The last year of my life has been, let’s say, tumultuous. I think. Honestly, I had to look up the word. So, yeah, “emotional, change, uncertainty, loud.” Loud? Yeah, kind of loud in a metaphorical sense. The synonyms really drive it home: “hectic, stormy, turbulent.” But, here’s the good news, I survived.
Maybe my favorite thing about the human spirit is how quickly we can forget pain and low points and get to “I survived!” Maybe not forget, exactly, but time mercifully puts this haze of “it wasn’t that bad” around it that’s tempting to believe. I’m telling you that my freak out that led to the tumultuous year was, in fact, that bad.
Before we get to the freak out, it’s maybe a good idea to tell you that my husband and I have had one playbook throughout our marriage and child raising, play it safe. We make solid decisions to create a reliable, stable world for our kids and family. What made us tear up that playbook, throw caution to the wind, and send our family reeling this last year is a mystery to me. I blame COVID. (We are still blaming COVID for everything, right?)
I might have overplayed the “play it safe” side of us. Some people view us as more adventurous. We have entertained moving to other states over the years, and mostly balked to play it safe, but we did 11 years ago move from Connecticut to Atlanta quite successfully. We thought we’d maybe last a few years and hightail it back to the north, but we liked it.
Suddenly, the years piled up, and this little town, with just about nothing in it when we got here, had become a vibrant community, and, much to our surprise, our home.
Now, knowing that sentence above this time last year would have saved us a ton of tumultuousness and all of those other adjectives. We didn’t, and so begins the story.
Simply put, last year we thought we could move to another state and start again, and we couldn’t. There were many red flags along the way that we should have paid attention to, mostly the fact that there were zero houses for us to buy at the next place. In a mix of optimism, my husband’s, and weak resistance, mine, we thought it would all work out. It didn’t.
What ended up happening is we sold our beloved family home that we had renovated to near perfection and had nowhere to move to. The solution was to rent a house for nine months that, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t have rented for a single week. It got worse. The rental wasn’t available for six weeks, so we added on the nail in the coffin of this awful plan, a stint in corporate housing. It all sounded awful, but “things in motion tend to stay in motion” is no joke, folks. How could we stop this? How bad could it be?
Well, we lasted two weeks.
As our family of five, still reeling from leaving our home, hiked the four floors to the two bedroom apartment, I knew none of this was going to work for me. I felt homeless. Our belongings were god knows where for god knows how long. I couldn’t do this for six weeks. I couldn’t do the rental house for nine months. I couldn’t live with the uncertainty of any of it. I found myself swimming in a sea of regret without any real sense of if, or how, we could undo this.
I cried and cried and cried.
Normally, I have my freak outs privately from my kids, but this time, there was literally nowhere to hide. It was a shitty two bedroom apartment, zero privacy. Even the corporate furnishings seemed designed to break the human spirit and intentionally invoke a kind of hopelessness that was not helping! I knew we couldn’t stay, but how could we possibly move back?
Let me pause and tell you something here that’s important…
Up until this point I had spent my life trying to create the illusion that I have it together, and, honestly, mostly I do. That’s probably because I’ve never had a real safety net. When you’re working without a net, you have to project confidence. The downside of this is that I rarely share my shit while I’m going through it. I’m insanely private about this kind of stuff. I wait until I’ve struggled through it and it’s fully resolved before sharing it as a clever, humorous tale that dilutes my vulnerability.
What was different this time, was that I physically couldn’t do that. I felt so low and incredibly scared that I did something new to me. I reached out to all my friends and told them the raw, unsolved, messy, no-idea-how-this-ends truth. And, I’m here to say, it set me free.
Turns out that when you open up to your people when you are not okay, all they care about is that you are okay. (Read that sentence a few times.) No one cared where I lived. No one. They just wanted me to be happy. No one judged me or made me feel foolish for making a mistake, in fact they shared with me stories of times they screwed up so I wouldn’t feel alone.
On one particularly low day, I was talking to my best friend, feeling dark, and she could sense it. I remember thinking how hard it must have been to hear me like this and what could she possibly say to help me. Then she said to me that we don’t really grow when everything in our life always works out, we grow when we are uncomforbale. I am fighting back tears thinking about that, because she was so right.
Part of the growth was to be okay with being vulnerable and open myself up to being helped and loved. We had no home, a lease on a rental, no idea where our belongings were or how to get them and where to even bring them. I needed my friends.
The other part of the growth was trusting my gut and summoning all of my strength because I knew we had to pivot.
It’s hard to pivot, just ask Ross, Rachel and Chandler. Throughout this saga I often heard Ross desperately shouting, “pivot…PIVOT…PI-VOT” as they tried to carry his sofa through a staircase. It was cathartic. It made me laugh and gave me a battle cry. We were that wedged sofa.
The truth is that a lot of things in life can feel like a runaway train and it’s tough to know if you’re supposed to stay on the train and hope for the best, or jump the fuck off and take your lumps in the fall. But when you know something isn’t right, the world be damned, you have to pivot.
We’ve all been taught that there is a preferred progression to life, especially us Gen Xers. You pilot this life moving forward, one direction, stepping stones, stay the course. We put that on our kids and think they quit something when all they are really doing is pivoting. There isn’t a lot of grace for those who want to pivot…”you better have a good reason!”
We didn’t have a good reason other than we thought we wanted something and decided we didn’t. We could have stayed to please, I don’t know who, really. Or we could have pivoted, and I’m so glad we did.
That brings me to the end of the saga, but I’m sure you’re interested in how it all turned out. Lucky for you, here’s where I shine. A little adorable ditty about how it all worked out that will completely gloss over how hard it’s been.
In a COVID world of no housing inventory, thanks to our bossass realtor, we were incredibly lucky to find a brand new home with an obnoxiously high rent to get us back in our old town. We started our son back at the same high school his sisters went to, albeit four weeks late, which sucked for him, but, happy to be back, he rose to the occasion. We’ve been looking for a house here mostly feeling despondent, but miraculously won the bid on a lovely house on a hill that gets a ton of sunlight. In the nine months from selling to buying, the market went up a kagillion dollars. We have bled many dollars to make this happen, which sucks, but we are grateful.
It will have taken a full year to right the wrong choice, but it’s better than many years living somewhere we didn’t want to live to prove nothing to no one. We pivoted. We survived. You will too. Share your shit and pivot when you need to, even though it’s hard.
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