Like most people we’ve had our share of questions. Where did you meet? Did you both want a big family? What do you do for a living? Who thought pet rats were a good idea? But the question we’ve gotten the most is Why would you want to give up the life you have? The unasked (but obvious) continuation of that question is: Are you crazy?
We haven’t always wanted to do this – whatever “this” is. And even when one of us thought we did, the other didn’t. Or we thought we did but didn’t know how. Or the timing wasn’t right, or it seemed too uncertain.
The American Dream involves working hard. Buying a home, then a bigger one. Filling it with family and things. Putting down roots. Becoming part of the community. Watching the kids grow up and leave. Getting more cool things because the money is no longer going to soccer cleats and cold cereal. Keeping the lights on so when the kids come home they know they’re welcome. Settling into the comfort of familiar neighbors, streets, stores, and all the things that make us feel part of something good and worthwhile.
This is a great thing. And one I thought we wanted and were achieving. Marty was born and raised in Cheshire, Connecticut. His family never moved while he was growing up and there was security in that. My family relocated a few times (Oregon, Utah, Michigan, Utah, Oregon) as my father attended school and started his medical career. It wasn’t until we moved during my freshman year of high school that it affected me – I wasn’t a fan – and I determined that my future family would have roots. Little did I know that “roots” have more to do with mindset than mud.
A few years later Marty and I started our family and had our fling on the sailboat. I looked at it as a last hurrah before getting down to the business of guaranteeing that, if we had anything to do with it, our kids would have a perfect life.
I love being part of a community. It’s awesome when people recognize your family name, whether it’s a coach who knew your brother, or a teacher who went to school with your mom. There are the connections that form during the time you spend coaching your children and helping out in their classrooms, being involved in your church, knowing who is running for mayor, having a library card, cheering for the home team, watching your kids and their friends grow up and graduate.
But for some of us the conventional can become confining. I lasted until our baby finished high school, but by then I could finally acknowledge that we would never be the parents who kept the childhood bedrooms ready for returns. Not that we ever had eight bedrooms – but you get the idea. During the holidays when the kids came home for a few days there was all sorts of shuffling to make sure the “marrieds” had a bedroom, while the “singles” got a couch or air mattress. Marty and I would temporarily move out to the van. Baby steps.
I fought it for years. Marty would reminisce about the good-old days on the boat, and I said it was a one and done. He’d talk about “flexibility,” and I felt fear. He’d say “adventure” and I felt anxious. It was almost like I was grieving for the loss of something I thought I was supposed to want. At the same time, I was beginning to see what I could actually have – memories of wonderful times, friendships that will last a lifetime, places to revisit. And it was ok to shake things out and see where we landed.