Start Spreading the NewsThis 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.