Thursday, July 18, 2013

Moving On

Reality is beginning to set in. After more than eight years living in my home in Fair Oaks, Calif. and about 10 years living in the Sacramento area, I am on my way to a new home in Baton Rouge. While the actual traveling and physical moving does not begin for another three weeks or so, and although I am still residing in my house, most of my stuff is either packed, tossed out, moved to storage or in some process of becoming boxed, trash or stored. Most of my stuff will not be moving with me, but eventually it, too, will find a new home. I just do not know where it will be yet. But for the next two years at least, I will be calling Baton Rouge my home.

Those who know my story might say this is old news. After all, haven’t I been living in Baton Rouge since the fall of 2011? The short answer is yes, but to it one must add the ubiquitous “but:” But I have not only maintained my home in California, I have also maintained my residency here. My car and motorcycle have California plates, I am registered to vote in California and my driver’s license is issued by the state of California. I could do all that because my permanent address was the home I am now vacating and preparing for new (and my first ever) tenants. Furthermore, where I lived for the past four semesters in Baton Rouge could never be called a home. They call it “Northgate Apartments,” but what it amounted to was just a step – a small step - above dormitory living. And finally, I went back to California for virtually every single break in school, including the Mardi Gras break in my first year at LSU (for Mardi Gras this year I brought part of home to Louisiana – a different story for a different time). The long and the short of it is that I never really left California.

In three weeks I will move away from my home state for the first time in my life. Although I hope to return not just to California, but somewhere near Sacramento after earning my Ph.D., there is no way to know if or when that will happen. To say this move is a semi-permanent one it not only true in the short term, it is also an open question in the long term as well. My anchors are all gone. Nothing is holding me here. My boys are grown and out living their lives. My education at California State University, Sacramento maxed out at an MA degree and my short-lived marriage (along with the kids that came with it) is now all but history. I am 50 years old and I have not experience this sort of freedom for more than 25 years. And while I have many dear friends here, they will remain dear friends no matter where I live. Of course I will return to visit often, but I will not be sleeping in my house – someone else will be paying me for that right.

People move all the time and many have moved more often and over greater distances than I have. Some move their entire families in search of greener pastures. While I have uprooted my own family on numerous occasions, we never moved very far, always staying in Northern California. However, this move is all new for me. It is exciting, but certainly not what I had planned. Indeed, not much in the past ten years has been. Opportunity has knocked and I have answered the door. Had I known the magnitude of the commitment and the work involved, had I known the pitfalls that lay ahead, I never would have taken that first step. All of it, the good, the bad and the ugly have played a pivotal role in placing me in this position. I can safely say that had I known what the future held, I would have stayed where I was – comfortably stagnant. A dynamic life does not come without its share of risk, but the risks I am taking today are a far cry from those I took in my earlier years. Some of those nearly killed me.

When I moved to Sacramento, I did not have any intention of staying. I did not like the geography or the weather and I didn’t really know anyone. Now I not only know many, some of them are among the closest friends I have ever had. And I have grown to like Sacramento weather and geography as well, although I am still not much for the city or urban life. Since I have spent more of the past two years in Baton Rouge than I have in Sacramento, I have learned to enjoy what it has to offer and I also have many acquaintances, colleagues and few friends there. While I will probably never get fully acclimated to the weather in the South, it will make me appreciate the weather in California that much more when I return to visit. I have heard too many times that life’s major disruptions create an opportunity for something better, for growth, that painful events offer learning experiences. As much as I acknowledge those truths, it doesn’t make it any easier when one is in the middle of the storm. Now that the clouds are clearing, however, that is exactly what has transpired.

So much is coming to an end - an ill-fated and short-lived marriage, a multi-year residency in the same home, a 50-year lifetime of living in not just the same state, but in a 200-mile radius within that state. The things that must be done to make it all happen have been taking most of my time this summer, but summer is quickly coming to an end. Reality is setting in.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Beginning

In four days it will have been a year since my wedding day. While it is still technically my first wedding anniversary, there will not be a second. The divorce will be final before the end of this calendar year. It represents “the end” that I wrote about in my last post. However, as was alluded to in a comment to that post and as I elaborated in my own comment following it, every end is also a beginning; and so it is with this one. And while part of my path is a continuation of the educational goal I am already in the midst of, the recent turn of events has radically altered how that road will be traveled. This “end” also represents a radical new beginning for my future ex-wife. Although this reality is obviously not how either of us envisioned it, the fact remains that if we did not love each other we would not have married. Love is a necessary component, but no matter how strong it is, love alone is not enough. It can, however, be very convincing.

Break-ups are difficult under the best of circumstances. Ours has seen the entire range of emotions. We have finally settled into a civil relationship that will, I sincerely hope, continue to evolve as a friendship. Accepting that we must walk separate paths has been a difficult process that is finally settling in. I can look back and second guess myself; say if only this or that had been different, if only I had done or not done this or she had done or not done that, but in the end I can no more change the past than I could see into the future. Shit happened and from here on all either of us can do is pick ourselves up and move forward. It is a new beginning.

Hers is her story, but she is doing the things she needs to do. She has in some ways taken a step back to reestablish herself, but in other, perhaps more important ways, she has made huge strides and is discovering the person I fell in love with, that kind spirit that I know lives in her heart. She is about to embark on a new phase and I not only wish her well, I am sure she will discover in herself what I and many others already see. It sometimes takes a major disruption in life to spur one to new heights… some call it a “bottom.” There are many varieties and I have experienced my fair share, but it could just as easily be called “the end.”

Circling back around to this post’s theme, ends are also beginnings. I started my doctoral program at LSU two years ago. While this coming fall semester does not come with the trepidation that my first semester did, there are a number of factors that make my return to Baton Rouge new. First and foremost, this “return” is semi-permanent. For the past two years I have maintained my residency in California and viewed my school/work in Louisiana more as a long-distance commute. Even though I had what was euphemistically called an “apartment,” it was never home. When I go back, I will be moving into a house in a quiet residential neighborhood a lot like the one I currently have in California. With my house in California rented out, Baton Rouge will be my only home. I will live there – and only there – for the next two years. Furthermore, even though I will be a third year Ph.D. student, the coming semester will be the last of my coursework. In the spring I will be taking my qualifying exams and from there on, I will be writing my dissertation. All new. And the beginning to another end, which will be yet another new beginning.

I do not know what the future holds. If I did, things, lots of things, would be much different. Maybe this marriage would have worked out. Maybe we never would have been married in the first place. Maybe my first marriage more than 25 years ago would have worked out. Maybe we would never have married. The fact is that through the things I have done I have become who I am. The mistakes I have made have made me into a better version of me – and know this, there is still a lot of room for improvement. These cycles in life, these endings and beginnings, the bottoms I have hit and the process of climbing out of them, all of it is the stuff of life. I certainly have not made it easy on myself, but I don’t know that it could have been any other way. While I regret those instances where my difficulties, my pain, my growth has negatively affected those I love, I don’t regret my own pain that I have experienced throughout my trials. Each represents a new beginning.