Change My Life, Will You?

Okay, I don’t actually want you to change my life.  That’s my own problem.  But I do want to know how other people have changed their own lives. 

When I was a child, my parents made huge life changes all the time.  My dad was in the Air Force, and we picked up and moved every three years until he retired to the Pacific Northwest.  They bought and sold houses, and changed jobs, and went back to school, and just expected us to follow along, which we did not always want to do.  (We’re going to move from Europe to a suburb of Tacoma?  Are you kidding me?)  They are still change junkies — every time I turn around they’re doing something like buying land in Tennesse and then changing their minds and moving back to Washington State.  They don’t seem to find this difficult, which is what I think is interesting. 

I have never thought of myself as change-averse.  But when I look back on where I am I see that, in the last ten years, the biggest change I’ve made in my life was to move from the bedroom on the second floor of our house to the one on the third floor.  And that was eight years ago, when William was born.  We’ve lived in the same house since 1996, when our oldest sons were a year old.  They’ve gone to a couple of different schools in Berkeley, so they’ve had a little change.  My husband and I have had the same jobs for the last couple of decades. 

Okay, it’s true that I had that little bout with breast cancer, which was sort of a change.  But it’s not like I’m dying or even sick.  And also, that was a change that came to me, not one I went out and courted to make my life better, so it doesn’t really count. 

Why change anything you might be wondering?  Well, the truth is that I think I’m missing something about how our life is going — we pay a lot of money to live here, don’t manage to save enough for emergencies and college, we’re terribly busy keeping our jobs, our house, our own and our kids’ lives going.  And of course there’s the thing about how if I’m lucky, I write my novel and stories on the train, in 25 minute increments, and I don’t always get to do that because sometimes I have to drive to work, or somebody’s sitting in the seat I want to sit in.   I feel like an acrobat, standing on a little beach ball, trying to keep six plates spinning on the pole I’m holding somewhat shakily. 

I love Berkeley, I really do.  But I don’t really love the pace and shape of our life. 

Charlie told William yesterday when he was saying how much he’s looking forward to going to Jack’s school next year that “the grass always looks greener a long way off.”  Okay, so the conversation then veered into how we need to cut the grass in our back yard, but can’t, because Archie’s dog poops are hidden in the grass like scary easter eggs… 

Still, I’m wondering.  Who’s made big changes?  Slowed their lives down?  Brought their children along with them?  Given up things they love for things they hope will be greener?  How did you do it?  How did it go? Did it bum you out that you couldn’t buy new shoes when you felt like it?

If I don’t get some answers, I’m going to have to tag you.  Be warned. 

And now for something new in my life — I’m going to get back to work.  (sigh.)   

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34 thoughts on “Change My Life, Will You?

  1. Hi, Lily,

    I moved five times before 5th grade, switched schools, houses, languages. In contrast, my kids were both born in Berkeley and have lived in the same house since day 1. They lament when I want to swap out the dishwasher.

    I have a good friend who took six months off of work, packed up the family and lived in Oaxaca for 6 months. They enrolled their kids in Mexican schools, ate all their meals together, wrote and took long walks. This type of sabbatical from the bay area is quite appealing, but the idea of moving to Oaxaca for good…? Hmmm…

  2. Dear BL, I cannot keep track of all the places I have moved to when I was a child and then a student, but now that I am settled for good in a house I have been building with my own two hands (and my wife’s), now is the time for the big mind change and the big life change. My blog bears testimony to that change.

    It all starts with the question: what’s really important. And then it’s amazing how easy it is to pull the yarn from the old one-size-fits-all life and use it to knit a new one tailored for what’s really important.

  3. Mandarine, Yes I have been following your journey! It’s most inspiring. And yes, what a good idea. Figure out what’s really important. To do that, you probably have to have a little time and space — and that’s where many people have trouble. Because they don’t. I need to stack those plates for a while and hop off the ball.

    Bora, Nothing changes around here either. Things just sort of pile on top of each other…. Mexico forever? I don’t know.

  4. The person in our family with the itchy feed is Dad. I don’t know if it is a leftover from all the moving we did as children.

    Doug and I have been here in Missouri for almost 12 years, and 10 of those years in Kansas City.

    We just moved last summer into an apartment. Big change from the overly large house I just had to have.

    Now Becky, Chris and their three kids live in the “big house.” We’ve talked about moving, but Doug’s job is here, and frankly the medical benefits rock.

    Have you and W talked about what happens when the boys are finished growing?

  5. It’s probably not fair to bring in my 2 cents. Seeing as I am single without children, I can basically do what I want and move as many times as I want (not that I want that!).

    I can only say that figuring out what you really want is a most important step in this process, and you can start finding that out right now. And when you do know that, and step onto that new path (whether it includes a move or a new job or something else) it will bring you so much inspiration that you will never look back.

  6. We moved a few times when I was growing up, and each time was a chance for escape and redefinition. Maybe that’s why I sometimes feel like a change addict. Yet, though the geographical solution is seductive, it’s not to be entered into lightly. We moved to Chicago from the east coast two and a half years ago. We sunk all of our money into a house that’s dropped considerably in value since. I’m more unhappy in my new job than in my old one, and my wife’s job was recently eliminated.

    It’s worth remembering that the grass looks greener around those surprises your dog leaves.

    At a faculty meeting the other day, I made a five year plan to leave teaching, and I think that’s my new sublimation and strategy. Whenever I feel like I want to escape, I’ll turn to another item on my plan. This time around, I want to think about as much as I can in advance.

  7. 18 years ago I left school to move out of state & be a poet. Did I need to move to Ohio to do that? Well, no, but I did need independence, to move out of reach of my very large & cacophonous family, and take care of just myself for a while. It was a good decision. I moved back to MA (though 2hrs away from family) 3 yrs later.

    10 years ago I left a well-paying job to work at an independent bookshop, which involved taking a huge paycut. We don’t have cable, and I bought my new shoes for $3 at the Salvation Army just this weekend–but when my son was born he came to work with me full-time for 8 months, and they help pay for daycare. And I get lots of free reading. A great decision!

  8. In 1994 I resigned my academic post and, the following summer, I left that life for good (well, actually something about academic life continues to cling to you). It was the year I was supposed to be getting my things together for tenure review the following year, and I got cold feet. Not because I was worried I wouldn’t get it. I knew that I would.

    I was such a young cracker jack academic and boy did I deserve that success, putting myself all the way through MA and PhD with two small boys in tow. But I really hated that if I wanted to be considered a “serious scholar,” (and I most certainly did), I wasn’t supposed to have hobbies besides work. I found myself marginalizing every extraneous thing in my life–gardening, singing, cooking, knitting, volunteering–and working even in my so called ‘down time’ to prove that I meant serious business. Having come from a long line of strong women who generally had their sh– together, something wasn’t sitting right. I felt scared to commit to living the rest of my working life under that sort of pressure and scrutiny, from others and myself.

    But…I am convinced I would have never had the courage to make the leap myself. After all, my boys were insured college for free–at one of 400 very fine reciprocal universities. And what would I do if I wasn’t a professor, anyway? I’d always wanted that for myself.

    In short, in late summer of 1994, I went to my 20 year class reunion and– one wonderful dance after another– I fell in love with my Bill. I went back to work, typed up my resignation, moved back to my hometown at the end of the next school year and I’ve never looked back. Bill and I got married in 1999. And both my boys made it through college just fine without the free ride.

    I learned a lot from that experience…about leaping even when you’re scared, about choosing joy over stress, about the risks associated with true reward, about where my real strengths are: in flexibility, in resiliency, and in a gut check that keeps my face turned toward the sun.

    How fun to have the opportunity to put it all into words. Thanks!

  9. From the outside it would seem that my changes are glacial. I have to chew on things a while before I digest them. Once I plot my course, though, I rarely look back.

    Luckily, The Wife has figured out my methodology and no longer mistakes my mastication for inaction. When you figure out how to make the “Big Changes,” let me know…

  10. Seems like you have two topics to work on. One is learning to welcome in change into your life. My grandmother used to say, you don’t have to court change, you just have to make room for it. Seems as if your parents not only courted it, but they went out for a few one-night-stands as well. So, it is not difficult why you like change that has deep and ever-lasting meaning (e.g., bedroom change (hee)).

    I’ve made some major decisions (e.g. to change professions, to keep my child and raise him as a single mom after an unplanned pregnancy) and each decision brought pure joy and inevitable struggle. You have to trust yourself to deal gracefully with both. In my humble experience. not changing is the same as changing, just minus the pure joy.

    The busy-ness disease of our generation is based, I think, on what Deborah says about marginalizing our personal and family pursuits. Time spent doodling, dreaming, starring into space is considered “time wasted”. Seems a funny notion, considering that none of us know what time is, but we are so judgmental about being wasteful with it. I started to change our busy lifestyle, but scheduling a weekend each month of no dates. If someone had a birthday on that weekend, may answer was, “Sorry, we are busy that weekend. Can we get together sometime later?”. Then we would take that weekend and just do whatever we fancied. It was a start, but we changed more and more along the way.

  11. I really liked Deborah’s comment, being or at least having been, in a similar situation. I guess I had huge change thrust upon me with chronic fatigue. That’s meant taking a couple of years out and realising that I HAVE to change somehow, even though it terrifies me as what needs to change is inside me, primarily. I know I need to make some significant changes to the way I work but I find it all frankly overwhelming a lot of the time. Most of me would like to give up academics, but I feel obliged to do something else, and what that something else would be is not clear. Also, college is very kind to me. But, all this waffle is to say I sympathise, dear BL, because it’s very difficult to know how to intervene successfully in one’s life. All I know is I want life to be spacious from now on, and can only hope that thought will turn out to be useful.

    Oh to try to be more useful myself, Milton Erickson suggested that all changes begins at 2 percent. He said if you looked at your life and found the one thing you could change by 2 percent, then it would help you over the mental barrier of change itself, and it was surprising what might follow on from that.

  12. I changed schools a lot as a child, because my parents first kept moving, and then divorced. I moved houses every year at uni, then cities and jobs roughly every 3 years after that. My biggest move was in 2004, when I moved to the US to be with the man who is now my husband. And now I’m about to enjoy another change of job.
    The thing is, I actively enjoy change and I have always sought it. I think it’s a good thing for me. I think there is often a perspective that change creates instability, and I don’t believe that’s the case. I think it’s quite possible to implement changes in such a way that key elements of stability are in place, so that it’s not such an overwhelming thing to deal with. For me, an element of self-created financial stability is very important, so no matter when or where I have moved, I’ve always had a job to go to. So, if you identify the areas of your life where changes seem just too risky to you, you may be able to focus on other areas where the risks seem not so great. Then you just balance them out.

  13. I think this might be my very favorite blog post — not because of me, but because of you, dear readers — your comments are amazing. In fact, they deserve a post all by themselves.

    But I’ll say here that your stories about how you moved yourselves forward, sometimes incrementally, sometimes in a lunge that surprised everyone, yourself included, sometimes for the worse, and sometimes for the better, have made me realize that one of the greatest agents for change is knowing that we all feel this urge at times in our lives to DO something, to do something different or better — and seeing how other people grapple with this gives each of us courage to do something we wouldn’t otherwise have tried. There’s so much here to give heart to the desire to make life more expansive and generous — more spacious, as litlove says. I am awed by how many of you have simply plunged in and gone for it — fallen in love and started again and moved to a new country and changed jobs and bought houses and left families behind and then gone back to them, all with an eye toward happiness which is, ultimately, the greatest motivator. Because if what we want is to be happy, then that’s worth doing quite a bit of work, isn’t it?

    Now don’t stop commenting, you who are reading. Your stories of change are needed. They are essential. Have at it!

  14. Dear BL,

    On my 34th birthday my wife and I had no children. This summer I will turn 40 and we have four children–two daughters, aged 6 and 4 who were adopted in China, an almost 3 year old boy (turns out we weren’t as infertile as we thought we were), and now a 16 year old foster daughter who is a Burmese refugee.

    We have a three bedroom condo in the Barrio.

    It’s been hard but good. I’m still learning how to face change gracefully.

    Ben

  15. this has been quite the response, bl. wow.

    it’s interesting you post this re: berkeley. i live in an expensive place as well, and wife and myself are contemplating a move to (horrors) the ‘burbs, for the good of the baby. it would be a momentous, difficult change.

    as far as my past, i can’t keep up with some of the commenters, in terms of changes in my life. usually when i move, i’m moving to improve my circumstances, or it’s because i’m in a place i hate.

    one exception. when i was 13, my family upped and moved from a place where i had spent my whole life and was comfortable. we moved to a city that was much bigger, was more exciting, and where i had no friends for several years. i learned what it was like to be on the receiving end of hate. i learned what it was like to be an outsider. i learned not to trust people easily, and to listen to others before opening my mouth.

    these traits are what shaped me as a writer, and i daresay your childhood as a military brat, moving around and around, did the same to you.

  16. Hmm. I’ve done a lot of change – and in organisations I’ve workied in, I seem to inflict it on others a great deal. But a lot of my own changes and journeys and moves turned out to not be changes at all – I brought the same old baggage with me and in many ways (new country, new job, new relationship, new god only knows what else) nothing in fact changed.

    Then I discovered children. That’s change with a crowbar.

  17. I too grew up with change. Not an army brat, but a construction brat, and we moved every year or so. I was always the new kid at school. As a young adult, I sought change in some ways and feared it in others.

    One of the last big changes I made was in 1994 when I moved to Santa Barbara, alone and with no job prospects. I knew two people in town. (Lily, you’ll recall that I took three months off work and spent three lovely weeks of that time riding bikes with you in England.) I was very unhappy, but that time off allowed me the peace and space to calm down and decide what and how I needed to change. I couldn’t do that while in the midst of my day-to-day life.

    I didn’t hesitate for a moment to move here. I came for a short visit, stayed for a few weeks, decided this was where I was meant to be and proceeded to take the steps to move here. It was the best thing I ever did and I am so happy I had the financial means to take the time off because, without that, I don’t think I would have come to the same decision.

    However, I’ve been noticing lately that I am dissatisfied in many of the same ways you are. Is it partly because where we live is so expensive that it feels like we’re just spinning our wheels? Is it a mid-life crisis? I don’t know. But, I fear change more than I ever have. I’m older now and need the security (and medical insurance). But, I hate that I have to be guided by that.

    I don’t have any answers. I was just surprised by this post of yours and thought I’d put in my 2 cents.

    One suggestion though. Go pick up that dog poop in the backyard. You’ll get some fresh air and everyone, including Archie, will enjoy the backyard again. 🙂

  18. As the daughter of a career diplomat, I grew up moving from one country to the next every three or four years. When we finally returned to the U.S. I was nearly 12 years old and the U.S. was the weirdest place I’d ever been. I had a weird culture shock and prayed that my father would soon be reassigned overseas. It didn’t happen because he passed away when I was fourteen.

    My father’s death was the first really big change, of course. I was devastated, and I was also very angry, because when he died, he left almost nothing behind. Immediately I made up my mind I’d never be that poor. I know that sounds silly, but I was so outraged that he had worked so hard and had been so ill-compensated.

    I pushed myself very hard in school, went to a top-flight college, and got high-paying jobs right out of the gates. For a while, it was great. I was sent to Japan to work as a foreign correspondent for ‘prestigious’ companies, and I interviewed really famous and infamous people. But there was always something nagging at me.

    I didn’t like what I was doing. Not journalism, per se, but working hard to avoid the poorhouse. I was making more money in one year than my father made in five after nearly a quarter century of service to the State Department. I lived in a massive apartment in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Tokyo. But when I looked at myself in the mirror, I was bloated, angry, exhausted. A stark contrast to my late, poor father, who was always smiling, loved his job, loved being a husband and father.

    A friend told me I was good at storytelling, and another told me to take time off, go to grad school. So I did. At first it was tough, not having a daily schedule and deadlines to meet. I bought my first pair of jeans in a decade when I went to film school! And then I met my husband. A Norwegian. Would I have to learn another language? Live in that country at the end of the earth? Cook really boring food until I died?

    I’m no longer making the kind of money I did. Sure, it would be nice to have the house and cash for vacations. But I’m so much more at ease these days. If we met when I was a cub reporter in my mid-twenties, and you asked if I would consider giving up my fast-paced lifestyle, I would have said, dream on. These days when people ask me if I’ll return, I say, dream on. Change is good. It’s scary, but it’s been good to me.

  19. Hi Lily! I have made huge changes, and am about to make huge changes. I’ve been doing things the way we’re “told” to do them for a very long time, and suddenly realized — well, I don’t HAVE to, if I don’t want to, and if I feel like I’d do more for the world somewhere else, and if I could do some good, and if I can be happy. I’m on the edge of making an utterly terrifying leap. Terrifying, but, I think, satisfying — if your happiness, satisfaction with life and work and family and friends, is at stake — well, what else is there?

  20. I can’t really post on this, because I am younger, childless and early in my career. I feel somewhat unqualified. But with that said, when I lived in Detroit, and realized the amount of money and time it would take to keep a life like that going, I had no doubts about leaving it behind. I traded a large condo with a pool for a smaller apartment, and my car for pubic transportation, but I have time – so much time. Granted, I’m not using it to blog, but I am writing my novel two hours a day. And I made a lateral move, job wise, for the same amount of money, for a family -friendly hospital.
    Ugh, I don’t know what to say, except I identify. And really, all you can do is identify what is important you and make changes to that effect. What I needed was (a.) to not live in an expensive, environmentally draining way, (b.) to gain time by sacrificing commuting and (c.) to craft my days to allow writing, time with friends, time with family – I had none of that before. Putting off home ownership and an extravagant vacation in exchange feels worth it.

  21. A year ago I moved from London to Sydney with no job in sight. It was mainly because of a vague feeling of dissatisfaction – after five years of work, I thought I might wake up and realise I was old and had never done anything but work in London – not that it wasn’t great. I had a lovely flat, great flatmate, lovely boyfriend – but I didn’t want that to be all I did in my life. Last year I alternated freelance work and travelling in Australia, made a huge and wonderful group of friends, and have just taken a permanent job. I love it here, and though I miss my family and friends very much, I think my life is here for a good few years to come. I get to go to the beach every weekend! So my change was huge and scary and expensive – but most changes are reversible. I always thought if I didn’t like it, I’d just go home. I don’t have children or a partner so I appreciate I’m much more flexible than most, but I still think it’s worth trying something new!

  22. My parents left school when they are 15~16, and my dad never expected his children to go to university. Up until I was 16, I allowed my dad to make the major decisions for me — where we live, where I go to school etc.

    But at 16, when my ‘O’Levels results were promising, I decided to enrol in a junior college, and try for the ‘A’ Levels — which will allow me to enter the university. I did it behind my father’s back, because his original plans was for me to go to a polytechnic, get a diploma, eventually marry and settle down — with children.

    My dad came from a very traditional Chinese background, and in his worldview, it isn’t important for a daughter to be that educated, because they will eventually settle into their role as housewives and mother.

    At 16 I looked around my world and I realise I had known the same friends for 10 years. This is my world and all the world I have ever known. I suddenly felt suffocated, like I was caught in a tiny fishbowl and I would live and breathe in the same dirty water all my life. I panicked, and decided I need to go to a new school for my ‘A’ Levels, far away from my friends, where no one knew me.

    My dad was angry when he found out. But I also became the only one in the family with a degree.

    I had to make new friends quickly in 2 years — which I did. I introduced myself to anyone and everyone. I was never the sociable type — always the loner. In that brief 2 years while studying for my ‘A’ Levels, I came to know people from different classes, clubs and societies of the school.

    I changed my name then — I didn’t want to be the same person that I was before. In a way, I was remaking myself. At work and to my friends in real life, I am known by the name I gave myself at 16.

    At a certain moment of my life, I decided I couldn’t just move along someone else’s plans. I had to take responsibility for my own life.

  23. In 1999, in my early thirties, I quit my reliable government job and headed off to grad school to become an English professor. Oh, how I wanted to profess. It turned out, however, that professing (I was a graduate teaching assistant, actually) was not a natural fit. I often found standing in front of large groups of students terrifying; I was teaching composition, not literature; students were uninterested in the subject; I was not very good at “holding forth” about the subject; I HATED grading papers–I could go on. I mostly loved my classes, though, and do not regret the time I spent in the English department (I left with an MA).

    Not having anything in particular to do after earning the MA, I went to library school (Someone said “Why not library school?” And I said “Why not?” Yes, it actually happened that way). Library school was boring, but, I reasoned, being a librarian would not be. Hah! I have a lot of respect for librarians, but, once again, I found myself in an environment that, for a host of reasons, did not suit me. I worked as a librarian for several years, and when my job was recently eliminated, I can’t say I minded.

    So, I now have two graduate degrees and no job. Do I regret the leap from government worker to student to instructor to librarian? Not wholly. I learned some important things about myself. And I learned that being a government worker isn’t all bad. 🙂

  24. Lack of outwardly-noticeable change (location, partner, job, etc.) is not necessarily stasis. While I believe that change can be a very, very good thing (as one who, upon graduating from a Very Good University in California, drove her Honda to a small town in the Midwest to start a bakery with her boyfriend. Lessons learned? Being a baker is not about greeting customers who come in from the cold, happy to purchase your goods. Being a baker is the feeling of opening the oven door midsummer in 98% humidity, sweat pouring down your arms. Bad enough to make you go to law school. And don’t even get me started on the Midwest. But change is good, even if your main lesson is that there is a reason why so many people move to California.)

    I digress. My thesis is that staying put need not be stultifying. One of the things that I appreciate more with each year is how, even though I am doing the same job, live in the same house with the same people, and haven’t done anything that would earn the title of Change, I benefit from the depth of my experiences. Doing similar work over a long period, I can see patterns and make linkages. At 46, I catch glimmers of the wisdom that I think will reveal itself to me in the future.

    We all have a certain amount of energy to expend in the world. If I have to expend it packing up my stuff every 18 months, as I did in my 20s, I would have a lot less time to reflect and gather wisdom. Change is good, but it isn’t without cost.

  25. I was a “change junkie” when I was in my twenties. Between the ages of 23 and 30, I worked at 4 different places and lived in seven different places with a multitude of different roommates (though only two different cities. I
    did , however, just pack up my stuff and move from NC to CT with no job and no place to live, just assuming it would all work out, which it did).

    In my thirties, I settled more, but then discovered the phenomenon of changing jobs within a company, and then I lived vicariously through my husband as he went back to school (and we had student housing, thus a home in the country and a flat in the city). As you know, we recently made a BIG change moving to PA.

    I erroneously thought, “We’re moving to farm and Amish country. We’ll have a much-slower, more idyllic pace of life.” Wrong. The one thing I have discovered is that if you are someone who trends toward “busyness,” you will bring that with you no matter where you go.

  26. Great post, Lily, and great responses. It seems that the concept of change provokes discussion.

    I lived in the same town until I was 18, surrounded by extended family who helped to ground and nurture me when my parents’ marriage fell apart.

    Since then, I have been on the move. Between the ages of 18 and 35 I lived in 10 different homes in three different countries. Now, I have lived in the same house for five years and am ITCHING for change. Luckily my husband also has the inclination to be peripatetic (child of expats as he is), and we are assessing where our next move will be.

    I often wonder at the difference between my childhood and that of my children’s – the presence of extended family is denied them, so the onus is on my husband and myself to provide stability for them, by being ourselves, reliable and constant, despite the chance that we could hook them out of their present comfortable lives and take them to live in another country.

  27. There is so much to think about here, but mostly what is on my mind as I get ready to go on a little trip, one that’s designed in part to have plenty of time to lie around and think, is how we keep stable those things that work for us, and move on from those that don’t.

    More to be said about this, from the road — as I’m leaving for the southwest tonight to go on a roadtrip with the boys and my friend Carrie (see the eloquent defense, above, of staying put, and going deep). Wonderful don’t you think, to get in a car and drive and think about where you go from here?

  28. Pingback: On the Road « BlogLily

  29. All I can say, after reading the responses above, is “Wow!” How courageous some of the commenters have been. Change is something that I frequently think I have dealt with, but when I read some of the response above, I realize that I wouldn’t have been brave enough to take some of the steps others have. Sometimes I think all of the changes I have made have led intentionally to where I am now. Now that I am here, I have to question whether this is where I want to stay. But, in mid-life, I think it seems harder to jump off that cliff.

  30. “Archie’s dog poops” Hey- I wasn’t – umm – ohhh – THAT Archie!

    My changes began at birth with my father at war in the Pacific and continued through my childhood as he moved from one farm to another as a labourer and then into the city as a taxi driver. When he died just after my 12th birthday, I was finally able to spend most of my high school years at one school. My working life has not just been a series of different jobs, but a series of different occupations; Laboratory assistant, clerk, salesman, carer, kitchen hand/chef, Nursing assistant, teacher. Now that I am reaching retirement age, I am still in the mix for change and will probably find a new field to work in. I will be more than happy if it involves photography. If not, something different will be fine.

  31. Moving to the Middle East. Or maybe I should say, getting married to someone who doesn’t think it’s a big deal to move overseas.

    I have the opposite problem from you, dear Lily: I am longing for a permanant home. We’ve been moving between apartments every two years like clockwork, and I just want to live somewhere that doesn’t feel like a hotel. I can’t even buy a potted plant without thinking, “I sure hope I can find a home for this when we’re ready to move again.”

  32. Wow. What a response you have gotten, all thoughtful and generous with details. So, my two cents worth…..because change, I think, when we’re ready, comes to us,even if we don’t know we’re ready. LIke many of my fellow bloggers, I moved every 2-3 years as a child. My parents marriage broke up when I was 8, and they each remarried, so I should have had an extended family, but only once (for two years) did we live where where any other family lived. I lived on a sailboat for 2 years with my mother and stepfather in my early teens, and we travelled down the West Coast from Vancouver to the Panama Canal in this time. I left home when I was 18 because my father was moving yet again and I had had enough- what I wanted, I realized then, was to take control of my own life. And since then I have had an unexpected pregnancy (first child), quick divorce, and unexpectedly in 1999 met the love of my life on the bus going to a hockey game!! he lived in England, so I had to decide what to do, and decided that I could leave everything behind because anything I had here, I could have there – job, home, friends. I had this confidence because I had moved so often already in my life. What I didn’t count on was the pain when I left my then 11 year old behind, who wanted to stay with his father. I lasted 6 months before I knew I had to come home to him, and we (my new husband who I married over in England, son attending the wedding!) sold our house and moved back within 5 months of deciding we had to come back.
    So I think change is a good thing. I am learning – again, like many of our bloggers, how to live a more stable life – I have my permanent job for the first time in 12 years, and own my own house. Sometimes I feel pressured – is this all there is to life? and then I stop and think, I have what is inside me,my creative fire – I have to write, and I know any real unhappiness comes when I am not writing. It doesn’t matter where i am in the world, so long as I can write, and have my family around me (husband and new little children. Older one is getting ready to leave home….) Everything else we can recreate wherever we are.
    anyway, that’s what I think and have learned! I hope it helps in some small way while you are on this road trip, and after, to see what is good about your life, and what you would like to move more deeply into – creating space in your life to write more? good luck and we’ll follow your journey with crossed fingers and bated breath – we know you can do it, but the journey is you finding this out!
    I just found your blog, and have added you to mine. I love yours!!

  33. Susan — Thank you for your story. I think now is the time in my life (and in yours too it sounds like) that happiness comes from building something and from interior things.

    Dear Ella, The permanent home will happen, I’m guessing! Having children can be such an upheaval, and then moving even more so. What I love though is how much creative energy you have. I’m looking forward to more Ella books!

    Yes, you’re The Other Archie! What a lot of jobs — it must be amazing to have seen so many different things in such an array of professions. I think photography is just right for you, by the way. Your photographs are pretty wonderful, you know.

    Dear Cam, Yes, I think you have put your finger on something important — it has to do with mid-life change, and how that looks. I’m thinking hard about that right now, in fact.

  34. I know I’m late here, but I hope not too late to add my two cents. We chose to live in a tiny house, so tiny that when we bought in when the kids were babies we thought it would be perfect for retirement. It was squishy and cozy as the kids grew, with all their friends having houses in ritzier towns that could have fit ten of ours in them and little kids would walk in and say “Is this the whole house?” But we’ve have no mortgage, we’ve saved for college and retirement, our friends call our house “the club house” and in our social circles having such a tiny house was often looked down upon. We also rarely take vacations outside of fun at home. I travelled a lot in my life, my parents were immigrants who barely got out of Europe live, we appreciate what we have. There are “Berkeley” equivalent towns on either side of us, with Cambridge next door. We just made the frugal choice over the years and don’t regret it. But it did lead to a lot of judgement from others. But now I’m able to work at my job half time, and write the rest of the time. Choices are often about appearance, judgments of others, how much material trappings you require for your life. I still wear cool clothes, just few of them.

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