Holy crap. I’m moving. Sorry, WE’RE moving. After 16 years in the same place in Oakland, a frustrating house search in this area, and a house that seemed to come to us, we are moving down to coastal Orange County.
I feel like I should be more excited. I’ve always wanted to live near the ocean, and I’ve always wanted to be able to buy a house. I actually remember being in a Kaiser therapy group years ago for depression (it wasn’t very helpful), and feeling so upset because I felt so sure that I would never be able to afford a home in a place that I wanted to live in. Both of those wants had seemed out of reach until I left public service in June and went to work for a large tech company (another post that I’ve been meaning to write) that luckily didn’t have many layoffs during the recent economic downturn. Since my position is 100% remote, we spent the summer break and the first 7 weeks of my new employment at my in-law’s house in Orange County. It felt so good to be there. My older daughter blossomed in the junior lifeguards program. She got over her fear of waves and is mostly over her fear of seaweed, but also discovered a love for surfing and we were able to bond over that. It really repaired our relationship, it’s an amazing contrast to how we were before that stay. I loved being able to surf in the mornings or after work and also going to the beach with her. I felt better both physically and mentally from that regular contact with the water. It was also nice to get away from the difficulties of living in Oakland, the questionable safety after dark, the sirens, muggings, robberies. I’ve also grown tired of having to drive the girls everywhere. To school, to BART, to swimming in Albany and so on. The idea of having them take a local bus or bicycle to school and extracurricular activities sounds like a godsend. At the same time the Modest Mouse song “Head South” is playing like a soundtrack in my head
Despite obtaining these twin life goals, it seems that I have to work hard to remind myself about the benefits of the move and the potential it holds. What’s most present for me is what I am giving up, or at least moving further away from. My family (parents and sister) is the obvious one. We’ve grown used to being able to see each other on a whim; I often go over in the evenings to roast coffee at my dad and sister’s place or to just hang out, or we can invite them over for a last-minute BBQ or dinner. I can also usually send a message to the family and get have one of them watch the kids, or even have them spend the night when needed. More recently, my mom’s partner recently died from COVID while they were vacationing in South America, so it’s been a hard transition for her, and having both me and my sister around has been very helpful for her, I appreciated having her near by, we are all getting older. Things have been more difficult since my parents separated and they sold the house since we don’t have an easy place we can all spend the night at anymore, but my family’s houses are still a place of refuge in some sense. My mom and sister both cried when I told them that we had made an offer on a house down south.
Many of my friends have moved out of the area, so that’s not as hard emotionally, although I will miss the opportunities to see them and at times I realize that I won’t get to see them very often at all. I’ll also miss the specific winter cold of the bay area, Berkeley Bowl for produce,the scenery; especially the winter sunset light on the hills, the opportunities to hear live music and eat great food, and of course being able to meet up with former colleagues and professors.
Our home here, although uncomfortable in many ways since the girls stopped sharing a bedroom, is also going to be something I’ll miss. The space itself and the other people that live in the building have really played an important role in our lives. We’ve created so many memories over the past 16 years. The girls have lived here their entire lives and I’ve lived here longer than I did in the home I grew up in (that was 13 years).
My younger daughter became very excited about moving, after flat out refusing, because she was having some problems at school. Yesterday, the Wednesday of her last week, they had a small going away party for her at school. At bed time she became emotional and started crying a bit, realizing that she won’t be seeing many of these people again. Despite the problems at school, I think she is realizing that she had an amazing support team of teachers, office staff, counselors and other people looking out for her. She’s good at making friends, but I told her it was very normal, and actually a sign of how caring she is that she was sad about moving away from her friends. I also reminded her that you don’t have to give up your existing friends to make new ones. It’s times at these, and we’ve had many, that I wonder if we are making a bad decision.
The other factor leading me focus on the negatives is the move itself. So much to pack and so much to get rid of. Going through my boxes of books and lecture notes was an odd experience. I’ve held onto those for so long, hoping that someday I could go back and re-learn the material. But I’ve come to some sort of understanding or acknowledgment that it probably won’t happen. I loved learning much of that material, but I can’t necessarily justify the time nor impose the self-discipline necessary to sit down each evening or night and go through it all again. I have too many other things I should be focusing on for both my personal enjoyment as well as for my current job. Earlier this evening, I was standing by the trash bins outside, opening huge 3-ring binders and watching my past, what was once a large part of my identify, fall into the recycling bin. A clear reminder that the 20-something year old student, who while never the sharpest in my cohort still had much of the math and physics understanding to be able to follow the fluids and solids courses I was taking, is really gone. I’m almost 50!
So here we are, our entry way taken up by boxes waiting to be fed our stuff. Trying to figure out the logistics and timing of movers and moving. The pantry getting less crowded and the lump in my throat getting a little bit bigger each day. Saying goodbye to the people, places and things we have been around for the past 16 years. I really hope we aren’t making a colossal mistake in uprooting our family. This house and life in Oakland in general has treated us well. I can only hope that our new home will bring us new found things to appreciate and grow to love. That we can create new wonderful memories, that I am intentional in seeing my family, and that the regular surfing in the ocean water will help wash away some of my anxieties and fears.