Moving On: Part 1
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. →
Posted in announcement, family, moving, singleness