Moving On: Part 1

Red door!

In 2010, after my marriage ended, most people were surprised that I wanted to stay in the suburban house I’d bought with my ex-husband. We’d lived there together for four years, but the thing was, the house was mostly mine anyway. I was the one who’d spent collective months painting trim, doors, and walls, tending the lawn, and planting perennials. Most of my time there was already spent alone. At a time when so much had been taken from me without my consent, I refused to let anyone take away my home too, when I was in a position to keep it. Memories or no memories.

Over the last few years, my house has been my refuge. For a while I called it “The Cloister” because I wanted it to be a place of peace and contemplation for all. (It was also a nod to my unintentionally nunlike existence, though men were always welcome at The Cloister.) My family and I fixed up the house to within an inch of its life. My dad and I spent an entire weekend repainting the exterior. My brother remodeled my bathroom. I had new flooring installed. I’ve replaced almost every major appliance (and, in a freak occurrence, the garage door. Whose garage door collapses for no reason?!?). After years of trial and error, my raised-bed garden is seasoned and settled. My house is totally me, and perfect. My house is done.

Last summer, I noticed I wasn’t really feeling it anymore. I used to love taking a turn around my yard and garden right after work, checking on my plants and generally surveying my domain. I used to feel so happy and satisfied being home and enjoying my solitude. But suddenly, it didn’t have the same thrill. I was itchy for company and excitement. I wanted to be part of something. And everything was happening in town, half an hour away. It had always been kind of a challenge to get friends out to my house, and that bothered me more than before. I felt frustrated in ways I couldn’t explain, even to myself.

At the beginning of last August, I had a massive cusp-of-35 meltdown. I came home late one night to find my cat mysteriously sick, the first sign of the cancer that would take him six weeks later (though my only knowledge then was a vague sense of impending doom), and I fell apart. My dad (Best Dad Ever) came over at 11 pm to make sure I was okay. We sat together on the couch and I sobbed out everything that had been weighing on me. I felt like I had nothing to show for 35 years of life, like I’d wasted my entire adulthood up to this point. I felt like I’d spent the years since the divorce, especially, on a hamster wheel. Other people my age were advancing in their careers, advancing in their relationships, doing big things, and I was still going nowhere without a map. I’d spent so many years quietly unhappy in my circumstances, waiting for divine intervention or direction that everyone had promised would come, and that passivity now looked like a tragic waste. I couldn’t stand idly by anymore. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but I knew I wanted something more. Something different. Some action.

“Brens, you’re the boss of your own life. Anything you want to do, you can do it,” Pops answered when I was done talking. “We can do it. This…” he waved his hand to indicate my beautiful home we’d labored over for years “…This is all just stuff.”

It started there, and almost six months later, I’m preparing to to list my beautiful suburban house and move to Midtown Memphis, into the heart of the city. I feel a degree of certainty about this move that I’ve felt about very few things in my life. I’m not even very concerned about the logistics, because I am that sure this is what God means for me to do, and He’s going to work it all out. That kind of trust is so hard for me to come by, I have to believe there’s something to it. Financially, and in some senses practically, this move makes no sense. I’m planning to rent in Midtown (what I’ll be renting is TBD), i.e. exchanging a responsible mortgage for Throwing My Money Away. I’ve taken some crap for deciding not to rent out my house and be a landlord for the next 30 years, therefore Losing My Only Asset. I’ll have higher bills for (most likely) a smaller living space, because Midtown is Expensive and Unsafe.

But I believe there are times in life to put your happiness and quality of life above practical concerns. Right now I commute back and forth from various parts of the city about ten times a week (work, church and social activities, basketball games), and I am exhausted. I’ve hit my limit of eating meals and doing wardrobe changes in my car, or deciding whether it’s worth it to drive home just to be there for half an hour before turning around and coming back. Over time, the driving has been a huge contributor to my burnout. Moving will set me free. One morning last month as I drove into work, I realized, I have a finite number of times left to do this, and such a huge weight lifted off me that I almost cried. I read recently that getting rid of your commute is the happiness equivalent of a $40,000 annual raise. I’m looking forward to experiencing this.

More importantly, I can’t wait to be where the action is. I can’t wait to casually hang out at the cool places I have to plan to go to now, to be able to stop by fun events and go home whenever I want. I’ve been thinking a lot about why single people traditionally live in the city and families traditionally live in the suburbs, and I think I finally understand. It’s about more than just perceived safety and access to clean grocery stores and good schools. The thing is, marriage and family naturally turn you inward. You want to create a safe haven that will nurture your relationships, a hub from which you can go out into the world and to which you can return to each other at the end of the day. The suburbs are great for that. But singleness turns you outward, especially when you live alone. You still need and deserve a restorative home for yourself, but there are no relationships there (other than with pets). Home is less of a hub and more of a charging station. To find human connection, you have to go out. And the city is great for that.

I think for many years, I was subconsciously hanging on to a little piece of my old married identity. I didn’t want to stray too far, because surely I would be “back on track” eventually. Well, not only have I cut the track, I’m tearing it up with a pickax. I’m ready to fully inhabit who and what I am and what I need now, regardless of my past or my future, regardless if it’s what someone my age “should” be doing. I am done living on shoulds and somedays. If this is what giving up looks like, count me in.

At the urging of some friends, I’ll be writing about this transition as it happens. I’m excited about this new chapter of my life and glad to have you guys along for the ride!

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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15 Responses to Moving On: Part 1

  1. Jamie Wright Bagley says:

    I love this freedom song of yours. Best of everything to you as you navigate the changes! Looking forward to hearing all about it.
    p.s. you have an awesome dad. That’s priceless. :)

  2. Sarah says:

    CONGRATULATIONS! It can be scary as hell to make those drastic changes, but so many kudos to you for doing it. Midtown is awesome and full of so many fun, great things and people. Screw a mortgage.

  3. Best of luck to you! I hope you enjoy your new digs immensely! Hugs to you!

  4. That is such a leap of faith! Congratulations! I’m so excited to see where this takes you.

  5. I’m excited to hear how everything unfolds and develops. Congratulations on finding your next step!

  6. “But singleness turns you outward, especially when you live alone. You still need and deserve a restorative home for yourself, but there are no relationships there (other than with pets). Home is less of a hub and more of a charging station. To find human connection, you have to go out. And the city is great for that.”

    So well said and very, very true for my experience.

  7. This made me pretty much cry with happiness :)

  8. MILISSA says:

    So excited for you! Every time I go to a “city” for work, I think of how cool it would be to live in the heart of a city…I’ve never lived anywhere “walkable” and I just think that would be so awesome. Mortgages are not ALWAYS the financially responsible thing to do…you’ve owned a house, so you know…it’s not just the house, it’s also maintenance, taxes, etc. I think renting in an area you are interested in is a fantastic idea. If down the road you LOVE it and know you want to stay longterm, you can look into buying something then…but only if it makes sense for you…it’s all about you! I can’t wait to hear about your adventure. And honestly, I don’t know much at all about midtown, so I’m excited for you to show me around. Thanks for sharing! :)

  9. MILISSA says:

    Oh and one more point…the not being a landlord decision is SMART. Mark used to serve evictions….I can tell you some awful horror stories. Sell it & make your $. :)

  10. wendy7291 says:

    I wish you the best on your move and the sell of your house. I agree with everything you said in your post. I to live 30 mins from the city but I am ok with that. I to have friends that I find it hard to get them to come see me but they want me to come see them. A part of me thinks that these people are truly not 100% my friend when it is to much trouble to come see me but expect me to come see them. I don’t know maybe I’m wrong but real friends give and take, right?

    I am excited to read about your move. Sending the best of wishes your way. You deserve it!

  11. Kathy Russell says:

    You should track your car miles per week now for a few average weeks and then compare them once you settle in your new TBD place. With Joseph at HRS, we live “far from many of his friends. But even if we lived near there, we’d still be driving pretty far to work and family. I think buying a helicopter is the only commute option that would really work out for me. :-)

  12. Nell Womack says:

    Oh, Brenda! I am inspired by you! Keep writing! I’m excited to follow this move.

  13. Meg E says:

    Love this. Glad I ventured out past LJ.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Love, love, love this!! I think you’re going to be so happy living in the city and being in the middle of action when you feel like it. :D

  15. night_falls says:

    I, for one, am very, very excited for you. I’ve been lurking on your blog for quite awhile now and this post drew me out of the woodwork. I hope you love city life, and relish the time you don’t spend commuting. Spending fewer hours in the car is a great way to reduce stress, and the amount of walking necessary for urban life is great for your health.

    Being able to change one’s life situation, rather than being chained to the hamster-wheel of daily routines and obligations to others, is a privilege and something to be happy about. I remind myself of this every time I relocate to a new city or freak out at all the money I’ve spent moving. If I had kids and a mortgage, I couldn’t be as free to change my life as I have been. Sometimes I feel a little bummed that I have so little to show in the way of material possessions for my 31 years on earth – no house, a tiny but cute apartment, no car – and while I’m thrilled I’ve been able to pursue goals that are important to me, and devote my life to work I think is important, sometimes I’m caught in this freak-out that I’m not where I thought I would be. I don’t have a house, or a car, or a secure job! But there are other things in life besides owning property, and I’m thrilled that you’re taking the plunge to live a life that will fit your priorities more soundly.

    Trust your gut instincts when it comes to renting. If you can’t immediately see yourself living there and feeling happy about walking in the door, walk away and don’t try to rationalize it. Every place has its benefits and drawbacks; decide which are important to you. My amazing kitchen sort of makes up for the lack of a second closet in the apartment besides the one in the bedroom. Beware of neighbourhoods where sirens are prevalent and a lot of people are coming home from the bar late at night; I’ve learned the hard way that this is not conducive to sleep, though I never felt endangered in my environment.

    I wish you the best and will look forward to reading about your adventures in becoming a Memphis urbanite!

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