Scenery Change

It happens each year around this time, and each time, I think but this time, I’m even more serious–but this time, I am even more serious. I’m so tired of looking at the same things, at the same ugly brown scenery. It’s all made worse than usual by not being able to do much out of the house. These walls! I’m not in a position to paint or move furniture, but I’m desperate enough to suspect that would bring some tiny relief. I’m going absolutely stir-crazy, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

It goes beyond expected winter blues this time, though. I’ve developed year-long thoughts about moving entirely. Aside from where I grew up and fled from at 18, I’ve never lived in a single place this long. We’ve made several cross-country moves. We’ve lived in cities and relatively rural areas. Apartments and houses. We’ve experienced various climates and varying degrees of water access. Mild and treacherous winters. Sun and no sun. Very blue and very red politically. It’s been enough to know that there’s no perfect place and that it’s about picking the place with the most tolerable downsides.

Even with this insight, though, there’s a part of me that wonders if we’re very close to finding where we should be but haven’t reached it just yet. We’ve been in Delaware since 2014. I feel maybe ready to move on, prepared to take all we’ve learned and apply it to one final place–the place all this work has led us to. But it’s no longer the easy, thrilling adventure it used to be. There’s more to consider and the stakes are higher.

We own a house, and that’s becoming an increasingly difficult to borderline impossible thing to do now. While I feel confident I will make friends wherever we land, it feels unfair to be so casual about this consideration for Ben. He’s still in middle school. He’s still figuring out social dynamics and school politics. Moving to a different state could prove to be a great decision in this regard, or it could cause a lot of uncertainty and set his progress with confidence back. I don’t know.

Ultimately, though, we have no roots in Delaware, and the ones I’ve tried to grow are weak, short, and easily transplantable. We don’t have involved family here, we don’t work here, and in regards to the 2024-2025 school year, we no longer have a school we are excited about. We don’t love Delaware–it’s fine. I’ll even admit it’s more fine than most other places I’ve lived. If there’s a chance that feeling a sense of true belonging is a realistic, achievable sensation, I don’t feel it here and don’t want to accept things as they are if I don’t have to. On paper, it checks a lot of boxes, and yet something is missing that I can’t fully articulate.

While, at times, the concept of moving is too scary and overwhelming, these same feelings come up when I consider not moving. This all used to be so easy. But now I always get stuck on the first question that comes up when thoughts of moving take hold, which is: where would we go? I’ve learned about what we want and need, but I’m not sure this place exists.

I’ve learned we at least need and prefer: affordability (Seattle and Fairfax were brutal), access to good healthcare, lots of sunny days, good public schools (exhausted from paying for private since pre-school), a small to medium population, not overly conservative, and lots of parks. When I write it out, it doesn’t seem excessively needy, but few options come to mind. Pittsburgh is one of my favorite places, but I worry about all the cloudy days. The other side of this is that Delaware is many of these things, minus the schools and small population–we are fully bursting at the seams here. So, there’s either something big this list is missing, or every item really is a requirement. Or, maybe where we are has to somehow be enough.

This is a post where I haven’t ended up with answers at the end, and may even be more confused than when I started writing it. It feels a bit like I used up all our moving cards, and this is where we’ve landed, for better or worse. I’m equally unsure of what both staying and leaving look like. But let’s just get through the winter and figure it out later–another thing I’ve said each year.

See you tomorrow over breakfast. Same time and place. Same surroundings.

February 19, 2024

A tiny project byJoni Trythall inspired by friends at Wiggle Work.