Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We’re moving! And we’re leaving Chicago behind…

photo 1 (38)

The girls and I were getting ready to leave the restaurant, our bellies stuffed with sushi at Little Miss’ request after our jaunt to the library, when the phone call came. It was our landlady. She never calls, so I knew it was important. She didn’t have good news; she wanted to move back into the apartment. Our apartment. The place we’ve called home for the last three years.

I was devastated but with two restless girls running amok at a restaurant like newly escaped chimpanzees from the zoo, I also didn’t have time to react. It was only when we got in the car, when I relayed the news to them, that the force of that news hit me. I apologized to them in between tears, “I’m sorry you have to see this, but you know how much mommy loves our home, so this just makes me so sad that we have to leave.”

And that’s when Little Miss said the most amazing thing in a way that only a five-year-old could: “It’s okay mommy; I know you’re sad to leave our home, but that means you can also make your dreams come true…”

That made me laugh. So innocent. So sweet. And then it hit me. She was right. She was absolutely right. Except I was in crisis mode and couldn’t see clearly. When they were both down for their naps and after I had looked online for the other possibilities. Making our dreams come true…what would that entail? What should we do?

I shopped for a home to buy in the city – we hadn’t entertained the idea before because we knew it would be harder to leave. We had always wanted to experience a new place, which was why we tried to keep it simple by renting, but now Chicago felt so much like home and I just couldn’t imagine not being here. 

But, in my search, there were so many things stacked against us. Which neighborhood? Little Miss would be in kindergarten and we were still waiting to hear back from the Chicago Public Schools. We’d applied for the lottery to the city’s various gifted and magnet schools, and they’re all over the place. What if we found a place that would make the commute to school worse? What if she didn’t get into any of them, and we needed her to attend a decent neighborhood school? Where should we go then? We are really tired of living in close quarters and would like to spread out in a house with a yard, but how could we ever afford it here in the city? What about the suburbs with the fantastic schools? But the Chicago burbs didn’t feel right either.

After an afternoon on the Internet, searching for possibilities in our area and coming up short because nothing felt right, My Guy, who was in meetings all day, came home, and I relayed what Little Miss had said about making our dreams come true. Then it was his turn to blow me away: “Why do we have to search in Chicago? We’ve always talked about leaving the Midwest to try something new. We can do that now. The only thing that’s stopping us is our comfort. That’s it.”

And he was right. It was always in our plan to leave, and if not now, when we’re being dislodged from our very comfortable spot, then when? Suddenly, a crisis turned into an opportunity. Yes! Little Miss was right. My Guy was right.

It’s now or never.

We did a search online for the places that made most sense to us, using The Best Of…lists as a starting point. Because My Guy is an entrepreneur and loves the high tech field, we decided to let that guide our search. It was weird. At that point, the world was literally our oyster. We could go anywhere.

In almost every list we saw relevant to My Guy’s career, two cities frequently appeared at the top: Austin, Texas, and Raleigh, North Carolina. My Guy leaned Austin, and I was more for Raleigh, and we each did our research to support our city of choice. Raleigh had great access. Ocean, mountains, other interesting cities – all within a couple of hours away. Austin had year-round heat. After the winter we’ve been having, where even the winter warrior in me is exhausted from the fight, intense heat feels like a good change. Yes, enough of this Polar Vortex crap. And between the two, Austin seemed more promising for My Guy’s future. Plus, Austin is just cool.

After various pros and cons lists and debates, and long, long hours on the internet about possible places we could transplant ourselves, it became more apparent to me where we belonged. And what pushed me over the edge was what My Guy said: “For me, Raleigh feels like it’s a milder version of Chicago. Yes, it’s beautiful there and it has many things we like, but Austin feels so different – the heat, the environment, the region. I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life, and that makes me want to try it even more. Wouldn’t you want to try something radically different?”

”Yes,” I said without hesitation. My own answer didn’t surprise me, because he was right, of course. Now that we have the opportunity for a brand new adventure, new opportunities, new everything in our lives, why choose the safe route? It’s safety that’s often holding us back. It’s safety that prevents us from achieving what we truly want sometimes.

It’s absolutely amazing that we have the ability to turn a crisis into an opportunity, so why blow this chance to challenge ourselves? If we’re going to make an adventure out of this, let’s really make it an adventure.

Sure, we could be completely wrong about this. Austin may never agree with us – it’s Texas after all, and we’re very blue people in a very red state so even liberal Austin may not be enough to keep us away from crazy conservatives. And, honestly, I hate the heat.

So why the hell am I going to a place known for its scorching temperatures in the summer? Well, here’s the thing. Being raised in Malaysia, I had only experienced snow for the first time in my life at age 19, and now I love winters. Who’s to say that I can’t do the same for the other temperature extreme?

The pros and cons list is equally long on both sides; I am not going to pretend to be absolutely certain about our decision. But it’s a risk we’re willing to take, and because we’re all in this together, it’s a prospect that seems so delicious and so exciting at the same time. Scary, yes, but the unknown is always that way; it doesn’t mean it can’t be incredible though. 

In fact, the bigger the risk, the greater the reward right? We’re fully counting on that when we embark on our next big adventure with this little family of ours. This may not turn out to be the right decision in the future, but it is the best decision for us right now.

And there you have it.

In less than six weeks (gasp!), we will be leaving our beloved city and heading to Austin with our two girls and two cats. I haven’t been there since 1996, and My Guy has never been there. We are essentially moving there sight unseen. And we can’t wait.

On April 1, 2014, a brand new chapter will begin.

photo 2 (33)

Goodbye Chiberia…