…but sometimes, you actually do.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written anything personal in this blog, and there’s two major reasons for that. The first is that I’ve been overwhelmingly busy with the stressful process of selling our house, organizing our move to California, a huge busy season at work that involved travel, and squeezing in as much meaningful socializing as possible with folks we love here, prior to rolling out of New England for good at the end of August. The second reason is that with all this cool stuff that is going on, I haven’t been able to decide what topic to write about that would reflect the climate of my thoughts, without coming off sounding braggy or trite to my readers.
As much as I would like to believe that people always understand where I’m coming from and are genuinely happy for me when good things happen, that’s just not always the case. There will always be some folks who think you’re being a douche bag if you seem to be glowing in the positivity of the life you’ve made for yourself, even when all you’re trying to do is show your excitement and appreciation for it.
As a response, I try to remember that I do deserve all of this. I deserve it karmically because the universe seems to be finally balancing out all the shitty things that happened in my early life with some good stuff, and I deserve it literally because my husband and I have actively sought out and worked hard, on our own, toward all of these positive changes. In other words, anyone can be happy like us if they just try harder.
So if you’re reading this you’re probably thinking one of two things:
1. fuck this bitch
2. I should leave this girl a comment to tell her she deserves everything coming her way and that she shouldn’t let negative people bother her.
If you’re a number 2, you’re right. But the fact is, I probably spend too much of my life trying to satiate those number 1’s because I very much dislike being misunderstood. For example, I have wasted many hours of my life adding my outlier opinions to message boards and Facebook comment threads, even while everyone else reading disagrees with me, because I constantly seek that feeling of mutual understanding in a conversation. Too often, as a result my original intentions are miscontrued anyway, as well as my political stance on the issue itself, and people just think I’m being defensive and argumentative. It’s very disappointing.
But I digress. This post was supposed to be about working toward what I want in life, being brave enough to take risks for it, and knowing how to be appreciative of the good stuff that comes from it. So on with it we go.
Shawn and I have been talking about a move to San Diego for several long years. Shawn grew up there, so for him the idea held a sense of closure, cyclical rightness. But there were a few things that held us back, and the overall theme of them was that there was really nothing telling us definitively that our lives would improve if we moved there. I mean, we both had decently-paying jobs in Boston, friends and family here, and there was just no outlying reason to move. No neon signs in the sky, if you will.
Why fix what’s not broken? Right?
And then the reasons started coming. Slow and hidden at first, but soon enough it was like a shower of neon signs coming out of the sky. It all started the day that Shawn finally quit his crappy day job back in February, to do sculpting full-time. We had been terrified of the change for years, but then we made the choice and all of a sudden I wasn’t scared anymore. Then, the day after he did it, all I could think was, “so when are we moving to California?”
Finally, it seemed to make some sense for us to move because then Shawn would have better access to prospective clients in the film industry, something he could do to supplement his freelancing income. But we still questioned whether the whole plan could come together enough to make sense. I mean, a move across the country is kind of a big deal. And although moving to a place isn’t exactly unretractable, we are both pretty sure that once we leave New England, we don’t want to move back.
So we sat down and created a list of needs for the move to make sense, as well as absolute idealities for the move to become our ultimate dream life. The list wasn’t long. We knew we needed to have a viable way to get rid of our house, preferably without foreclosure. We both needed to have work, and for Shawn the ideal was to keep his freelance job and also begin to network in the film industry. For me it was a little more complicated. I would need to get a new job – and ideally, I didn’t want to have to take some crappy job I hate just to make money. My ultimate (and mostly secret, until now) career goal is to work as a freelance designer and perhaps a writer as well. But either way I needed some kind of job that doesn’t suck. And lastly, we needed to rent an affordable single-family home in a nice neighborhood, with a garage that Shawn could convert into a studio.
So here’s how it all went down for us.
First thing we did was put our house on the market. We knew we would have to go through a short sale, because we bought this house at a very high price that it will likely never see again. We wanted to sell it rather than just walk away, but we also knew we were not going to keep paying the mortgage after we left. So we decided that if the chips fell such that the house never sells before we foreclose, then we would just accept it as a lesson learned.
Well, the house received bids two days after we put it on the market, and the best of those bids went out to the bank before the weekend. We still don’t have a final answer from the bank, but we are hopeful. At any rate, the fact that our house found interested buyers so fast was a great sign that we made the right move.
And that we are excellent interior decorators. :)
Next thing was Shawn’s career. Just as we were silently spreading the news of our big move, one of Shawn’s good friends out in Los Angeles decides to open an FX studio, starts placing bids on small films, and asks Shawn to be his principal sculptor once we arrive.
Then, mine. Once the bank received our bid I walked into my boss’s office to tell him the news. I had already interviewed remotely for a couple of jobs in San Diego but I didn’t get them. I was prepared to ask the boss to let me work remotely for one to three months so I could still earn some income while I looked for a new job out there. And I was so afraid he would throw me out of the office that I almost made myself a cardboard box beforehand, to carry my things out to the car. Instead, my boss surprised me by telling me he doesn’t want to lose me and would love to take me on long-term as a design contractor to the company. So not only do I not have to look for a crappy job after all, but I even get to become a freelancer and work from home.
This was starting to look better every day.
The most stressful part of this whole process has been finding a house. For a solid month I searched, applied, talked to landlords, emailed and faxed, collected bank statements and pay stubs, photocopied drivers licenses and paid innumerable credit check fees. We encountered so many roadblocks – some landlords didn’t like my credit score, some didn’t like my dog. Two owners decided last minute that they weren’t going to rent their home after all. But the biggest roadblock was that I wasn’t physically there, and we had such a huge disadvantage to the locals, we just kept getting overlooked.
Finally, right before I left for my business trip to Atlanta, I told myself that when I get back, I’m booking a flight out to San Diego and I’m not coming back until I find a place for us to live. Then something strange happened.
A little back story: we had four potential homes on our list at the time. Our #1 (favorite) home had just turned us away after a week of stalling, because the tenants decided not to move out. Our #2 and #3 places rented to locals. Then our number 4 place accepted us and asked for a deposit. I loved the landlord, she was a sweet, kind lady with a huge heart, and her home was a nice low price. And even though we accepted it, the house was so small that I questioned whether there would be enough room for Shawn’s enormous amount of stuff. And it had only one bathroom, a very small garage, a rather unkempt yard that we would be entirely responsible for, and it was in a town that I’d heard a lot of not-so-great things about.
So while I was away I laid awake in bed every night, worrying over whether we had settled on a house we weren’t going to love. But after looking for such a long time I was exhausted and just wanted somebody to accept us as tenants. And it was one of those things where, even though everything else seemed to be going our way, just the fact that I wasn’t totally happy with our choice of home made me question the viability of the whole move.
Then on the third day of my business trip I woke to an email from the owner of our #1 home: it would be available a month later than before, but the tenants were definitely going to be moving now, and we could have the house if we still wanted it.
A choir of angles started singing over my Marriott Buckhead hotel bed.
And what’s the best part of getting the house we wanted the most? It was also affordable for us! Go figure that. Actually, I really am confused by this, because from the second we uttered the words “We are moving to California” all I have heard from people around me is that cost of living is sooooooo much higher there. I guess I should be learning that it’s time to stop listening to people’s advice about housing, anyway – four years ago everybody told us it would be a great time to buy! What a laugh.
Anyway, here’s why I’m scratching my head about all of this housing affordability stuff: we will be going from a 1,200 square foot, 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath duplex in southern New Hampshire (50 minutes from a major city), with a cramped galley kitchen, a shitty unkempt yard, expensive oil heating and a sump pump that barely keeps water out of the basement … to a 1,700 square foot, 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom single-family home in a gated community in beautiful southern California (30 minutes from a major city), with a loft, fireplace, two-car garage, large kitchen, gas heat, no basement, shared swimming pool, palm trees and a bi-weekly gardener included.
All for roughly the same price.
Actually it will turn out to be a little less because we won’t have to make a monstrous down-payment or cough up for master insurance, property taxes, wintertime heating or maintenance and repair. Sure, gas is more expensive out there, but if you’re working from home…well, you get the picture. And…we can leave anytime we want.
(Oh, and let’s not forget the trails located right across the street from the new house, ones that are unpaved and hilly and so very undeniably West Coast.)
Yanno, when I get real quiet with myself, I really do wonder why the hell we ever decided to become homeowners in the first place.
So then once all the big stuff was taken care of and I could breath again, there were all the little details left to consider. How are we going to get our cat across the country, since he can barely make it down the street in a car? Suddenly my friend Breha offers to take him into her home for a few weeks and pop him on a plane for us. How are we going to drive two cars and not die of boredom? Poof! – my cousin Alysa offers to accompany us on the drive. Now, I’m not the Religious/superstitious type, but if I was, I’d be telling you that somebody “up there” was making attempts to answer every conundrum we run into with a quick and definitive solution, to keep us moving smoothly toward our goal of dipping our feet into the Pacific Ocean with a Carne Asada burrito in each hand.
The signs are everywhere. I know that we will be happier once we move out to California next month. I mean, sure there will be setbacks, challenges and bad days. We will miss some things about the East Coast, and we will feel some holes where people we love used to be. But there is no question in either of our hearts that San Diego is our home. We expect there will be an improvement in just about every facet of our life once we are there, and I know a lot of it will be due to the fact that we made a choice just for us. Not for anyone else, and not because of anyone else’s shitty opinions.
It’s amazing what happens when you stop listening to everybody else’s advice about your life, and instead start living it like an everyday experiment. Even if you make more mistakes, the results are so much more explosive and rewarding when you discover them on your own.
…if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.