The Cost of LIVING

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“There is only one happiness in life,         to love and be loved.”

George Sand

In May of 1997, nearly sixty of my classmates and I walked across a stage in a hot and crowded auditorium in Gilbert, Iowa to receive our high school diplomas. I had no idea what the future held, but I was determined to find out as fast as I could. Confident and curious, I left home to attend the University of Iowa on a mission to uncover who I was, what I should do with my life, and where I should live out my purpose.

Fast forward twenty years and I find myself facing the exact same situation: another move. Obviously this time around is a bit different. Instead of moving two hours away, I’m moving across the country (from Southern California to Atlanta, to be exact). And thankfully, I’m now married to a loving husband, and together we’ve been blessed with three beautiful boys.

As I reflect on my life over the past two decades, I realize that moving has been a reoccurring theme. Since I left home, I’ve moved twelve times, living in four different states. I’ve lived with roommates, on my own, with my husband, and now as a family of five. Our upcoming move at the end of this month makes lucky number thirteen.

The financial aspect of a move, or “cost of living”, is top of mind for any buyer when deciding where to put down roots. It’s the first thing you discuss, as you never look at a home without first establishing a budget.  Having lived in Iowa, Illinois, Georgia and California, I’ve experienced a wide range of cost of living, and there are always tradeoffs. Living in Orange County, CA might have an outrageous cost of living compared to the Iowa corn fields I grew up next to, but the ocean views, palm trees and perfect weather go a long way to help swallow the premium you pay to live in paradise. On the flip side, living in Iowa means you might have to put up with some epic snow and thunderstorms, but you don’t have to break the bank to give your family ample space to play and explore. And I guarantee you, your neighbors will be the most down to earth, genuine and loving people you’ll ever meet. Maybe I’m bias, but Iowa truly is the field of dreams.

This upcoming move will be our third in three years. As fun and adventurous as moving your family across the country may sound (if you look at my social media posts, it certainly appears that way), I’d only be telling half of the story if I didn’t address the emotional “cost of living” that occurs with each move.

I’ve noticed that each time I go through the process of transitioning into a home in a new city, I always look back with rose colored glasses, wishing I could go back to a place in time that has already passed. An old picture, a memory, or a song can transport me back in time, and when that happens I tend to remember the good and forget the not so great. I long to be close to those friends and family again, and I miss the way things were. As it turns out, it’s only after something is taken away that I realize just how special and unique it was. It takes effort and intentionality to appreciate something or someone you see day after day, week after week. You take the “see you tomorrow” for granted, and then suddenly it’s a memory you’d give anything to get back.

Moving is hard. REALLY hard. It rips you away from the community you know and love, and it requires heavy lifting as you invest time and energy into new friendships. Making new friends, the kind you can call in an emergency or share your dreams with, doesn’t happen overnight. It’s easy to put up walls, and it is hard to let new friends in when you are too busy missing your old friends. Or maybe you’re just too afraid you’ll eventually have to say goodbye to them just as you did your friends from last year, and the year before, so why even bother? With the past few moves, it has taken close to a year before our house actually felt like home. While it might be easy to survive a big move, I’m here to tell you it’s hard to thrive after a move. If you want to flourish in a new environment, you have to give it your all. Don’t show up for a varsity game with the JV version of yourself, or you’ll be eaten alive. Moving requires everything you have and then some. It will expose old wounds you thought were healed, and uncover insecurities you never knew you had.

The older I get, the more I realize that joy and sorrow are a package deal. You can’t have one without the other, because change is inevitable. I’m a walking advertisement for change, and one would think after all this time it might come easy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every situation is unique, bringing with it a new set of worries, fears and doubts. Don’t get me wrong, change can be exciting, exhilarating and joyful. We’ve made some of the most amazing memories exploring new areas of the country together as a family. But it can also feel emotionally exhausting, especially when it requires saying goodbye or leaves you searching for a new normal. With our moving date only a few short weeks away, the thought of having say goodbye yet again hurts my heart.

Which brings me to my point, the entire reason I sat down to write this. I believe the sadness we feel in times of change and loss is evidence that we’ve made ourselves vulnerable enough to love. It’s easy to go through life with walls built so high that no one can get in, but that’s not really living, is it? It’s important to sit with the sadness and not bury the emotions deep inside. In her book, You Are Free, Rebekah Lyons warns us that “When we dull our pain, we dull our joy. When we numb our lows, we numb our highs.” In these times sorrow, we must remember the abundance of joy we felt so that we can muster up the courage to move forward and keep loving, even though we know change may come. If you want to live fully, you must allow yourself to love deeply. And when you love deeply, sorrow is sometimes the price we pay… it’s the emotional cost of living.

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This post is  dedicated to our California family. Words can’t fully express how much we love and cherish your friendship.

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