a bit more evasive for others. Where would you most like to live? Somewhere tropical or seasonal? At a beach house? In the mountains with a ski-up condo? A penthouse in the city with a view of the park? Deep in the heart of the action or far, far away from the action? On an island far from the madness of the world? In another country? Close to family or far away from family? In a quiet neighborhood full of kids for your kids to play with? The answer will change with time and circumstances.
Your stage of life dictates the answer to the question. For twenty years the place I lived was the place I wanted to live. Close enough to the ocean and the mountains. Private enough with the forest nudging insistently on the backyard. In a small town across the border with conveniences all around us and a chance for our children to grow up playing with other kids in the neighborhood for hours at a time. Sure the commute was difficult at times, but there were times when I’d come home to New Hampshire from a frenzied day in Boston or New York and walk the dog with only the stars to keep us company on a quiet night and I’d believe that the answer was nowhere else but here.
But fast-forward a decade and the kids are adults, the dog has passed, and you chafe at the neighbors a bit more than you should. Is it time to downsize? Or to relocate for relocation’s sake? When I was younger I imagined living along the river or a pond where I could slip a rowing shell or kayak into the water and just go. When I got a bit older my taste turned more to salt water and I thought of a deep water dock as the ultimate attachment to a house. Those friends sailing Fayaway would vote for that house with a deep water dock. They answered the question Where would you most like to live? with a sailboat, but are asking themselves the question again, with the answer being maybe a bigger sailboat. A neighbor is answering the question with an RV and a place to park it when they aren’t on the road. Both answered with mobility.
Where would you most like to live? The answer often depends on the answer to another question, which is how would you most like to live? A quiet walk outside at dawn to see the sunrise from shore or as you quietly paddle to deeper waters. A trail that leads to another trail that draws you upwards to dance with the sky. A place to someday run and play with the grandchildren. A place big enough to invite others over for conversation deep into the night, but small enough that you don’t spend your days constantly maintaining it. A place to think and a place to be active. A close enough place that’s far enough away. A safe place for others to come home to.
So tell me, where would you most like to live? David Bowie once completed the Proust Questionnaire and answered this question with “Northeast Bali or south Java”. As for me? Somewhere with dark skies and the Northern Lights. With changing seasons and people who challenge me to stretch and grow and be more than I am now. If you’re going to move you might as well make it a big leap.