Moving Outside – Outside the City, Outside the Box

Ever since I can remember I have been a contrarian. My grandmother used to call me, “Contrary Canary” and I assure you, I earned that title. In hindsight, while I struggled between being contrary for contrary’s sake and being agreeable for likeableness’ sake, one thing I have realized as I have gotten older is that they both are important but like all things, timing is everything when it comes to their application. Agreeableness, like similarity or commonality, is a binding from ourselves to another. Often, it is what we have in common that brings us together and helps us get along. This is why agreeableness is a great self-preservation tactic in social situations and certainly assists in those awkward, semi-inebriated, party moments with those whom you don’t agree.

However, agreeableness often weaves itself into wider, larger scopes and additional facets of our lives as we get older. I have found this truer with each passing of life’s conventional milestones (marriage, children, etc.). Agreeableness can turn to likeness, commonality and replication faster than you have time to even evaluate which, and to what degree, decisions --major life choices -- have been influenced. It’s not that sameness is bad and certainly, while your fingerprints are one-of-a-kind, your life choices rarely are. Thus, I am not suggesting you live your life for the sake of being different; that’s being done in sufficient quantity by people on social media. However, what I am suggesting is being awake while you make your decisions -- be present, be analytical and always be the four-year-old in the room who asks, “Why”? Asking yourself these three letters can have a profound impact on the choices that you make and those you will never again repeat.

I would consider my husband and myself unique individuals, as we all are, -- but so too ,and perhaps more importantly, we are members of society and products of our environments both past and present. When I started playing the four-year-old “Contrary Canary” of recent, I got my husband playing it, too. Pretty soon we were somewhat giggly with exasperation about what our plans were, so we changed them. You see, we got married and had a baby. He had a great job in a big city and we had a house in the ‘burbs. Life was good, comfortable--but we weren’t enjoying it. All the elements were there but something was amiss. That something we came to realize was the “What comes next?” question. We looked at what we needed. We looked at what we wanted. Then, we jumped.

We knew that the schools in the community we lived were subpar. We also knew this left us with two choices (so we thought): Move to an exorbitantly priced community where our mortgage would double, or pay for private school which would be too expensive. These two options also left us with a big problem as parents, as either way, it would mean that for our son to get a good education, he would have to be immersed in privilege. Having both grown up amongst privilege ourselves, my husband and I knew what that meant in terms of worldview and wanted to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences to our son’s intellectual personage. We left our home in the ‘burbs. We left our friends. We left the confines of the broader community in which I had grown up. We moved away from job plentifulness, security, commonality and to a forest. No, literally. We live in a forest.

Now granted, some of my family had already moved into nearby rural communities, which made it appealing to be closer to get help with our son, and of course, made it more familiar to us than had it been completely unknown. But why did we do it? Why would a young family just getting their bearings in life, move away from skyrocketing property values (of which they were beneficiaries), employment opportunities abounding and all those things to do? There were practical reasons and more warm and fuzzy reasons. From a practical standpoint: we were able to use the proceeds from the sale of our home to pay off debt (student and otherwise) and strengthen our savings. We lowered our overhead substantially while buying a markedly larger home in which we could grow our family. Our property taxes were a fraction of what they were and the public schools were far superior to those our son would have attended had we stayed. And of course, we were nearer family. The warm and fuzzies: We would live amongst nature (A state park is basically our backyard.), we would live somewhere where we all know each other, life would be simpler (Doctors trade services for chickens & wine here, so I’ve heard.) and our son would have an awesome time getting dirty and exploring in the woods, not watching TV and playing video games.

There are of course risks to this lifestyle choice: lack of diversity for our son to grow up with and job insecurity. Though in economic crisis, the job security issue exists everywhere and cannot be easily remedied regardless of locale. We also decided that should another downturn come our way, we would be better off owing no debt and having lower overhead costs. The former risk can be abated with proper education, travel and parenting.

I realize this isn’t everyone’s dream, nor is it feasible for everyone to just pick up and move. However, going through this and actually taking it from the moment we asked, “why?” to the moment we set foot in our new home was momentous for us as people, as a couple, and as parents. It wasn’t that we were “moving up” in the world; we were moving almost outside: outside of the construct that determines what “up” is, outside the fast food restaurants lining the streets, outside the street noise, outside the traffic, outside of the “go, go, go” and “more, more, more” mentality and into a new place that, well--we haven’t figured out yet. Maybe it doesn’t have a mentality or a mantra, maybe it just is and so maybe we just - are. That simplicity and quietude are what appealed to us. What is it about your current reality or future plans that have you thinking? Why is it that you are about to take that next step, whatever it may be? What’s motivating you to say what you say? Do what you do? Love who you love?