Monday, March 26, 2007

Start Spreading the News

This past weekend, I attended a going-away party for the latest in an unrelated set of friends packing up and leaving California. This is the third time in the last 9 months I’ve said goodbye to native Californians who by and large have lived their entire lives here. In no case was anyone transferred out-of-state for a job; the choice to leave their home state was made 100 percent by free will.

So now that a trend has been established, one I’ve contemplated participating in myself, the question must be asked – just what the heck is going on?

The first family to vacate California is that of a college friend. She, her husband, and their two kids sold their house in San Diego and moved last summer to Austin, Texas. This move, of the three I am describing, is the one that was most financially motivated. They had a nice house in San Diego, but now they have a much larger one with a smaller mortgage in a better neighborhood and school district. Plus, they are doing this on one income instead of two, which facilitates her ability to stay home with their young children, something they really wanted at this stage in their lives. They leave behind their entire extended families – she, especially, is close to hers – but the urge to shake things up and change their quality of life ultimately sealed their decision.

The second friend is a woman I met back when I was a volunteer at the local animal shelter. In her case, she was fortunate enough to sell her company a couple years ago and retire in her early 50s. She’s very well traveled, and in the years I’ve known her, she’s always managed to slip in a trip to New York in between African safaris and tropical cruises. About ten years ago, she considered buying an apartment in Manhattan as a second home, and I don’t recall now why that plan was abandoned, but it never came to fruition. Now that she’s retired at a relatively young age, she decided to make the move. She didn’t end up moving to the city but instead bought a sizable home on a large piece of land (especially by California beach standards, where she lived here) in Westchester near Connecticut. She’s been there about seven months now.

Last in my tale of exodus is the couple moving at the end of the week. They are my age who, after selling their restaurants last summer, viewed the world as their oyster. They almost bought a home while on vacation in New Zealand several months ago, but instead opted for an apartment in New York City’s Upper West Side. They liquidated a car, their house (truly Shangri-La), most of their furniture, and the aforementioned business to follow their dreams and pursue their new start. As an aside, I should mention that he is an artist and musician, and theirs was the only party I’ve ever attended where the guests received an original painting of their choice as a party favor. Extraordinarily dope.

The reason I detailed each of my vagrant set of friends was to illustrate the myriad circumstances in which these folks differ from one another. Yet I think it is notable they ultimately reached the same life-altering decision, in all cases voluntarily leaving behind a lifetime of family, friends, and homestead. The single unifying factor I can find in common among them is a profound sense of restlessness.

So here’s the point, and I’m not so sure the question is a rhetorical one. Where does the restlessness come from? And why now, why all at once? Is the restlessness some kind of post-apocalyptic aftershock to 9/11, Katrina, the Southeast Asian tsunami disaster, global warming, genocide in Africa, never-ending war in the Middle East, and all the other devastation we’ve suffered in the short time since the millennium? Or maybe it’s the precursor to something worse ahead, like the restlessness of animals before an earthquake or storm. Perhaps the people in my world are having a midlife crisis all in the same year, or even still, I suppose it’s possible I’m over-thinking the entire thing. Nah, it’s not the latter.


At Tuesday, March 27, 2007 8:05:00 AM, Blogger M-M-M-Mishy said...

If I could afford to be, I'd be very restless. During this dreadful winter, I planned out a huge road trip I want to take by myself. First, out to Newfoundland, down through the east coast, south to Florida, west through Texas to California, up north to B.C., back across the praries, and home. I'm thinking 3 months?

After school I want to spend a few months abroad before finding a job. I think my sense of travelling comes from my dad, who always told me that seeing the world and changing it up is what it's all about. He spent all of '74 bumming around Australia and when leaving found he only had enough cash to get a plane to Europe. So he hitchhiked across Europe until he got to England, got a plane to New York and bummed some rides back home. I believe this was the year my grandmother spent in a constant state of worry.

However, if I was living by the beach in warm weather I think I'd have a hard time leaving. In my mind, California is paradise.

At Tuesday, March 27, 2007 6:35:00 PM, Blogger joy said...

I remember before I left La where I was born and raised, no other family anywhere else but in California. Driving by my neigbor hood and seeing a girl a couple of years older than me X beauty pageant winner. Pregnant unwed living with parents just grazing on the lawn. I thought OMGD she will live and die and never know anything outside her comfort zone.

A cloud of suffocating depression went through me like a tidal wave..and I said goodbye to everything I've ever known.

At Tuesday, March 27, 2007 7:21:00 PM, Blogger Diane said...

A friend of mine just left OC after 20 some years to return to NC . . . she is devastated to have to leave Cali - so who knows?

At Tuesday, March 27, 2007 8:22:00 PM, Blogger GetFlix said...

California.. Beautiful. Massive. Sunny. Fun. But a little fake. Or should I say too perfect?

And I think many individuals, while quite different, still come to the same conclusion and, quickly leave.

At Tuesday, March 27, 2007 8:56:00 PM, Blogger ffleur said...

My take? California's beauty is a bit of an illusion. Once people actually live there, they see the pollution, overcrowding, isolation (drive everywhere - no pedestrian traffic therefore don't meet people) and expensive life style. Add to that the crime and natural disasters (earthquakes, fires, flooding) and it gets to people.

Your friends moving to NYC (pedestrian, cafe-style life) Westchester (no pollution) and Texas (well, I can't really explain THAT one - but maybe less crime, better schools) are going for a different lifestyle. Opting out of the Calif lifestyle in search of something different and maybe more satisfying to them.

But you never know. In a few years they could move back. They will start missing the mild California winters.

At Wednesday, March 28, 2007 10:21:00 AM, Blogger Mike V. said...

very interesting post.
I can relate to a certain extent to that restlessness, but would be more inclined to do what your last friend did in moving to NYC. No way in hell would I move to a flyover state to live in suburban hell over living right here in San Diego just so I could have a bigger house.
I am a CA native and love my state. It would take a very special place to get me to move out. Austin, TX is not one of them.

At Wednesday, March 28, 2007 12:25:00 PM, Blogger EditThis said...

I must ditto flix's sentiment. I'm not a native, but I've been here 12 years. If I didn't work in the industry, I would leave. I like it here, but not enough to spend the rest of my life here. I'd like to settle down somewhere much less trafficy, with a cheaper cost of living, and yes, "real"-er people.


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