It’s a long story, but I’m thinking a lot these days about where we live.
Most of you know I’m in a midwestern city that starts with M and ends with -apolis. There are a lot of fabulous things about this place. It’s a green city, at least in the summer. Leafily, I mean, in the summer, and left-leaningly almost always. There are great public resources: libraries (despite my difficulties of late), parks, public kiddie pools, bike trails, farmers’ markets. It’s a far more cosmopolitan place than anywhere nearby, though far less worldly, I think, than anywhere on the coasts. There are decent school possibilities. We’re close to A’s family. We have a small but slowly growing community of friends here. Our neighborhood has both diversity and some soothing homogeneity: there are folks from Africa and Mexico, but also a lot of white women walking around in unfashionable haircuts and comfy shoes, carrying tote bags full of library books, and I feel right at home. There’s the garden, and the asparagus I want to harvest and the blueberries I’m going to grow. Out the windows of our bedrooms we see sky and leaves.
But. This isn’t where I ever intended to live for the rest of my life.
I grew up in Anchorage, where a fifteen-minute drive took you to honest-to-God, look-out-for-the-bears wilderness and stunning views of mountains and water and long distances and sky. Since I left home, my parents have moved back to the pacific northwest, where we lived when I was really little, and still when I visit them there it feels right: the vegetation, the feel of the air, the salt water.
I came to the midwest for college, thinking of it as both exotic and safe. I met A, and the two of us moved around the world for years—for school, for research. We moved to the –apolis seven years ago, right before our wedding. We moved here because it was easy. We were sick of starting over. We had friends from college here, and job prospects, and family. Seven people met us at our new apartment when we drove up in our moving truck. They brought us bags of groceries and helped us unload. It felt like coming home.
But home forever? Our plan when we came here was to stay five years, then move west. Then we bought our house. And had two children and were too busy to even repaint the hideous fluorescent yellow back porch, let alone orchestrate a cross-country move. Then the entire economy took on the consistency of a wet paper bag and selling our house seemed foolish if not impossible.
Now August is 2 and we are 35 and May will start kindergarten in a year, and last weekend we finally repainted the porch, and, long story short, something changed and A and I both feel like it might be easier to leave now than it has been for a long time.
And it feels like the jaws will snap shut again before we know it: May will start school. She has a hard time with change. I don’t want to uproot her after she knows all her classmates and the landscape of a school.
Sometimes I think I could be happy living here forever, even though it isn’t what I planned. The trees. The asparagus. Our freshly painted back porch. Jobs we like well enough, and so many promising starts at friendships, and all the learning and knowing we’ve been doing these past seven years. In some ways, it would be easiest to stay.
But the ocean. The wilderness. Mountain hikes on weekends. That air. I didn’t mean to stay here. And the thing that’s changed: some people are leaving who, we now realize, felt like most of our reason to stay. I know it’s a bad idea to make big decisions when you’re grieving, but it feels like it’s time to figure out where we really want to be, and then be there.
Do you live where you planned to live? If you don’t, are you ok with it?