She turned to me, and, with a sigh, she said, “God….why can’t it always be like this?”
I paused for a second….
I said, “Well, why can’t it…It absolutely can be like this.”
And we both knew. It was time.
That year was the hardest of our lives. From beginning to end. Misery.
It started with our son getting sick, for reasons that are unclear. 2 year olds aren’t supposed to have a cough, fever, malaise every other week for almost an entire year. Doctors did blood work, allergy panel, etc. Couldn’t figure it out.
With each illness, I had to step up solo. Why? She was completely slammed at work. Back to back red alert level events. In fact, she was living out of a hotel 40 miles up the road just to get back to the office sooner. Which lead to about 5 months where I was by myself. A proxy single parent. With a supremely sick child.
Trying to find babysitters, any kind of help. With limited success.
Meanwhile, she was on the struggle. We had moved to the west coast for better opportunities. Our own version of Horace Greeley. Things were happening out west. Everything east was stagnant. A culture eating itself with the single goal of sameness. The never ending bland.
Out west was adventure. It was the future. Innovation, etc.
But over time, being out west had taken its toll. You worked 10x harder for everything to cost 3x as much, with 1.5x the pay. And that is what she was dealing with. Not only that, but all of the prejudices we had left behind were still out here too. Just more subtle. Less talked about.
She was becoming a victim of politics. She stood up for what was right at work, and for that, she was passed up time and time again. She was spending 5 months away from her son. Working non stop on solving this issue. And no one could deny the quality of the work.
When it was all over. When the project was said and done. And we were a family again…..she was told that her time at the company was going to be limited. She needed to find another job.
I cannot even put to words the emotion of that year. I mean yes, the traditional 5 stages of grief, but also….oblivion. And faliure. She had always said going out west was a goal, and now it felt like it was crumbling before our eyes.
It seemed impossible to think. The amount of sacrifice we as a family piled in to that job….for a 6 month ramp to find a new job.
And we had a millstone around our neck. The new house. We had purchased land out west, and it cost more than all of our family members mortgages combined. Literally we were on a paycheck to paycheck to pay that mortgage. We couldn’t afford the house if we didn’t have that same level of income. I put in math work, tried to squeeze out every penny, no avail. We needed the check.
After the appropriate mourning period, we went on the hunt. But….nothing seemed quite right. Either pay or the work. Nothing seemed to fit the missing piece.
Then, it all changed after the trip.
Her parents invited us to spend a week out east. Our son’s health held up for us to fly out there….then, it was like some kind of magic.
Our son was as healthy as he had been the whole year. We had learned how much things had developed and improved. It was becoming cool to live out east. Buisnesses were moving in. Diversity had finally made it out there. Gone were the days of the bland vast same. Chain restaurant culture had died and small hip places had popped up. The old guard had moved out or died out, and the next generation moving in looked more like what we had experienced in out west. A melting pot.
I’m not going to claim it was perfect, but it was on the upward swing.
One night of our trip, her mother watched our son, and we had an actual date night, which was our first that year.
Then the conversation hit……
….. After saying “It was time.” Reality and relief hit us like a ton of bricks.
Of course…..It didn’t have to be a failure either. It was us owning our future. Rip it up and start again.
When we got back. Everything happened fast.
You would be surprised how easy it was to leave the west. I think its the transient nature of the place.
We went from making initial phone calls around Thanksgiving about relocating to loading our stuff in a truck to putting the house on the market to having the first open house to signing the closing paperwork in her mother’s dining room on New Years Eve.
Severing all connections to the west in less than two months.
Not to say that wasn’t its own struggle. It was a hell of time.
We lived in one of those hotels that isn’t quite an apartment but close for about two weeks. Cooking dinners on a small ass stove with the like 1 knife and 1 spoon you are given. But then we flew out east, and felt at ease.
To save some money, I drove my wife’s car east (I sold mine). As we had already packed up the house, put it on the market, and skipped town so fast that I was basically assigned to return. I got in late one night, got a hotel on points (made the whole trip on points. hotel, gas, everything), and was going to start down the road the next morning.
Parked her car in front of my neighbor’s house, and had left it there for like two weeks. I got up super early, packed up, and was about to depart as the first glimpses of light came up.
Our neighbors actually came out to met me. And….they were crying….
We talked. It wasn’t about us. It was about the times. They knew what we were doing was the right thing to do. But they were worried about the west. If young people couldn’t make a go of it out west. If it just cost everything to try to survive, what was going to happen.
They weren’t sticking around to find out either. They had moved west in the 70s, and had enough. We had inspired them to sell and move out as well.
I wished them the best. They told me to stay safe on the road. And I hit the road as the sun came up.
My dad met up with me at an airport on the journey, and we finished the drive from the west to the east.
Hitting the road gave a finality to it. It was ending. A new journey on the horizon.
What that would be, who knows. But we would be in a place where we didn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. A place that allowed us to strike out against life’s next battalion of stupidity from a place of strength.
We were out east, and it’s where we needed to be.
The question I get alot is, do I regret my time out west. Absolutely not. I wouldn’t be who I am and have the kind of experiences I have if I didn’t.
But, that is a chapter of my life that is firmly, closed.