We Live in One of the Most Beautiful Places on the Planet — Why on Earth Would We Move?
Life in the ’80s.
I love birthdays. Growing up, the excitement and anxiety of getting invited/not getting invited to a birthday party was palpable. It was the 80’s, so it wasn’t automatic. There was no such thing as everyone gets invited, or everyone gets a trophy.
Two parties stand out, and neither were mine. One was my best friend’s. There were five of us that were besties from kindergarten through junior high. Yes, I’m old enough that I went to Junior High instead of Middle School.
We must’ve been 9 or 10. My friend’s mom came out of the house to ask, “do you girls know how to drive four-wheelers?” In the ’80s, that’s what we called ATVs.
Of course we do!
We had never driven anything before. We hopped on and held our breath. My best friend on one, my other best friend behind me on mine, holding on for dear life.
I gunned it, and we took off in a flash. I was out of control, and we were all screaming. I was zipping between the trees, feeling reckless, loving the freedom, until it stalled.
I gunned it again, and we popped a wheelie. My friend flew off the back, and thank goodness, because I lost control, ran up a tree, and flipped it over. We were all ok, shook up, cuts and scrapes and such. Somehow, we pulled the ATV out of that tree and parked it back in the quonset.
At the other party, I was 12, and in love with the boy who invited me. I remember his house being farther out in the country than I thought, the roads dustier too. We played under a tree, a piñata perhaps, everything heightened in technicolor by my crush.
A coyote wandered near us from out of a wheat field, and we did what you shouldn’t do. We screamed, and we scattered.
I thought it was chasing me, so I ran to the porch. The boys told the dad, and the dad grabbed a gun. I didn’t know what scared me more, the coyote or the gun.
My family moved to a neighboring town when I was 14 or 15. It was a hard age to move, a hard age to leave your best friends, a hard age to make new friends, a hard age. It was before the internet, or mobile phones, so keeping in touch looked very different.
I didn’t know these moments would stand out, but they did. I didn’t know milestones mattered, but they do.
The summer before I started my freshman year at the new school, the most popular girl in the school, a couple of grades older, called me at my house. Of course, I would like to come to your birthday party. I died. She had a pool and lived on the rich side of town.
It was a party like the ones you see in ’80s movies — neon colors, high crimped ponytails, and purple eyeshadow. I can’t remember if I talked to anyone or just stared at QB1. I didn’t know why I was there, and it didn’t matter. That I was there meant everything.
On the first day of high school, one of the girls from that party, and one of the boys from the student council, waited outside on the steps to walk me into school. It was an endorsement.
In retrospect, all three made my high school career better. Why did they do it?
The day I turned 16, my boyfriend and I jumped into his truck to run by my BFF’s house. I was restless and wanted something amazing to happen. I was 16 and feeling it.
When we walked in, my best friends were there shouting, “Surprise! Happy Birthday!” I didn’t see it coming. I don’t think I even knew what a surprise birthday party was. I was stunned and overcome and remember thinking: this is going to be the best year of my life.
On my 21st birthday, one of my college best friends turned 21 too. We were roomies and sophomores before we realized that we had the same birthdays — same day, same month, same year. What are the odds?
Our friends’ group met off-campus, and we bar-hopped, shot after shot after shot. It was a sticky swervy blur, but I do remember standing on a stool, kissing a buffalo, while my bestie kissed his other furry cheek, watching our girlfriends at the bar below, thinking “best birthday ever.”
At 30, my birthday twin and I reunited in Las Vegas. It would be the weekend that my boy friend became my boyfriend (and eventually my husband). Our friends, family, and mutual college crew flew out to celebrate. We had a classic Vegas weekend, up all night, at the pool all day, a mix of gambling and clubs, and two huge birthday parties.
On Friday night, there must have been at least 30 of us at Battista’s. Remember that Italian hole-in-the-wall off the strip? Is it still there? And, the next night, a group of us went to that club by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
We knew we were in trouble when people started saying, “we are with Stacey and Kristi’s birthday party” to bypass the line and drink on our tab, and we didn’t know any of them.
The club manager was sympathetic for some reason, and comped champagne for everyone. I think that same night, we ended up in a limo, at a strip club, and then in a pool at a penthouse. It was classic Vegas.
At 36, hubby and I and a small group spent a memorable evening at a family-owned pasta joint in Boston’s Back Bay, or maybe it was the North End. At 40, we celebrated in Hawaii with my perfect day — a spa head to toe, a photoshoot, a romantic dinner on the beach with the hunkiest husband I know.
At this point, it seemed as if birthdays were coming faster, or maybe just closer together?
That’s how it happens.
45 was a COVID birthday: A quiet day at home with my husband and our three kids and a big dog. We didn’t go out; we didn’t have cake. I meant to order a big fancy one from the place that I use for special occasions, but I forgot.
One of my besties sent over some craft margaritas — I didn’t even know that was a thing, but they were the most delicious I’ve ever tasted.
That’s how it happens. There should be a warning.
Consider this your warning: Don’t be so busy living your life, zipping around, counting down, filling your minutes, that you don’t see how rapidly the years are flying by.
My next milestone birthday is 50. Mine. Did you hear me?
MY NEXT MILESTONE BIRTHDAY IS FIFTY!!!
How is that possible? Something is wrong. Time has had a wrinkle. Or maybe I’m in a movie where I fell and bumped my head and have been asleep for years? Or was that a Sandra Bullock movie? Remember her? Is she my age? Oh god, I just asked Alexa — She’s 56.
Don’t get me wrong; I love the life we have created. I’ve loved it since birth. I am one of the lucky ones with a high happiness set point.
I have incredible parents and brothers that make me laugh. It’s never been perfect, but in the ’80s, and even in the ’90s, no one expected perfection anyway. It’s always been gritty and real and mine.
And now, now, it’s so good that I’m not sure I deserve it.
I have a beautiful family, a gorgeous home, great friends, a wonderful neighborhood, a growing business, and a treasured community. My parents are still married, and my brothers have lovely families; I married into a family I adore, and I’ve had adventures all over this world.
I love this life.
Apart of me wants it to be enough. It is enough. If I could freeze this moment forever, I’d be happy. Actually, no, I wouldn’t. Yes, I would. I’d be satisfied, but I’d wonder what else is out there for us too.
I want the milestones to keep coming, surprising, and delighting; I love the learning, anticipation, and growth. I want to love the next 55 years too. Is this a mid-life thing? It’s not exactly a crisis.
I’ve lived in this state my entire life, and it’s time to find a new home base from which to venture forth. Life in another country would give us access to day trips, road trips, and little weekends away that would open up a new world, a new culture, a new feast of the senses.
Made in the USA.
I’ve lived in the US for 45 years, and although I haven’t seen everything, I’ve seen more than I ever thought I would, a girl who grew up in a small dusty town in the middle of nowhere.
I’ve been to every state and 70 or so of the top 100 US cities. I’ve been to dozens of countries and even more islands, and it’s been more than I ever could have hoped for, and also, I want more.
I just want to see it all. In this lifetime. With these people. My people. Is that too much to ask? Do you want that too?
I love going somewhere, anywhere, everywhere, researching a destination, packing and preparing, selecting restaurants, transportation, accommodations, and attractions. I love the history, the architecture, the locals, the perspective.
It’s not just COVID or the uncertainty of what’s next; it’s timing: A rare window of opportunity is approaching, that sublime once-in-a-lifetime time where we meet in the middle. My husband and I will be young and healthy enough to keep up with our children, and our children, growing and becoming, will be eager to explore too — all of us wanting nothing more than to be together and have an adventure. We can’t miss that.
Maybe, if we are lucky, we can see some of our favorites places again, with our children — a true full-circle experience.
I have mixed feelings, of course. I mean, why the audacity to want anything else? We live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It’s enough. Of course, it’s enough — it’s more than enough — but we only get one lifetime, and we can always come home.
We can always come home.
When we travel, I look forward to it for months, starting from the minute we decide. It’s a big build-up, then there’s the trip itself, but the last day or two, I always want to come home. I feel homesick for our dog, our comfy bed, our routines, and our things, for fresh air, wide-open spaces, and Colorado sunsets.
No matter the destination, the pull of home is always stronger than I anticipated. Now that we are seriously considering an international move, I feel the roots wrapping around my ankles, climbing my legs, testing my resolve. I’m starting to fully appreciate what it means to break the ties that bind.
I’m making a list of everything I want to squeeze in or redo before we go, like 50 family hikes this summer with dogger. Check. Like Disneyland and Harry Potter World when it’s safe; Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, maybe on a road trip. NYC, Carmel, Charleston, and Seattle, an old favorite; and possibly New Orleans or Austin, maybe the Florida Keys. When can we fit it all in?
Time in my garden, home projects, and wine in the backyard with friends and neighbors seem extra precious. I stare at the trees we planted, especially our first tree, an Autumn Maple Blaze that’s at least 20 feet tall. It turns the most glorious colors in the fall. I miss it already.
I wonder how big the trees will get, if someone else’s kids will hug them because they love them, or measure their growth each spring.
Taking the kids to my parent’s house, slumber parties with their cousins, and snuggling great grandpa and grandma seem urgent when you know it won’t last forever.
Nothing lasts forever.
We built this house, we planted those trees, and it’s the only home our children have ever known. Will the next family love it as much as us? Will it break my heart to let it go? Is it the right thing for our family?
Can we make it happen? Where will we go? There isn’t an obvious answer.
We have no visa connections, no simple path, no employer-sponsored opportunities. We will have to figure it out on our own, and it’s not as easy as you think for an American family of five. Income, healthcare, education, quality of life, proximity to nature, and abundant wifi are all high on our list.
My powers of manifestation are strong, so I’m putting it out there, dreaming out loud, and we will see. Fingers crossed. Whispered prayers.
If I had my choice, I’d choose the Mediterranean for five or six years to explore Europe, then a 5–6-year stint in Singapore to explore Southeast Asia. That would get the kids off to college with an incredible foundation of languages, cultures, and perspectives to call on as they make their way in the world, milestone by milestone.
Let’s see, that would mean we could be home for my, wait for it, especially if you knew me as a girl of 2 or 3, or 12 or 15 or 23 or 33 or 40, that would put us back home in time for my 60th birthday party. 60th.