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.