A couple of weeks ago I went off the grid.
Like, really off the grid.
To celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary, my husband and I escaped to Big Sur, California—one of our very favorite places.
Big Sur is a place we’ve loved since even before we were married, but for some reason, haven’t visited since.
Tall redwoods on rolling mountains when you look one way; crashing waves and sheer cliffs when you look the other; fabulous wine while looking at either—it’s the perfect combination of our very favorite things.
Northern California is a place where all our pieces seem to fit; a place we dream of living; a place we wonder now—22 years older and wiser—why we didn’t figure out a way to make that happen way back when we were just starting out; when we had our whole lives ahead of us.
“Five years,” my husband told me in 1998, when the only good job offer he got out of grad school was in Minneapolis and I cried buckets of tears. “Five years and we’ll get back west.” Minnesota was not in my life plan, you see. We’d happily moved from Arizona to Indiana for him to attend business school in 1996—Scottsdale is lovely but way too crowded and insufferably hot to be a place we ever wanted or planned to settle—and were excited to experience a couple of years in the heartland (no kidding, John Cougar Mellencamp lived down the road), enjoying four real seasons for the first time in our lives. It was an adventure, and we were game.
But Minnesota was one of those states I forgot was actually a state until I was looking at a map or listening to the weather report in February (and was in awe that human life could survive in such a place), and even then, it was easily forgotten.
Five years…which turned into another child…which turned into job advancements too important to walk away from…which turned into children being involved with friends and in activities that you didn’t want to voluntarily move them from just because you thought the grass would be greener somewhere else (it would! It would!) and because you’d had to move so many times as a child that you wanted to spare your own from ever having to be the new kid (yes, they’d have survived, I realize this now)…which turned into a parent moving all the way to Minnesota with the sole purpose to be near your family…which turned into children being too near graduating high school with the very same kids they’d gone to kindergarten with (imagine!)…which turned, suddenly, into 17.
That’s a lot of Februarys to (barely) survive.
While being in northern California last week was a lovely escape and a wonderful, relaxing way to celebrate 22 years and all they’ve brought us, it was also kind of horrible.
We were depressed not 20 minutes into our drive down Hwy. 1: questioning our life decisions and suddenly feeling the weight and the rush of the time we have left.
We’re a barrel of fun on vacation, aren’t we?
Sure, we’ve traveled to gorgeous places in the past 17 years; places we’ve exclaimed “we never want to leave!” but this isn’t the same. Northern California is breathtaking, no question, but it’s not the beauty that fills in our holes, it’s the feeling we have there—the feeling like it’s where we belong.
For two decidedly non-midwestern kids, the pull to get back west was fierce, and we spent a lot of our trip discussing ways to make that happen (plans whose delight with and projected success of climbed in direct correlation with the number of glasses of wine we were consuming at the time of discussion, just in case you were worried about our depression).
It felt like home in those mountains, and we made a vow to make one there, soon. Since the 14-year-old is about to start high school and we’ve promised her we’re not going anywhere until after she graduates, we’ve got a little time—and a lot more glasses of wine—to figure it out.
About five years.