Sabbatical Update: Changing the Scenery
Back in April, I shared the decision I'd made to formally take a sabbatical from my work as a consultant, and give myself the time and space to determine what my next chapter might look like.
Four months later, while there are certain areas of my future I'm still cogitating on, one big thing became crystal clear: the place I have committed to departing.
I also took a really close look at where I am living my life and did an audit of it all. Do I like my community? Do I live in a place conducive to friendships with women of my generation? What about specifically making friends those who don't have kids, like my husband and I? Do I live somewhere where a large number truly and genuinely care about human rights and the environment and equality and promoting a life free of narcissistic healthcare decisions? Do I like my options where I live or am I stuck with few choices, poor quality in those choices, and ultimately feel stuck beyond the confines of my property?
My god, I adore this home we've literally transformed both inside and out. I love the sounds of the birds. I love walking the property with my husband, from the forested area in the back to the wildflowers in the pasture that we've let regenerate and simply mowed a few simple paths through to the insanely huge veggie garden and mini orchard we created to the flower garden that I can look outside my home office and see an amazing variety of hummingbirds, songbirds, and bees having the time of their lives enjoying the flowers I've planted just for them. I love the open kitchen with the island I built by hand, the dining room table I built from reclaimed wood, and the bamboo floors my husband installed in our gloriously large bedroom that was once stinky green carpet. I love that I can leave my doors unlocked and I love that I don't need to have my dog fenced in to keep him safe and I love that it doesn't get disgustingly hot (or cold) here. I love all of this so much.
My home's evolution since this photo was taken eighty years ago...
But I don't love the area. I don't love how people drive their cars on the beach, making it loud, polluted and unsafe. I don't love how white supremacists thinly veiled under the 'timber unity' logo, and the narcissistic COVID deniers responsible for the child-harming Delta variant are so prevalent, how our district was the only one to flip Republican in 2020, and the nasty passive aggressive undercurrent that flows through a town where outsiders are clearly not welcome even as they provide the source of most folks' incomes. I don't love the shitty food and the apathetic service. I don't love that I am still wearing masks because the leadership here is so incredibly weak and unskilled. I don't love the 60 inches of rain we got in the first THREE MONTHS of 2021 alone, and for a native of the Pacific Northwest, that's saying something. (For those not aware of precipitation totals, that 60" is 18" more than what Portland gets in a year, and 22" more than Seattle's annual average). And while I've met a few cool folks along the way, making friends here is, like an early massage therapist I went to had mentioned, horribly challenging. If you don't have kids? That's hard enough. But if you don't have kids AND live out in the rural area of town like we do surrounded by breeders who act as if you're a freak of nature to just have animals? It's nearly impossible. My closest relationship was with my longtime-and-now-former next door neighbor...who moved back to the city we both had come from. And she is more like an auntie since she's in her 70s. A valued relationship, but not a girlfriend, you know? And finally, if someone decides they want to put their 9 year old business to bed and change careers, a tourist town with a foundation of the service industry is not where one starts a new chapter.
So what do you do? You look at your other geographic options. For us, West Coast is and will always be the only option. Intense humidity and/or extreme cold while also being landlocked just won't fly. Visit? Yes. Live? No.
So we looked at cities, and considering I've lived in all three states on the West Coast, it wasn't terribly difficult. California was really tempting, as I'd always been curious about living in Northern Cal, knowing the Bay Area has so much opportunity and creativity abounding. But with the costs at meteoric levels and pandemic escapees moving further and further out, the areas we were contemplating had exploded in home pricing. We took a working vacation to Sonoma County, thinking we had found our niche, and arrived to realize that the Santa Rosa area was basically suburbia, with their only cool old homes butted up against the freeway (talk about poor city planning!), and employers still trying to pay 1990s wages to my husband and their embarrassingly unprofessional recruiting practices. The surrounding towns were okay, but the bougie nature of several of them gave me flashbacks of my years in Santa Barbara where it, while aesthetically gorgeous, reeked of inequity and the passivity of the residents towards using their enormous wealth to affect real, lasting change towards equity was so devastating. And with the enormous impact of climate change driving wildfires and drought in the area, it just did not make sense. We'd contemplated further south as well, like Ventura County, but the prospects for a walkable/bikeable town and a house we could afford with the proceeds from selling the farm? Not viable.
And California was out. Because one of the biggest things we had decided upon three years ago was that when we left Portland, we were going to pay cash for our next home. Yet we fell in love with this old farmhouse and made a lateral move, doing nothing for our financial situation that we'd claimed was so important. Well, fool me once! So we told ourselves on this next chapter, even if we have to buy an 800 s.f. home, We Will Pay Cash. Because times like this - where your property skyrockets in value by almost 80%? They are rare, and they are not to be ignored. I worked my ass off when I started my consulting business to eliminate my student loans, credit card debt, and so much more. Financial freedom to the two of us is the Number One item on our Bucket List, and to have it so attainable is just...gorgeous.
Oregon, my beloved home state, you may be where I was born but you are not where I found my spirit. That belongs to one town, and one town alone. Seattle. And as I write this, I see the parallels to that journey back in the 1990s. In 1994, I knew I had to get out of Portland and so I took a job in Denver with my company and spent one miserable year there. Hard to make friends, a work environment that dulled the senses, and a climate I detested. It gave me real time with my Dad, so I don't regret it, but I knew it didn't feed me. And so when the suggestion came to consider Seattle (which, as a friend said, "has lots of dudes there", perfect for my single self at the time), I seized the opportunity, sold everything and traveled back across the mountains and up to the corner of the continental US...and found a place where I was able to discover a new side of me. Seattle is where I made amazing friendships, started a new career after 7 years in retail, and where I could live the kind of life I wanted, learn more about the world, and be more of me. Why did I leave Seattle, you ask? Ahh, hindsight. My company had gone through a prolonged period of intense drama and stress, so much so that at the end, many of us questioned it all and took off on new adventures. My (first) husband and I decided that at the time meant Southern California.
Isn't that funny. I write this and see the thousands of parallels to the life I am in now. Needing to escape Portland after our miscarriage and failed years of IVF had ruined my health, and running to a place I had not spent nearly enough time in, only to find out it was incredibly untenable with my personality...even if it was near the beach. Or in the first version, needing to escape Portland and an unhealthy relationship, going to a town where I felt completely out of place and friendships were few and far between, and needing to start a new life.
Denver was my rebound. Astoria was my second rebound. And Seattle? The expectation is that, once again, you will save me. You will reignite me. You will be the palette for me to paint my next picture.
So, the Emerald City awaits.
We have accepted an offer from a buyer for our little farm here on the coast. Beloved Farms, where the air is quiet, the ducks and chickens are noisy, the bees embrace the flowers we planted for them, the vegetables grow like crazy...and the home has been given a new life. As I shared the William Kent quote to my husband in his melancholy over leaving what we have built here, I reminded him of our home in Portland that we sold and that one must always"garden as though you will live forever." I bought the bungalow in Portland and transformed it and the land indelibly, and I bought this farmhouse here in Astoria and, together, my husband and I have done the same. I started my business in the first and closed down the primary leg of it this year in the second. This property we have breathed new life into, the land it is on finally welcoming back the worms and the bees and so much more that were missing for so many years, and the farmhouse that we opened up, protected, and nurtured to its current state, now will go to a young family. Like us, the husband is from Australia, the wife is from America, but in the land's next chapter, there will be a little boy, a two year old who has almost only known pandemic life. He will get to scamper around the pastures and gardens and they will work from home and care for the garden and start their next chapter under wide open spaces.
We close in 29 days, and then will start a crazy adventure - searching for a little cottage in the city, one with half the square footage (this home has always been far too big for me), with just one story (stairs have proved challenging with a newly arthritic knee), and where we will have neighbors closer by, and get back to a life where coffee shops and restaurants and parks and farmers' markets are just a walk or bike ride away. Where sidewalks exist and where multiculturalism and creativity flourishes, not to mention so many career opportunities I never could have imagined in this tiny coastal town I currently reside.
This home of ours has evolved, and I am so excited for the new owners to take it to the next level and give it even more love. I am excited for the next chapter, as my husband go from child-less to child-free (special gratitude goes out to my friend Cindy and to Live Childfree podcasters Erik & Melissa for showing us the possibilities, not to mention the childfree groups in Seattle I've recently joined and am thrilled to be a part of when we arrive later this fall!). I am excited to leap, knowing the net will appear for me as a woman discovering how my next chapter will be written. I am excited for my husband, who has already found a happy spot to land professionally, and I am excited to have the blank slate of zero mortgage introducing so many possibilities to our life and the impact we can have on the planet and our new community.
Like so many have said, the pandemic has spurred changes...some of them defined, some of them vague, but all of them based on the desire for greater happiness, and with the acceptance that things don't have to look like they always have. In the Guardian article, A Career Change Saved My Life, one of the people interviewed explained how "Leaving a successful career seemed like a difficult decision, although he says now “staying and continuing to suffer is also a decision”. The author also reminded us that "If you make enough changes, however, you can transform your life for the better." So we are making big changes. Geography. Social. Career. And while returning to recruiting would take something very, very special to get me to re-commit to that work, it is possible. But it won't be in tech, I know that. I know that world, and that industry is not about the greater good. So I am quietly looking at how I can use my breadth of experience in new ways - inspiring others while also learning from them to better myself, but always doing these things in a way that is about doing more for the planet, the community, and with mindfulness and authenticity, where diversity isn't simply some initiative, but built-in, and where people feel safe to challenge each other, and therefore grow together. Where both staff and candidates and customers feel respected and valued.
We all need that oxygen mask so we can be more to others. And that's what this sabbatical - and this big set of steps - intends to do.
Not running away, but running towards.
A future I never could have imagined, but am optimistic to now face, for the first time in too many years.
Things are looking vague - and that's a good thing.
Me in Seattle 20 years ago, Me in Astoria this year. Traded a camera for a chook it might seem? Nah. Can't wait to see what's to come...