Just … because

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With the exception of four years at the University of Delaware and another 2 1/2 in Nashville at The Tennessean, I’ve spent my entire life living in New York State.

I love it here. It’s where I was born and raised. It’s where my parents, my sister-in-laws, my nephews reside. I dig the spring, cherish the summer, embrace the fall. I can’t get enough of Bear Mountain and strolls through Manhattan and bagels and pizza and the Freight House Cafe and Swirl Coffee and Tea Shop and Dylan’s Candy Bar. I’m all about the directness New Yorkers usually bring to the table—”Hey, what’s up?” and “Go fuck yourself.” Hard, straight, precise.

And yet …

This summer, we’re moving to California.

And I’m super psyched.

“Wait,” many have said, “why are you moving to California?”

“What do you mean?” I reply.

“New job?”

“Nope.”

“Writing opportunities?”

“Not really.”

“Your wife’s from out west?”

“Eh, no. She’s also a New Yorker.”

“So … why?”

Answer: Just … because.

I’ve met many, many, many folks who don’t get this; who find it baffling that a family would uproot for the sake of uprooting. But, again, I’m psyched. Beyond psyched.

My job is writing books and articles. Books and articles can be written anywhere. My wife is a college professor. Colleges exist across the United States. What we want—crave—is adventure. Uniqueness. Cool experiences, new sights and sounds and tastes and smells and textures. I’ve long wanted to live in Southern California, and my Showtime experiences did nothing to extinguish that desire. I’ve repeatedly said to the wife, “Let’s try California!”—and she repeatedly said, “Not likely.”

Then, this past January, she was away for our 12th wedding anniversary. She gave me instructions to open a card on the morning of the big day. I followed the request, and came upon this …

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Along with the card was a wrapped gift. I opened it, and found this …

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 12.26.14 PMGod, I love her.*

Some of my family members are not thrilled. What about holidays? What are you going to do on Thanksgiving? On Yom Kippur? Birthdays and Passover and … and … and … the kids. You’re … leaving.

I get it, and I understand.

Truth be told, this is hard. Painful. We’ve gone back and forth, back and forth. We live in an awesome neighborhood—diverse, open-minded, embracing—with dozens of kids and wonderful families. We’ve made friends who, I genuinely believe, will last a lifetime. My folks live 40 minutes away. My sister-in-laws are 10 minutes away. My nephews, too. Across the street is a boy, age 5, who I’ve watched grow nearly his entire life. When I see him outside I scream, “Best!” and he replies, “Friends!” It’s magical.

Sigh.

But here’s what else I get, and understand: Life is short. Terribly short. You blink, 10 years pass. You blink again, another 10 years. There is so much out there to experience, and I can’t handle the idea of confining oneself. We’re lucky enough to be able to take a shot; to try something new; to jump from the Atlantic to the Pacific and see if the water feels any different. We want our kids to see the stuff they’ve never seen before. I hope they try surfing. I hope they spend their high school years playing beach volleyball; taking walks through the sand on a warm December day. I hope they dig fish tacos as much as I dig fish tacos.

Back in 2008, the wife and I went to the local theater to watch Revolutionary Road, the Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet film about a suburban couple that always talked about escaping to Paris—but, ultimately, never did. The film resonated with me like no movie ever had. I felt their need to break out and stretch their limits, but also the resistance that came with such desires. There were bills to pay and responsibilities to handle and a looming power that crushes dramatic change.

Because I’m married to a truly amazing person, we’ve fought—hand in hand—to keep from falling into the trap of blasé. We’ve done house swaps, taken funky trips, tried shit many people don’t try (one hasn’t lived until he’s eaten a termite in a Costa Rican jungle). It’s a challenge, because the couch is awfully inviting, and Netflix can hold a guy down for hours.

But, come day’s end, we crave the new, and the unique.

This is the next step.

* For the record, she’s taken tons of risks. She just doesn’t think of them as risks. And we call each other “Earl.” Long story—here’s the explanation.

15 thoughts on “Just … because”

  1. Jeff,
    I’ve read your blog for a while now but I don’t think I’ve ever posted. My wife and I recently moved to the San Francisco Bay area from Maryland. It was especially tough for her since she grew up on the east coast and all of her family lives out there. We’ve been out here in California about 8 months now and we are loving it! Great weather, diverse culture, great food (and wine!), it’s been fantastic. Good luck on your upcoming move.
    Kenric

    1. The beauty of living in LA is that you can live just outside of it but within 30 minutes of everything. Try a bedroom community like La Crescenta or La Canada. They’re beautiful

  2. Born and raised in SoCal. Moved to Reno in 1978 at age 26. Never wanted to move back. I fear major culture shock for your wife and kids. Good luck.

  3. Jeff, I moved here 28 years ago from the Northeast, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. You are making a wise decision. Even if you decide to move back after a few years, you will always be able to say you did what you wanted to do. Just be careful of where you choose to live, traffic can sour a person on the experience of living here faster than anything else. Good luck!

  4. Moving from New York to California doesn’t seem to qualify as a major adventure. Read Mosquito Coast or any of those other stories in which people were truly uprooted from their safety zone. You’ll find the same restaurants, the same TV shows, the same issues
    on either coast. Basically, you’re getting a slightly more laid back lifestyle and better weather in exchange for less energy in the air. Good luck to you, though!

    1. I love comments like this: I’m basically gonna crap all over everything you said in your post, but best of luck to you! Where are you from David, so I can never go there?

      1. New York, New York, it’s so nice they named it twice. And I have oftened travel all the way across the country to the new land of California and I’ve discovered I can understand their language and digest their exotic foods. My point, Giles, is that it’s nice that people move, and tens of thousands of people move within this country every single day, but to portray it as a great adventure that takes courage seems to me to be a very American way of making what we do mightily important. Change is good, but this isn’t a spectacular change.

      2. Shocker. Does that confirm your decision Jeff? We can’t wait to see you and your family.

        David, I do understand your point, but I think you’re being a little obtuse. If you read the post and followed Jeff’s blog you’d understand that Jeff was sharing his INNER thoughts with you. I don’t believe he’s sharing it to boast about what a great adventure he’s going on, which obviously doesn’t impress you. He communicating his anxiety and uncertainty over a big decision (that, yes, many people make). These are emotions that humans feel, and, from time to time, like to express. Personally, I have empathy for this. That’s why I like Jeff’s blog. I’m not sure why you read it.

  5. Hi Jeff, first time, long time. I did the opposite, grew up in Huntington Beach, then moved at 37 to San Francisco. Now at 47 I moved to New Orleans. Each time it was terrifying and greatly satisfying. Good luck! ps, about 3/4 through Showtime, outstanding work.

  6. Andrew H. Salomon

    Congratulations to you and your family on your new home and for having the courage to try something new. “Be bold and strong forces will come to your aid,” said someone famous whose name escapes me. Stay in touch.

  7. Moving to Orange County? Welcome to the neighborhood. You’re family will enjoy it here. UC Irvine has a fine literary journalism program, and it’d be great if you could teach a class there. I’d even sit in.

  8. I am going to be the lone dissenter here and say I believe this is a mistake. I did what Jeff is proposing to do and while it worked out ok I wouldn’t do it again. I am not going to lay the guilt trip on about the kids and family as I am sure others already have and Jeff seems to be aware of the high cost there.
    But in a practical sense those great vacations will likely be few and far between. While your kids are still young you will probably spend your vacation time visiting friends and family at “home” and not in Costa Rica. Then back to work.

    Stay at home and use your free time to explore the world.

    I guess I am raining on Jeff’s parade but it is just how I see it from my experience.

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