Scrolling through a “What If”writing exercise I did years ago,I read down the list of things I had written:“What if I had joined the peace corps? What if I had gone into marketing? What if I had three kids?” . . . and so on until I read down to the last one, “What if I moved to Bainbridge Island?”I was taken aback because that last one actually did happen since I made that list years ago.Last year (2007), we moved two states away, leaving our home, family, jobs, and friends to start anew on Bainbridge Island.
While traveling through Washington state several years ago, our family stumbled upon this quaint little island with no freeways, 35 minute ferry access to Seattle, old fashioned downtown parades, great little schools; the ideal small town to raise a family. After leaving, my husband latched onto the romantic notion of taking the ferry to work and I was smitten with the top ranked school system and warm community.
So, fast forward several years and the “what if” is now reality, and from my experience this is what I now know about relocating a family.
Every City Has Positives and Negatives
Make your list and give things weight. Does restaurant quality weigh the same as school quality? Look at the positives and negatives as they apply to your life now and in the next five years. Living in an urban environment may appeal to you when the kids are gone, but the suburbs may be the way to go when the kids are home and in school.
Find a Community
When you do land in your new spot, get out and look around. Do not stay in and wait for a community to come knocking at your door. Do things you really like to do and use being in a new city as an excuse to do them. If you haven’t been able to justify taking that art class lately, now is the time. Join the gym, get in a knitting circle, join a book club or mom’s group. Online groups are a great way to start. For example Bainbridge Island has a group called IslandMoms that gives advice on topics from parenting to remodeling and alerts the community to family centered events.
Put on Your Oxygen Mask First
Or don’t forget to arrange your life so that you are happy, while you are arranging the lives of children and husband. For the moms out there, remember yourself. When we got here I busied myself signing the kids up for camps and lessons, arranging play dates, setting up new dentists and doctors for everyone, but for a while neglected myself and my personal needs. I was lucky enough to meet people and start feeling at home along the way, but it took me a few too many months to start signing myself up for lessons and finding groups I was interested in. Only when I did, did feel like I was putting down roots in my new community.
Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t
Don’t play that game. When my husband got a job offer that looked like it was going to be all that we wanted it to be, we were somewhat torn because we were not unhappy living where we were, but we knew living the next five years in a city, with kids, would bring changes we didn’t want.Very quickly we decided we had to make the move, knowing we would always regret it if we didn’t.Only later did I realize that regret can go both ways.If we had stayed we could have blamed everything that went wrong in our lives on that fact that we did not make the move.After moving however, I started blaming all the hiccups on the fact that we moved, determined that we would have been happier if we would have just stayed.That was a game we quickly had to stop playing.Every place and situation can lead to good or bad, I have learned perspective and attitude play a bigger role when handling life’s hiccups, wherever they may be.
What You Left Were Things and Relationships
The good thing is, you take the memories with you. I was very sad to leave my garden and all the roses I had gotten from my husband and kids over the eight years we lived in our house. I was sad to leave the kids’ playhouse behind and the great kitchen we had remodeled. I have realized now that even the testaments of love, the roses left behind, mean the same and hold the same value in my heart as they would if I looked at them daily. I have the memory and often cherish the kindness and love that they symbolize. I am lucky because those same acts of love continue to show themselves in my life. Relationships are harder to continue long distance, we all know that. And we all know that often after someone moves the relationship ends all together. That can also lead to a feeling of loss and sadness. That is ok, a wise friend taught me that it was ok and actually good to be sad about leaving people. That means, she said, that the times and relationships I had made had value and weight, were real and worthwhile. That, was a good thing. It would be “sad,” she said if I could just pack my bags, head out of town and not think twice about the people and memories in my current community. I had lived my life and that was a good thing.
Memories Can be Made in Your New Place, Keep the Good Traditions, Fold in the New
Right away start looking at ways to build family traditions and look to your new surroundings for inspiration. In our old city, on weekends, we would take long walks and end up at a coffee shop, talk to neighbors, pet dogs. Now, we are not really in walking distance to a coffee shop, but we have beaches only minutes away where the kids can gather sticks and chase crabs, good times. We used to go out as a family every Friday night, enjoying time together as a family. Our restaurant choices aren’t as wide here, so we still go out, but it is more like every other week, so instead we have pizza and watch a movie on the Fridays we don’t go out.
Change is Not Easy, But It Gets Easier the More You Do It
I can get comfy pretty fast. After changing schools, then districts as a teacher, then grades, I was warming up to change. Later, I changed careers altogether and went into real estate. That was a big change and kind of scary at first. But, as they say, nothing worth doing is ever easy. All this change, prepared me for the big change of relocating my family. It was not easy, but now that we are on the other side, I can say it was well worth doing.