Going Nowhere Fast

So, we sold our house. It’s already been a couple months actually. It all happened rather quickly. Four days to be exact. I thought I’d feel excited and even a little sad, but I just kind of felt numb, or maybe just ambivalent.

We knew we’d eventually sell, seeing as the schools in the neighborhood were terrible, and the neighborhood in general was just not the best. I had kind of been building up all this momentum over the winter about the idea of moving in the Spring. It just seemed… “right”. The gun shots that woke me at 2 a.m. one morning confirmed this. So we cleaned and painted and staged and put it on the market.

When it sold everyone kept asking me if I was excited, and I wanted to be, but I just wasn’t. I actually thought I’d feel somewhat sad handing the keys over to someone new. I purchased the house a little over a year after my divorce, and it was the first house I ever purchased on my own. Though I married again a few years later and my husband moved in, that house was always sort of a symbol of my independence and capabilities. It was also a really charming house with hardwood floors, high ceilings, beautiful crown molding and claw foot tub. I put a lot of work into fixing it up and making it my own, so I was somewhat surprised that I felt nothing about leaving it.

So what was inhibiting my excitement? Well, one of the reasons for selling was to provide us more freedom to move wherever and whenever. We wanted to be more portable. I thought I’d have this great feeling of adventure and freedom. Unfortunately every effort I made towards a big move fell flat. I had a solid job lead in Austin, then suddenly the position was put on hold. My current employer responded positively to the possibility of my working remote, but then sounded reluctant. As of today, it’s still up in the air as to whether I can or cannot work remote. So my “big move” resulted in us renting a two bedroom apartment a few miles down the road. Woo hoo.

The apartment is fine mostly, and it’s nice to have a pool for the summer, but I feel in total limbo right now. To add to this, my older son, who currently lives in his own place with roommates, is talking about enrolling in college. While I’m ecstatic that he’s finally feeling ready, (he’s almost 21 years old), I really want him to come with us if we move, and if he’s committed to school he’ll be stuck here for awhile. I’d also like for him to be able to live at home while going to college so he can save money, but that’s going to be difficult considering we live in a 2 bedroom apartment. We literally have no room and it’s somewhat impractical for a 21 year old to share a bedroom with a 3 year old.

Everyday I wake up thinking: What are we doing? Where are we going? Should I just give up and stay in Minnesota? Where will we be in 5 years? Is this the right choice? Is that the right choice? My mind is a whirlwind of thoughts that go nowhere. It’s somewhat exhausting. Clarity. A strong sense of direction. This is what I crave. In the meantime, I’m going nowhere fast.

Location, Location, Location

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I don’t like where I live. Well, let me clarify: Right now, in July, I’m perfectly happy, and do actually like it. In fact, June through mid September are usually pretty decent. It’s the other 8 1/2 months I can’t stand. You see, I live in Minnesota; land of 10,000 lakes, and the coldest friggin’ weather in America! No really, look: http://www.currentresults.com/Weather-Extremes/US/coldest-cities.php

Minneapolis/St. Paul really tops the charts when it comes to all things cold:

  • Lowest temperatures? Check.
  • Most freezing days? Check.
  • Coolest weather? Check.

I hate, disdain, abhor, despise, absolutely loathe the cold. And let me just go ahead and dispel the myth that you can “always put on more clothes to get warm, but in the heat you can only take off so much before it’s illegal”. This is a lie. There comes a point where you are so entirely freezing that no amount of extra clothing helps. Not to mention, at some point all those layers make moving nearly impossible. Have you seen “The Christmas Story”?

Also, our cold isn’t limited to the “winter season”, it begins in fall, and lingers well into spring. On Halloween while other children in warm weather states are out happily collecting their candy and showing off their elaborate costumes, Minnesotan children are rushing from house to house to collect their treats before their little fingers go numb, while mom and dad look on, somewhat impatiently, desperately clinging to their mugs of hot cocoa. And those elaborate costumes? Well, they’re either completely concealed with hats, coats, gloves and boots, or the costume is actually placed over 15 layers of clothing. So that adorable little ballerina now looks like a hobo in a fat suit and tutu, with snow pants for tights.

Easter often brings visions of adorable children adorned in their new spring Sunday best, running through green grass, peeking among the flowers in search of hidden treasures. But for us Minnesotans it can go one of two ways. Once every few years it’s really nice and we all rejoice and go outside in search of hidden eggs laying on the wondrous ground that we haven’t seen for months. Or, more typically, we hide the eggs inside because outside is just not suitable for humans… or joy. Unless of course the parents are mean and want to hide undecorated eggs in the snow and see how long it takes the kids to find them.

You may think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. Below is a picture I took just 2 days before the first official day of “spring”.

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Spring in Minnesota

I could go on and on, but the purpose of this blog isn’t to spew about all the things I find unpleasant, it’s about discovery and moving forward. Clearly I’m not a fan of cold weather, and despite the effects of global warming, I don’t think Minnesota is going to become a warm weather state during my lifetime, so I’m really left with one option: MOVE.

Now, the question remains; where to? This is proving to be harder than I thought. Certainly I can narrow things down by focusing on warmer areas, but there’s a vast list of criteria that need to be considered beyond just weather. The livability of a city isn’t determined merely by it’s climate, there are many factors to consider such as cost of living, quality of education, employment rates, access to art and cultural amenities, etc.

Many people are often lead to a new location through various life circumstances. Others may visit a place and experience some kind of magical connection; a feeling that this is where they are meant to be. I envy them. Choosing a new location with no real direction is a bit more difficult. I’ve looked into a few areas and have possibly narrowed it down, but 5 minutes on www.city-data.com can have me swirling with indecision.

Here are a few places I’ve considered:

#1 Austin, TX
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Austin. Clearly the rest of the world has too because it remains the fastest growing city in the country. This worries me a bit for a few reasons: job competition, traffic, increasing housing costs. We have visited, and I definitely liked it, and could imagine living there. I didn’t necessarily feel an unquestionable connection to it but that may be asking for too much. I wish it were closer to the ocean, but it’s certainly closer than I am now. There are some decent public schools. It remains at the top of my list.

#2 Tampa, Fl
I was set on Tampa for awhile, until I went there. I don’t know, there was just something about it that didn’t really appeal to me. I’m sure there are lovely parts of the city, but most of what I saw was… I don’t know… kind of dumpy, or just boring with strip mall after strip mall. Also, when looking at homes in the area, I found that I didn’t really like the vast majority of home styles, nor was I a fan of the covered pools. (I know, picky, picky) I love the quick access to the ocean, and the lush variety of vegetation, but I just wasn’t completely sold. I’m also not sure my husband could tolerate the summers. Yes, I know Austin is very hot, but it’s not quite as swampy as the Florida heat.

#3 San Diego, CA
Naturally southern California appeals to me with it’s perfect weather and beautiful coast. But water’s a nice thing to have, and they’re running out, and I’m not sure how I feel about earthquakes. Also, my next house needs to be a four bedroom so I have a room for guests should anyone decide to come visit me. I’m not sure what that would cost in San Diego, but I’m fairly certain I can’t afford it.

Unless some other place magically appears on my radar, I’m still leaning towards Austin. But honestly I’m not really sure where we’ll end up, I guess you could say I’m still searching for my utopia.

Finding your tribe

I’ve read a few articles lately about the importance of finding one’s tribe. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I have. In fact, I’ve always felt ever so slightly out of place, or that I’m lingering in some strange middle ground between worlds.

I grew up in a small town in Northern Minnesota. Total population was roughly 3000, not tiny, but certainly not large. There were 2 elementary schools, 1 junior high and 1 high school. The people I was around in kindergarten, were pretty much the exact same people I was around all the way through high school. The people I went to school with were the same people I played sports with, attended church with, socialized with, you get the idea. I HATED it. But I was very much in the minority. Everyone around me seemed perfectly content with their safe and cozy little world. I felt trapped, limited and claustrophobic.

I actually had the opportunity to leave just before my senior year and attend a totally new high school in a totally different state, in a large city, where I would only know 1 person. (That’s a whole other story) I jumped at the opportunity! All of my friends thought I was completely insane saying “you can’t possibly leave your senior year!” All I could think was that this was my only opportunity to experience high school in a totally different environment with totally different people, how can I not!

All of the friends I grew up with still live in that same town. I’m the only one of our group that left. While I’ve never regretted leaving and would certainly never move back, twenty some years later I still don’t feel I’ve really found my place. Needless to say, I’m still searching for my tribe.

I’m not envisioning a world where everyone around me is the same, that’s precisely why I disliked being in a small town. The lack of variety. I think it’s important to have a diverse group of people and personalities in your social circle. These differences can expand your world view, provide exposure to new things, offer insights and new perspectives that you certainly wouldn’t have if everyone was just like you.

But I am craving a bit of camaraderie among like-minded people. People I can really relate to, with shared values and goals. It seems the majority of people I know are in a completely different place in life. I love my stay-at-home mom friends, but as a working mom I can rarely get together with them due to our different schedules. When they’re ready to get away from their kids, that’s my only time to see mine. They have never had careers and have always relied on their spouses to provide, so I can’t really talk to them about career woes, or the stress and burden of being the breadwinner, because they simply can’t relate.

My childless friends are great, but they don’t really understand that something as simple as meeting for dinner after work means I won’t see my kid at all that night. And all of those cool events and concerts… well, that also takes away from family time, so I’m always torn.

I also feel like I can never quite relate to most of the people I meet. Everyone seems to fall into some extreme, while I linger, seemingly alone, in some middle ground.

Allow me to illustrate.

finding-your-tribe1

finding-your-tribe2

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Perhaps I’ve failed to fully develop my personal belief system, but I tend to fall somewhere in the middle on many subjects.

Health & Fitness:

  • I’m somewhat health-conscious, and try to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, but they’re often not organic. And I’m sorry my vegetarian and vegan friends, but I really love hamburgers, especially if covered in gonzola or blue cheese.
  • I enjoy playing sports and being active, but hate “exercise” and refuse to get up at 4:30 am for really anything.
  • I pretty much eat what I want, and will rarely turn down a free desert, but all in moderation.

Money & Materialism:

  • While I do enjoy nice things, they aren’t that much of a priority for me. I refuse to spend hundreds for stupid things like purses, shoes or designer jeans. But if I can find them used on consignment, or on sale I’m all for it!
  • I believe in living within your means, or even just below, if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it, chances are you don’t really NEED it anyway.

Parenting:

  • I limit screen time and my son saw virtually zero TV until age 2. This is my preference. However, the other day it was rainy and cold, we were all tired, so we let him watch his first movie on Netflix (he’s 3 1/2 now). No one died.
  • Naturally I want my child to have a healthy diet. I’m not going to give him soda and Cheetos for lunch, but a treat once in awhile isn’t going to kill him. In fact, studies out of Penn State University have found that when kids are restricted from eating cookies or other snack foods, their desire to eat the snacks increases, and they’re likely to overeat them every chance they get.
  • I’m don’t believe in helicopter parenting. Kids need room to learn and grow, to fall and fail. That being said I’m not going to let my 3 year old run around outside unsupervised, and I will step in to help guide when needed.
  • I don’t believe kids should just be handed everything on a silver platter. This results in entitlement. But certainly if you have the means you can help them. For example, I don’t feel it necessary, or wise, to buy a 16 year old a new car. With my oldest, we told him we would help him buy a car by matching any dollar amount he was able to save.

I am by no means claiming to be “right”, we’re all just doing our best and choosing what we feel is the right path. I’m just wishing there were a few more people on this path with me.

u·to·pi·a

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Utopia is defined as “An imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.”

Let me be clear. I do realize perfection does not exist and any search for it will be fruitless. There is no perfect job, or perfect spouse, perfect city or perfect house. Every town or city has it’s pros and cons. Warm in the winter, too hot in the summer. Mild in the summer, too cold in the winter. Beautiful endless sunny days, result in drought. Bugs, crime, earthquakes, traffic, there is never a scarcity of complaints for any particular location it seems. Every job comes with it’s own set of issues, and inevitably there will be certain aspects that you just don’t like. This is life.

However, while I understand there is no utopia, I can’t help but think maybe there is something better. Something undiscovered. I often find myself saying “It’s fine.” I do think it’s important to be grateful for all that you have, but I hesitate to just settle for “fine”. If you don’t like your job, find a new one. If you don’t like where you live, move!