This post has been a long time coming. It’s a pretty big one for me, so I considered starting it with some trite quotations about making your own happiness and following your dreams, but then I remembered that posting quotes is what you do when you’re trying to convince yourself to change your life for the better. But I’m already convinced. A change is coming.
Shawn and I are in the process of moving to the West Coast.
We’ve been saying it for years: we’re moving out to Cali. We love San Diego. We’re going back to where Shawn grew up. We have had it up to our eyeballs with shoveling snow and wearing wool socks. You know, all that glass-eyed bullshit that everyone says at one time or another. The promises they make to themselves (and to each other) that one day… yes, one day soon, they are going to make a change, dammit. And nobody really believes you when you’re the one spewing it, because hardly anyone ever follows through. I’m sure almost nobody believed us. In fact, I bet half of you reading this still think I’m talking out of my ass.
But no matter. In a few short months, we will be 3,000 miles away from the doubts and nay-sayings, anyway.
A bunch of years back, my husband Shawn found his calling. He discovered that his interest in superheroes and movies and his boundless artistic talent translate exceptionally well in clay and urethane. He started to build a portfolio of character masks, busts, monsters, superheroes, makeup applications and props. Turns out they were good. Very good. And soon enough he started attracting attention from FX companies, famous comic artists and even celebrities. Of course, they are all located in southern California.
Meanwhile, I met an incredible group of people who love to run barefoot and experience more of life than the average, ordinary American worker ant. I watched them leave jobs they hated, move out of states they didn’t love, get rid of their burdensome mortgages and the enslaving shopping-mall-bound obligations of the typical “American Dream.” Of course, most of them are located on the west coast.
(Anyone else see a pattern here?)
And then one day last October, I had dinner with two of those incredible folks, Jason and Shelly Robillard, and I told them about our American Dream. Our dream to live in a place where the sun shines all year round. Where palm trees grow in the yard and the sun sets over the ocean. A place where Shawn can find proper work in his field, and where I can find people to run barefoot with me in the middle of nowhere, under the warm February sun.
I told them how I have visited the city of San Diego three times; and how each time I stepped off the plane my first thought was always “this is home.” All my life before this, I have never belonged to any place. I’ve never heard a town call my name. But San Diego? She is my siren song. I love her already, and I think she will love me too.
When I was done talking, Jason and Shelly just looked at me.
“Well,” Shelly finally said. “Tell me this: what are the obstacles holding you back? And more importantly, how are you going to remove them?” Okay, that’s not exactly what she said, but that was the handle of it. In other words, she and Jason forced me to look at our life through a cleaner pane of glass. What was holding us back?
- Shawn’s job, which he hated but liked the pay and benefits
- My job, which I liked and didn’t exactly want to leave
- Our home, which we own and have a mortgage for
- The fabricated notion that we need to work typical nine-to-five jobs and make a certain amount of money to be happy
“Okay,” they went on, “then what are you going to do to eliminate those obstacles, to have what you need to be happy? And if you fail to get what you need, what is the worst possible outcome that could result? Then, take a moment to really think about that outcome. In all honesty, would it really be that bad? Wouldn’t there be a feasible way to resolve it?”
Turns out, the answer is no, it wouldn’t be that bad. Moreover, just about any situation can be righted, almost every risk can be minimized. And in fact, the biggest risk of all to our happiness is never taking any risks.
In addition to being a couple of exceptionally caring friends, those Robillards…well, they’re just plain brilliant.
Just the act of removing some of our self-imposed obstacles has turned out to be more of a source of happiness than we ever imagined. In February, Shawn found himself no longer employed at his job. So he started sculpting full time. And he has never been happier. His only regret? Not having done it sooner.
I have a feeling that we will echo the same thoughts once we move to California: why did we not do this sooner? What were we so afraid of?
Well, it’s time to stop being afraid. Time to stop carrying around the remains of whatever confining rules of adulthood that our parents and teachers have pounded into our heads our entire lives. It’s time to make some new rules.
In fact, I’ll start with a few now. And no, these aren’t a bunch of trite quotations. They are my own. And I encourage you to create a few for yourself.