Ordinary Bravery


For this Blogging for Books, write a blog entry (2,000 words or less, please) about a time when you took a risk in your life on someone or something – a new romance, a new career, a new home, etc. Were you successful beyond your wildest dreams – or did you crash and burn?

“I can’t get over how brave you are,” my aunt told me on the phone a few weeks ago.

“I’m not brave,” I said. “I make Fuzzy kill spiders for me, and I’m still horribly shy.”

“But you picked up and moved from California to Texas,” she responded, her tone implying that Texas was about as foreign as Mars. “That’s brave.”

“No,” I said. “That was necessity.”

That conversation has been echoing in my brain ever since, as I’ve tried to figure out what about our move from California to Texas is brave.

We were fairly typical Californians: good jobs, no kids, owned our home. Our condo in one of San Jose’s funkiest neighborhoods wasn’t huge, but it was light and airy, and within walking distance from an ‘art’ theater, the bank, and Starbucks. (Anyone who knows me will understand that proximity to Starbucks is no small thing in my life.) If it had had one more room, we’d never have moved. Our mortgage wasn’t terribly large, we had hardwood floors, a great kitchen, and a hot tub, and I loved the location.

But Fuzzy’s parents were hesitant to visit because they like to come with half his other family, and we just didn’t have the space, and my parents had just retired to Mexico, which meant that their visits would be month-long marathon sessions during which my house became their home base. One more room and it wouldn’t have mattered so much – one more room and a bathroom would have made things ideal.

So in 2002, we sold the condo and bought a house, mortgaging it to the hilt, in typical California fashion. Our mortgage was scary high. But we were making excellent money, and were so giddy over having a house that didn’t share walls with someone else, that we didn’t care. We could afford it.

For the first six months, life was bliss. We spent Christmas in France, bought new computers, and still went to see a play or concert in San Francisco at least once a month. There was a minor snafu when my company changed the payroll schedule without warning, but it was quickly worked through. In the summer of 2003, though, everything changed. My company – a small mortgage brokerage – lost a $12,000,000 pipeline when our lead investor went bankrupt with no warning (apparently they’d been committing fraud on the secondary market), and never really recovered from the loss of money or the loss of credibility. My paycheck, formerly fat with commissions, was reduced by about half. But we were okay, and I liked where I worked, just a few blocks from the new house, within walking distance of my favorite foofy salon. I could have gotten hired anywhere – my resume earned tons of calls when I posted it on Monster – but nothing was ‘right.’

We managed to get through the rest of 2003, but in 2004 everything got worse. While Fuzzy’s job was still (he assured me) stable, his company was doing mass layoffs. Then interest rates went up, and the slowdown made our loan officers lose their motivation. Our top producers moved out of the company, one to a real estate developer, the other to a cousin’s firm. And then we had personal disasters – an $8500 plumbing disaster that insurance wouldn’t cover, followed a month later by a burst water heater. It got to the point where we wouldn’t have minded if Fuzzy had been layed off, as the severance package would have been amazing. But he didn’t.

As summer approached, and business slowed even more, we tried desperately to find a way out. Finally, I sat down and said, “I love our home, but we have to move. The stress alone is killing us. We’re crabby, I’m always sick, and I can’t live this way.”

We made that decision in June, after sitting down and looking at places where Fuzzy’s company had sites. London and Germany were ruled out – too expensive, and the dogs would have to be quarantined. Virginia has serious winter. Colorado, my top choice, no longer had anything but operations. Texas….Texas wasn’t where I ever imagined myself living, but the cost of living was so much lower….it made sense.

90 days later, we’d sold the house. We hadn’t netted quite as much as we wanted, but it was enough. We packed the house, arranged for the movers to store everything for a month while we found a new house in the Dallas metroplex, and rolled out of town (after a night in the worst hotel ever) on the morning of September 1st.

It wasn’t until we reached Barstow that my brain began to register that this was permanent, that we didn’t have any live friends in Texas, that we were doing this with no support network. But people make moves like this all the time, don’t they? That doesn’t constitute risk, does it?

Another six weeks later, and we were walking around our new (empty) house in Grand Prairie. I’ve never lived in the heart of suburbia before, but our neighborhood doesn’t feel too Stepford-esque, and there’s a Starbucks five minutes away, one direction, and a Curves five minutes in the other. My neighbors are nice people, even if they don’t let their dogs sleep inside their houses, and I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of taking walks with my own dogs, who are happier as well. Our life is slower, and we don’t do as much yet, but that’s changing.

Smaller things have changed as well. I’m working from home, as an independent contractor for my old company. I love that I can make my own schedule, or work in my pajamas. I’ve made it a goal to sell something I’ve written this year – doesn’t matter what – probably an article, and I’m excited about that. I’m blogging almost every day.

So, was it risky moving here? I guess it was. But as they said in Brigadoon, “Sometimes you have to give up everything, to have everything.”

11 thoughts on “Ordinary Bravery

  1. Hee hee! You said Virginia has serious winters. Hee! (Don’t forget I live in Boston)

    I’ve never moved with a support system. Even my move to Boston had my friends move in AFTER I did. I know it was a move from slower to faster, but it suited my single life. :)

    I think I’m where you were about 5 or 6 years ago, but not married. :)

  2. I moved west after a quarter century in Chicago. I was younger and I think a little bemused by the lack of intensity at first. Later I came to cherish the slower pace. You don’t hear the sound of the other rats scrambling on their treadmills, and that is a blessing. In fact, when the population is less dense, it is easier to think kindly on your fellows.

    I also lived in Texas for a couple of years in El Paso. It was beautiful country.

    I think your move will prove to be a great decision, whether prompted by necessity or not.

  3. I used to live in Grand Prairie, and a sister still lives in the area (Mansfield, but works in Arlington). It was a nice town, with friendly folks back then, and I don’t imagine that part has changed much.

  4. I want to argue the line ‘that we didn’t have any live friends in Texas’–I was here–cheering you on the whole way via the net! So what if we’re still 2+ hours apart…it’s closer than 20+ ;)

  5. Karen:
    You know, even though I KNOW you’re in the same state, and I KNOW that state is Texas, somehow, I never remember that. It’s sort of like you exist independent of any location.

    That will change when I actually see you in person, which will hopefully be soon.


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  8. Welcome to Texas, Pard! Nice story. Drop by my place and Howdy real nice if you’d like to be added to my Texas Blog roll. ;)

  9. Great entry…It is so great to read this (and the other entries) and see, in retrospect, how things that initially seem so scary tend to work out for the best in the end.

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