When Josh and I got married we had spent a significant amount of time dreaming about where we would live someday. In my mind, I wanted to live near my friend, Amanda. She and I had always talked about living near each other and raising our kids to be great friends. Josh and I were pretty open to living anywhere…of course once I finished my undergrad.
Some of the places we had discussed were Nashville, Seattle, and even Florida. There really wasn’t a place, though, that we wouldn’t consider had the right job opportunity presented itself. Even after Emery was born we had thought about moving elsewhere and had been consistently looking up jobs on career websites.
One day Josh received a call that Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA was hiring a graphic designer. Josh had grown up about 30-40 minutes from this large Southern California church and was not even sure if he should apply. He had, after all, just applied for position in Florida and was really hoping to be accepted for that job. I convinced him, though, that it was worth trying. The worst thing that could happen would be for them to say, “No thanks” and that would be the end of it.
Within a couple weeks Josh had received a call for an interview…and then another. And then he had an assignment as one of the top 3 candidates. Then, we got a phone call that Josh would start in just two short weeks at a new job in Southern California. (A job that he loves, by the way…and I love it for him.)
Now, we had not told my parents that Josh was applying for this position. We had no idea if he was going to get it and knew they would be a little bit unhappy if he did. After all, Emery was just five months old and they would miss him so much. So, when we got th news I wasn’t sure how I was going to break it to my family.
In two busy, stressful weeks and after lots of sad “goodbyes” we were off to start a new life in California. I remember the first few months being so surreal. I rember driving down the street and seeing palm trees (which aren’t native by the way…) and thinking, “wow! I can’t believe I live here!” That same year the Disney Channel came out with a show called “Good Luck, Charlie” about a girl from Wisconsin who made it onto a show similar to SNL. I thought, “wow…apparently there is something romantic about Wisconsin…” I just remember being so excited for our lives out here and came completely ready, willing, and supportive of this new endeavor.
The novelty of living in California soon wore off. First, Josh’s job was a good 40 minutes away from where we had been living and the gas prices were high…rent prices were high…everything was expensive and I could not justify $1,200 a month in rent for a crappy two-bedroom apartment. It was ridiculously hot outside and I was really struggling to adjust to that as well. Between the heat, expenses, and traffic I was really feeling out of my element…
After about six months we finally found an apartment that was relatively reasonable and swiped it up. I felt like maybe we would get a fresh start. I met some new people in the new city where we had moved and thought I could really make this work. I still missed my friends and family, but it was exciting to make new friends all at the same time.
It didn’t take long, though, for me to realize that I just couldn’t compete in some of these relationships. As a busy mom I get how it can be hard to make new friends and it became clear to me that the amount of time and history that my new friends had with each other trumped our developing relationship…so when things got hectic or overwhelming, I was the first one voted off of the island, so to speak.
None of this helped how I was feeling about living here and leaving my friends and family behind in Wisconsin. To add, all I would have to do is make some comoment like, “ugh. I hate this traffic” and I would get annoying responses like, “well, no place is perfect.” or I might say, “I really just don’t like hot weather” and I would get a reply about how it is really temperate here compared to Wisconsin or an, “are you serious!?” Yes. As shocking as it is, I don’t like California weather…
I cannot begin to put into words how lonely I was feeling. I was at our apartment all week by myself with Emery and really not liking our new home. And I had not a single non-judgmental ear to talk to about it.
There is nothing more lonely than being in a place surrounded by people but really having no one who truly cares about you. And it only added to the frustrations and difficulty with financially figuring out this mess we had made moving. I didnt have family or friends to depend on to help with Emery. No joke. Josh and I maybe had a date once every couple of months if that.
There is a song out by Matt Kearney that says, “Turn the lights down low. Walk these halls alone. We can feel so far from so close. Like ships in the night, you keep passing me by. Just wasting time trying to prove who is right. And if it all goes crashing into the sea it’s just you and me, trying to find the light like ships in the night.” That is how it felt. I’m not saying that Josh was a terrible husband. We were just being terrible spouses. A marriage doesn’t fix itself and a marriage doesnt work on itself. A good marriage takes a lot of work and communication and neither of us really knew how to do that. I didn’t know exactly how to express my deep felt loneliness and longing for a real relationship when I had left so many behind 2,000 miles away. And Josh didn’t know how to hear it either. So we both just shut down.
I still remember that I was just about to throw in the towel after over a year in Riverside when things finally started looking up. Josh made a new friend at work and his wife and I got along really well. I didn’t think they could get better. We were hanging out often and we were actually making it on some dates. I felt comfortable and free to express my lack of enthusiasm for living in California and it was great. It wasn’t taken personally, yet was received as an honest feeling and validated as my own opinion.
It still took another solid year (that’s almost three years of living here) to just face that I was living here and would have to cope with it.
To clear the air. I love my friends and family here. I am so appreciative of the love they have extended to me and, often, the grace it has taken to be my friend. If we ever leave, you will be the only part of California that I will miss.
I don’t like the traffic here. I don’t like the heat. Really, I would prefer to live in a place that never reached 85degrees…let alone six months of it. I do think the mountains and the beaches are beautiful. But let’s face it. How often do I really get to go to those places in this traffic?? Plus I get car sick. I think the area is ridiculously over-priced…because of the above complaints. I also think it is too crowded. I would rather live in a smaller community that was less than 100,000 people for sure…less than 40,000 would be better. I don’t need to hear about how desirable of an area it is and how that contributes to the prices and traffic. I don’t need to hear that it is a dry heat. I don’t need to hear that Wisconsin gets way below zero. I know those things…but it doesn’t change my opinions. My opinions are nothing personal towards the people of California. Clearly this place works for a lot of people. I get that most people would love the insane amount of hot, sunny days…but I miss rain. I miss thunderstorms. Please, don’t take it personally!
Here is an example. Growing up in Wisconsin we had LOTS of days that were cold and below zero. I remember getting excited when we would see the temperature outside was in the single digits below zero. Now, had a California native, like Josh, come up to me and said, “I hate this cold weather! I hate how there is nothing to do here all winter long because I am stuck inside and if I do venture outdoors I will lose a limb to frostbite!” you would not hear me say, “Well…it’s a wet cold” or “no place is perfect.” You know what I would say, “me too!”And if I didn’t agree, I would have said, “yeah…Wisconsin really isn’t the place for people who don’t like cold weather sports, hunting, or fishing…it can be really hard.”
My dissatisfaction with California is not personal to my friends and family here. It is just that all of the characteristics that make me who I am just don’t fit here. This part of Southern California is no place for a woman who hates hot weather, traffic, and expensive activities. There are people who like all of that and I am glad. I am so glad they have found a place for themselves. Let me find a place that works for me too…and be happy for me when I do. I can still be a friend and enjoy my friends while I’m here. I simply just don’t want this to be my forever home…