Root shock

14 Apr

[This post was originally titled “Where (Somebody) Hamlet led me next”]

I know these “little synchronicities” can seem to get out of control, but I like to record them, because the accumulation becomes impressive even if the individual connections are so-so.

I wanted to dress up the long “‘Hamlet’ and hamlets” post with one more image, so I went looking for one of the green road signs mentioned in the Wikipedia article that I quoted from (search term: hamlet “road sign” “new york”). What I got instead was a lot of links to “Newest Hacked Road Sign Warns Of New York’s Imminent Demise” and simpler variations on the theme “New York Is Dying.” This strikes me as a small synchronicity because, just yesterday, as I was searching the New York Daily News site for something entirely different, I came upon a small, oddly curated slide show titled “New York nabes dying.” The fact that this expresses the feeling that’s had me thinking of leaving for a long time is a bigger synchronicity (“meaningful coincidence”) for me.

It’s a feeling apparently shared by a number of people who blogged about the hacked “New York is dying” electronic road sign (and made T-shirts, maternity shirts, and tank tops of it). One blogger agreeing with the sign’s sentiment linked to a 2009 conference on a concept I’d never heard of before: the Serial Displacement Conference of the New York Academy of Medicine Working Group on Serial Displacement.

The conference’s Web site is called Root Shock, and here I get my biggest synchronicity of all:

What is root shock?

People who have been displaced experience “root shock.”  Root shock is the traumatic stress reaction to the loss of some or all of one’s emotional ecosystem.  Root shock can follow natural disaster, development-induced displacement, war, and changes that play out slowly such as those that accompany gentrification.

The concept of “root shock” was adapted from gardening by Dr. Mindy Fullilove.  She learned about root shock from people who had been displaced by urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s.  Her research was published in the book Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It.

My landlord’s not gentrifying me out of my apartment, just cashing in an investment to fulfill duties as a member of the sandwich generation. Nor, obviously, can I claim frequent displacement from my living quarters at a quarter century of occupancy.

But root shock is what I’m feeling, all right. The neighborhood has changed around me, to the point that new businesses don’t bother labeling their wares in English. Although I’ve stayed in one residence all these years, I’ve seen friend after friend move far away from New York, so that despite the best of intentions, many relationships have been uprooted. And living the life of a freelancer, even a permalancer or long-term temp at times, turns one’s work life into a series of displacements.

Whether I go to a different state next or just another New York neighborhood, I want to choose the place well, because I hope to put down roots for a long while. I’ll feel freer to choose, though, and more nimble if I do a very big job of pruningbefore I start packing boxes.

“Root Shock” Red Cross video, written by a sixth grade class in India

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