It’s been approximately three years and six weeks since the last time I blew my life up. I was recovering from the initial shock of leaving my marriage and for the first time in over a decade, living with a roommate, with most of my things strewn between my new space (a tiny bedroom where the cat box was a mere four feet away from my bed), at work, and a storage unit, all in different parts of the county, when I applied for a new job and got it. Then COVID and some other things happened, not least the fact that I am writing this from a lovely, cozy place of my very own, as the cat stares at me with a mixture of awe, love, murder, and judgement. In summary, I have a great home in an idyllic town with endless views and outdoor recreation, an interesting job that allows me to live here, some friends, some bikes and skis, and my health, so I would say that I’m comfortable. Too comfortable, if you will.
The idea that I could love living somewhere other than here has floated in and out of my mind over the last few years, and has been mostly rhetorical. I mean, people live elsewhere all the time. While initially contemplating divorce, or even before that, while existing in denial of how dissatisfied I was with my life in general, I thought elsewhere simply meant a different mountain town in Colorado, but quieter and less played out than the one where I currently live, and it would maybe include the husband, if I could convince him. The following separation process reignited the love for my current community with all the unexpected support that I had received, and then it became kind of my mission to reclaim this place as my own, not just somewhere I had moved to because of him. And reclaim I did, from keeping my head high and smiling as I saw him at the bike races we used to do together, to buying my own place, just a half a mile away from where we used to live, where he still lives (it’s weird, but I hardly run into him, so it’s fine). My friend circle has expanded to people I would have never known if we had stayed together, and I truly began to feel embedded here.
Then people started leaving. Suddenly I was going to work-sponsored goodbye happy hours every week for yet another someone who was about to “start their new adventure/journey”. I started thinking that I kind of want a new adventure too. And it hasn’t really stopped. The Great Resignation, or as I like to call it, the Great Reassessment, encroached upon my inner circle, to include the guy I was dating last winter who moved out of state, and I knew he was leaving but chose to date him anyway and got temporarily attached. I helped him move, and as we were driving east, I was vicariously missing the mountains for him, even though I would be back in a few days. When we arrived to his new house, I recall the slight pang of longing, if not a bit of jealousy I felt because he gets to start a new life. Even if it was in Iowa.
It was when I returned to Colorado that I really started thinking about where else I could exist. The winters are long here, after all. I began researching places like Bentonville, a Midwest mountain bike and Walmart mecca, which happened to be the new home of a good friend who had left Colorado the year prior. I applied for work in the area as well as remote work, but nothing took hold. I visited, and it was cool, but it didn’t quite feel like the place for me. When I returned, another friend moved away. But by then, winter loosened its grip, and I had bike races and trips planned, and the summer is fabulous, so I dropped the issue for a while. By early September three more friends had left. Over the course of the past year, I started noticing how my drive for training and racing was waning until mostly disappeared, how time was passing at an increasingly alarming rate, how quickly things change, and how afraid I am to miss out on something crucial (not sure what that is though). I also realized that I want to see my family in Philly more often, something that’s pretty hard to do from here.
I began to realize that I love where I live, and I could love living somewhere else for different reasons. I have so many more life skills, hobbies, and coping strategies and tools than I did when I first left home that would empower me to create a life that I love just about anywhere. I also have the freedom to try being somewhere different without having to convince anyone else to come with me. I don’t have to choose between a life with someone here and a life where going to see my family is just as casual as driving down to Boulder on a warm winter day for a bike ride.
As I’ve been researching potential places to live in south/central PA, I find myself getting more excited about gravel roads with old stone barns and lush green trails to ride, about seeing friends that I’ve known since before puberty on both sides of the state, about helping my mom around the house here and there, and adopting a new favorite coffee shop somewhere, and hopefully meeting new people, hopefully at some stupid bike race or something.
I still have my doubts. A cross-country move is a huge undertaking, and the logistics alone are enough to scare me. Like how does one move an indoor cat, who is not accustomed to travel, across the whole damn country without stressing him to death? How do I get my car there if I will already be driving a rental van? Would my car even make it there? Holy crap, do I need to buy a new car? How do I manage my condo, that I don’t plan on selling just yet, from Back East? Also, I would need a new job or something to make all of this happen.
We often make decisions based on how we think we will feel in the future. Big decisions feel threatening because we are afraid we won’t be able to handle how we will feel if we’re wrong, or if we change our minds after the fact.
I would miss the big mountains and the natural beauty in Colorado and all the cool things I get to do when it snows, even though I’m scared of driving in the snow. I would miss the friends that I have here, as well as the many people I know who are aren’t quite friends, but I would miss them anyway. I would miss the frequent, hyper-radiant sunshine and bluebird skies, and the comfort and familiarity of my routine and my home, and knowing where everything is and how to exist here. I would miss big climbs on my big bike rides, and the small-town feel, and the dry western climate.
What if I won’t be able to handle all this missing? What if all these things I think will be cool about moving will be completely overridden by the dreary Pennsylvania winters, and by being on the constant lookout for ticks and snakes in the summer? What if this just another example of the happiness horizon, which I will reach only to realize that I am 100% back on my bullshit? What if my hermit habits prevent me from meeting new people and making the effort to go see my family? Then would I be doing all this moving and missing for no reason?
The good news is that there have been numerous times I have left people, passions, places, and situations I thought I could never live without, that now I simply remember fondly, or might dip my toe into again, or am glad they are gone, or hardly think about at all, as I’ve embraced or become enamored with whatever replaced them. While I have not made any decisions, or come across any job offers just yet, I feel more grounded in who I am than I ever have before, and I know that I will make the best out whatever direction I choose to go.