Where We Live

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?

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9 thoughts on “Where We Live

  1. I’m okay with where I live – it’s in the general vicinity of where I’m from.

    For me, I can’t imagine living in the middle of the country – I’m meant to be near the ocean.

  2. I don’t know if I ever planned to live anywhere–I moved around too much for that. I just wanted to stay in one place. But I’ve lived in this area (Silicon Valley) for 25 years now and I’d be happy to stay here for the rest of my life. The weather is perfect, we’re an easy to drive to beaches and mountains, and it’s very casual, yet there’s culture all around us.

    That said, we just got back from the Pacific Northwest and it was gorgeous there. Too cold in the winter for this L.A.-raised hothouse flower, although I imagine if you came from the Midwest it would seem downright balmy.

  3. I’m one of the homiest (is that a word?) people I know. Both my husband and I grew up in the mid size Australian city we still live in now, with our 2 girls the same ages as yours. Neither of us has ever lived anywhere else. Neither of us can ever imagine living anywhere else. Sometimes I feel like this is “wrong” as so many friends have moved to Sydney or Melbourne- but we’re happy, and I don’t think things will change.

  4. Um, I live in my hometown and no, I didn’t expect to live here! I wasn’t even happy growing up here! And living AND working in the suburbs always sounded like the worst thing imaginable to me. But then, so did an office job sitting behind my computer all day. I often think how my 22-year-old self would be horrified by my life today, but I’m pretty happy with it.

  5. well, first of all, I really would hate for you to leave.

    But, I gotta say, there’s something about being “home” …having lived in another state for a few years, in a really cool place that had a lot of great things going for it, I never could quite feel settled there. I loved it, but it didn’t feel like home. (granted that was years ago and life was a lot, er, simpler back then)–I felt like there was always something missing. I didn’t feel connected.

    I definitely never thought I’d live here for my whole life. In fact, I always thought I’d live in the Pacific NW. But once I moved away from *this* Godforsaken place, I realized where my “home” is. Yikes! It’s here.

    I’m glad we moved back here. I love being home.

    But I’d be seriously bummed if you moved!

  6. Well, I live in San Diego. This is partly because it is one of the few places in the world I can live and pursue my chosen career (in biotech) and partly because when the New Zealander who is now my husband said he’d move to the US to be with me, I couldn’t see making him move to New Jersey, which is where I was living at the time. California seemed like a better fit for a New Zealander, and has the added advantage of only being a 12 hour direct flight from NZ. We see more of his friends and family this way.

    Of course, during my stay in NJ, I also figured out that I’m a west coast girl at heart, so I’m happier out here. I grew up in Arizona, and my parents still live there, so they are reasonably close by, which is nice.

    We did really, really like Portland when we visited earlier this year, but there are few jobs for me there that wouldn’t require a change in industry. Also, we had freakishly nice weather.

    So I guess we’re happy where we are, although we do complain about the cost of housing, the poor public transit and the general lack of political will to tackle our region’s problems (and now, our state’s problems).

    I didn’t really have any fixed idea about where I’d end up living until I moved to New Jersey (from San Diego) after grad school and realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me.

  7. I am temporarily living somewhere totally fabulous, and sometimes feel like a moron because, come spring, we’ll be moving to basically the opposite of Georgia, where I spent most of my childhood–to Sweden. The opposite in so many ways. Many nice ways, but different. And also not here, a tropical island. It’s very weird. And if I could move absolutely anywhere…it’s be the left coast, SF or Seattle. But I can’t, or anyway won’t, not now. And then of course there are places like the Meditarranean.

    Anchorage is amazing, truly. I have so many memories of gorgeousness.

  8. If I was still in the -apolis I’d certainly be opposed to you leaving and would be talking you out of such crazy ideas. Never in my life did I imagine living in Pittsburgh. I’ve gotten used to it and i suppose some roots have grown. In my mind, home feels very far away from where I am now. Phil and I often talk about moving to Northern California, Portland or Seattle, but I think my deepest desire is to return to Portugal.

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