I couldn’t sleep last night.
We’re making an offer on a second house (the one with lots of space that’s a bit of a blank slate, design-wise), and while I doubt the owners are going to come down enough to allow us to get it, they might…and I am definitely more than a little nervous. It is such a big deal. And I’m scared.
The fact is, of course, that this isn’t a decision that we’ve made quickly, or that we haven’t thought through: we’ve been circling the idea of moving to the Hudson Valley since last winter, and have spent the past year saving up and looking at places. And we are both certain that a move is what we want, both on an emotional level and a logical one: the truth is that we’re just not reaping any of the benefits of living in Manhattan these days, and city living is getting in the way of our life more than it’s enhancing it. Plus, since we’d have to move to someplace more child-friendly (with, say, a bedroom door, and maybe an elevator so I don’t feel so trapped) within a year, we’d be talking about rent prices that are at least equal to, if not more than, the kinds of mortgages we’re looking at. And finally, I’ve lived in the suburbs before – in LA – and the way of life was much more to my liking: on a Saturday, I’d rather have friends over to BBQ and hang out at home than do…well, anything. The things that we like to do best these days are just not the kinds of things that are worth paying to live in the city for.
Most of all, though, the reason we want to move is that city life is not what we want for our son. I grew up here, and I had a great childhood, but I want something different for him. I want him to have a yard to run around in with Lucy and Virgil. I want him to go fishing on Saturdays with his Dad not because it’s a big, special production involving car rentals and long drives, but rather because that’s just what they feel like doing. I want to pick up our pumpkin in a patch, not in a grocery store. I want him to have a swing set of his very own.
But it’s an enormous change for us, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t scary. I’m scared that I won’t make any friends, or that I won’t make friends that are the kinds of friends that I have in my life now (which is to say, real friends rather than friends of convenience). I’m scared that Kendrick and I will fight about stupid things like home repairs and mowing the lawn. I’m scared that we’ll move in and suddenly realize that we picked the wrong place, and that we would have been happier if we had moved just one town over, or to another state altogether. And you know something else I’m scared of? I’m scared that one day, a few years from now, my husband will wake up and look at me and at the life that we’ve built and think, Is that it? Is that all I get? I’m scared that he’ll think that. I’m scared that I’ll think that.
Because these towns, you know, they’re so quiet. They don’t have all those bright city lights to distract you from what’s right there in front of you. And what if, when all the lights go down, it’s not enough?
Kendrick has a friend who once said that New York City takes all the basic facets of normal human existence away from you, and then sells them back to you one at a time as luxuries. Want a bathroom that fits more than one person at a time? That’ll cost ya. A bedroom door? Five hundred extra per month. Don’t even ask about closets; you don’t get those unless you work on Wall Street.
And the thing about all this struggle – because living in the city is a struggle; it can be such a great ride, but it’s certainly not easy – is that it keeps you dreaming that things will change. One day, you say to yourself, I’ll move to Italy and have a yard full of lemon trees. Or maybe I’ll buy a place in California, right on the ocean. Or maybe I’ll find a gorgeous townhouse in the far reaches of Brooklyn. All you know is that where you are right then isn’t where you’ll likely stay, and there’s something very freeing in that knowledge. You don’t know where you’ll be, but you know it won’t be where you are.
Like many others I know of my generation, I was raised by parents who encouraged me to think that I had all the choices in the world, and all the time in the world to make them. We spent years being told that we could do anything, be anything – even our liberal arts curriculums let us play around in various fields for years before choosing a major, if we ever had to at all.
And that’s great. It is, it’s a wonderful thing – a privilege - to feel that you can do anything…but it also makes it really hard to finally choose what you want to do. Why should I marry this amazing guy when I’ve never even been to Asia yet? My even-more-perfect man might be waiting there for me. Why should I accept this pretty cool job offer when I haven’t even tested the waters in these five other career paths? I might like something else better. Why should I move to this one town, when there are so many other places in the world that might make the perfect home?
So I’ve found it very hard to make this leap. Because this enormous step – buying a house – is an incredible thing, an incredible opportunity…but it also shuts down so many other possibilities. We won’t be moving to Italy anytime soon. And of course we were never going to – of course we weren’t – but it was nice to think that maybe, just maybe, we might. We could. And if we make this decision…well, we can’t. Not for awhile, anyway.
But sometimes you need to just put on your Grownup Pants and decide, already. Weigh the pros and cons, figure out what’s important to you, argue with yourself to pieces…but then do it. Jump.
I have to say, though – I don’t know that I would have had the courage to make that jump a year ago. But now it’s not about us anymore, not really: it’s about a little man who smiles so much when he looks out our New York City window, even when there’s nothing to see outside but the apartment building across the way, that all we want to do is set him free to study the sky. And when we take that into account…
it’s not really a decision at all.
It’s just what we’re going to do.