Boxes, Markers, and Stepping on Fred

This week has been long, this is an earned Friday. Tuesday was my last day of work at the office, Wednesday I was in an inexplicable funk but managed to get some errands run between naps (my escapist drug of choice), and yesterday marked the first day of Full On Packing. Today, my plan is to pack at least half of one very crowded room and not leave the house until we go to dinner tonight to the Thai restaurant which was the site of our first date.

Dylan, champ that he is, worked hard enough all week to hit his 80 hours early so he could take today off to run errands for himself and for us. Reminding myself that I’m not in this move alone, well, for the third time in our history, is a constant companion. A little string around my finger that I glance at when I’m suddenly overwhelmed at the pile of boxes and seemingly endless amount of tiny things that can’t be thrown away but appear to have no actual home. Last night I asked him the best favor to which he replied, “That’s it? Of course!” and that is: Clean out the fridge. I can manage a lot but cleaning out the fridge makes me nuts, I don’t know why. Knowing I have a willing partner that will carry a load for me when asked is, to put it mildly, a relief. Literally lately too, since I strained my back during our yard sale prep of last weekend.

We’ve seen our friends to say goodbye, most of them anyway, we’ve eaten our foods, we’ve said our silent see ya later to various buildings and neighborhoods as we drive around town. It’s all gone by so fast but it feels like we’re careening towards something amazing. While I’m rarely unhappy these days, I’m rarely at peace. My mind runs, it goes through lists with items checked and unchecked, I wake up at 3:30 am and wonder if Fred was taken out after I fell asleep while we watched TV, I finally get up an hour later and take some Benadryl or read to force myself back to slumber and while that usually works, I’m awake before 7 most mornings where the brain fires up all over again. TV

Our new home though, that feels like peace. We haven’t even set foot in yet or experienced it with our own eyes, just a walk-through via Skype and good friends. But it feels like ours already and I know we both decorate and organize it in our minds, only occasionally discussing our ideas. Woodburning fireplace, chest freezer, our shared office setup,  all the mall stores nearby we can wander around when bored or curious. We don’t know much about Columbus yet, and the mystery is part of the allure. Cleveland I knew, at least I knew people and a lot of things about it, but Columbus I only really know through our friends’ eyes, there is so much to discover. And all those trees and hills! And cheaper! And like, 60% less people everywhere!

But today, right now, it’s 10:24 in the morning and I have yet to do much but put a load of wash in the dryer. So I’m going to get up and attempt to tackle the kitchen, starting with a small box for the spices. In all this fast, drastic change, starting small seems like a good way to quiet the chatter parade in my head.

Goodbyes to Good Pizza

I remember when I was getting ready to move to Cleveland six years ago. It seemed that people who I never saw or made the effort to see (or see me) had the strongest reactions. “You’re going?! Really? Awww! (sad face)” and I thought… yeah. I’m going. Did you want to make plans after lo these four years of living in the same city but never spending intentional time together…? I felt like a face in their own personal Sgt. Pepper and suddenly having a blank spot where I was, would mess up the whole composition. There were also times I’d run into people I so rarely saw that it seemed the universe was conspiring to make sure I said goodbye to them, particularly in places I’d either never been before or meant to go or accidentally wound up in, which was pretty cool. And then there were the friends who just kind of vanished altogether. They didn’t attend any going away events or even send goodbye texts. I wondered why, if we were really friends at all or if I was being too sensitive to the very normal thing of transience in life. Now I know they simply just weren’t good friends. My good friends helped me through that entire situation. Packing, loading, little gifts, even driving with me to Ohio and making sure I had a soft landing there.

Now I’m watching that whole thing play out again through D’s experience, and it’s a little hard to witness. Simply put, he’s so far disappointed by the silence of friends he’s had his whole life. Granted, we have almost a month before we head out and so much can happen before then, but right now he’s struggling the same way I did. A stoic and resigned shrug that indicates he doesn’t care if they show up to this or that, but sad eyes that reveal his heart if you look closely enough.

I submitted my resignation today, which felt so good. My boss has asked me to stay on as freelance for design needs, and we’ll need to hammer out exactly what that means and how many hours of work he may need per week, but he also offered a letter of recommendation (without me asking) because he’s smart enough to know that I will eventually want something local and more (without me saying).

Not being much of a daydreamer or fantasizer anymore, I haven’t spent a lot of time on my back staring up at the sky, imagining wall color or furniture placement. That is, until we were approved for our lease, booked our truck, and started collecting boxes. Now it’s happening, now that the wheels are in motion. Now I find myself cruising Amazon for firewood holders (because we’ll have a wood burning fireplace), and wondering which bathroom (of the 2.5) should have the Hahn and Leia towels in it, and if we should decorate around them as a theme.

Goodbye events are starting to be planned, dinners and lunches scheduled, and most importantly maybe, time blocked for packing. It always comes down to the last second and I always forget that part until I’m well in it. Fortunately this time I have a very helpful husband who won’t let me take so much on myself, as I do, and who supports my desire to throw money at the problem by hiring muscle either with money or pizza, to pack and unpack the truck.

It all feels slightly dreamlike still, it’s far enough away that the pressure isn’t quite on yet, but there is a small stack of large, sturdy boxes leaned against a wall just waiting. Taunting. Promising. Tempting. After mid-May and we participate in a neighborhood yard sale, the house will be emptier as I mentally and emotionally prepared to sell the kitchen table I inherited from my grandmother. The 1963 chrome and Formica table I grew up making Christmas cookies at and eating spiral Kraft mac & cheese on. I’ve kept it with me through five apartments, two states, and two storage spaces, and now it sits against a wall where it supports plants, a computer monitor, mail, and the cage of our Leopard Gecko, Stavros. It’s a great table and I’m sad to part with it. Fortunately, the story is not so sad because in our new home, will be another table also inherited from my other grandmother. It’s beautiful wood, mid-century and has rapidly become a cherished piece I now get to attach to the way I attached to the other.

 

 

 

 

Moving Right Along (footloose and fancy free)

A decision has been made: We’re moving to Columbus.

How did we get to this point? Allow me to back up. About three weeks ago, D and I drove to Columbus to visit two very good friends. J and N married three years ago, I know J from high school and N went to high school with us too but I don’t remember him (he remembers me, always awkward). She and I were very great friends and ate lunch together for two years, stayed in a bit of touch but didn’t really reconnect until she moved back to Chicago about six years ago. She flew to Cleveland five years ago to pack me up and drive back to Chicago with me, and from then our adult friendship was sealed. She was I think, my first actual close adult friend.

They moved to Columbus two years ago for her job, set up house, and have loved it since. We visited once in August and once three weeks ago and by the time we drove home, we asked each other, “Could we live there…?” and D being his amazing self said right away, “I’d follow you anywhere” which while sweet is factual because his job is remote so he literally can follow me anywhere. Still, aww.

D unfortunately had the flu the whole time we were there, eventually passed it to me, and here we are three weeks later still coughing and feeling the affects. The flu is no joke… I used to think that flu shots were stupid but now I can say: the flu is stupider. We weren’t able to explore quite as much as we both wanted to because of his illness, but that leaves more to discover in five weeks.

Forward two weeks of sleep and drugs, and lots of research later: We found an apartment online that J & N were gracious enough to walk through and Skype us, we submitted our paperwork for it later that day, and now just have to pay the processing fee. After that, we can move into it anytime after May 15th. Because the calendar is full and there’s so much going on the month of May, we’re likely not going until May 30th but the truck has been secured! There is also the question of work. My boss asked me to give him until the end of this week to let me know if they can keep me on and how, and if they can’t, I have to find something as soon as I get to Columbus. There will be relief if that’s how it goes, I’ve been unhappy for a while, but it’s better to have a job in this situation than not and I’m fortunate that they aren’t the sort to fire me on the spot just for leaving.

This all feels right. It’s time to leave Chicago and has been time for quite a while. We will miss our friends (and food and drink) so much, but the pull to a new place is greater than the missing. My family while 30 miles west, has never visited us in the almost two years since the wedding, and D’s family is spread across the eastern part of the country; we will miss family the way we always do but I don’t anticipate much changing there nor do I anticipate a visit from my own. In fact, we’ll be only an hour away from his younger sister and her family, so we’ll be on the circuit. And while we’ll be about six hours away from friends near Chicago, we’ll be six hours closer to friends on the east coast and only two hours south of my beloved Cleveland.

I remember the things I experienced when I arrived in Cleveland that were so different than life in Chicago: strangers say hello and smile as they pass one another, crowds are never actually crowds the way they are in Chicago and time to prepare for those crowds is mostly unnecessary (it took me about five events to stop arriving half an hour early to get standing or parking space because there’s always space), how very white the Ohio population is, how spread out everything feels and that a car is a necessity, and generally just how slow things can seem. My shoulders released their tension within months, I wasn’t so wound tight or in a rush, and mostly I didn’t feel a complete and total cynicism about my new city or its government. People in Chicago don’t realize how pervasive that feeling is, the sense you’re being swindled and what it truly costs for the honor of having a Chicago zip code.

What we get for our rent in Columbus will be staggering:  Two beds/two and a half baths, a patio for grilling, two floors, an attached garage, more storage than you can shake 50 sticks at, washer & dryer in-unit upstairs (brilliant), a wood-burning fireplace, a huge guest bedroom/office for Dylan to work in, and the complex has a gym, pool, firepits, a clubhouse (I never know what those are for besides baby showers or sports watching), and a dog run. The square footage is something like 1300 feet in our unit and our back door faces a wooded lot.

Now compare that to our current place on the north side of Chicago: no storage but three small closets (we rent a storage space downtown), one bedroom and one bathroom, a small kitchen with few cabinets and one skinny drawer (honestly one. One drawer that’s about 8″ wide), very little grass, street parking (a spot is $150 a month), 650 square feet and… $200 more than what we’ll be paying in Columbus. Granted, there’s in-unit washer & dryer, central air & heat, and a dishwasher, but that’s not that hard to come by anymore.

I have friends who are bound and determined to stay in Chicago, they even feel like they will be able to afford to buy homes here eventually, and they can’t comprehend why anyone leaves. To them I say: Make your choice. Between the ability to say you live in Chicago and have all it offers a few blocks in all directions (even more to the east because everyone has to keep going further out to afford anything), let alone the ones who want to have kids at some point, and the ability to have so much more for your money, make your choice. The stress of knowing our income has to increase every single year to keep up with rising city costs just isn’t enough to keep us.

Ohio is the first of what I imagine will be many places we’ll settle. We want to live somewhere warm and maybe even tropical, somewhere across an ocean, and even maybe one day on the road. We have all sorts of plans and dreams for ourselves, our little family of just D, me, and Fred the dog. And for now, those dreams begin in Columbus, Ohio somewhere around May 30th.

Time to Change, Time to Rearrange

I’ve decided to resume the job hunt in earnest, for several reasons. Top-most is that I have a deep (and unsatisfied) desire to work with a company that values design as a vital part of its identity and face, is interested in design innovation, and has a deliberate method for the development of concept through execution.

To say that my company is lacking these things is an understatement, though I don’t think they’d admit to it. I was hired initially for Marketing, but because I have over nine years’ experience as a designer, and they knew that, I find myself 90% of the time, creating graphic design items and doing PowerPoint layouts. It’s not what I wanted for myself, it’s not challenging or interesting anymore, and aside from what I learn on my own, I’m not exposed to much in the way of professional growth. Throw in a dash of sexism and a total confusion of process which leads to undermining by unrelated departments, I think I’m done.

I was done last fall really, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know about job searching in the User Experience Design field then and I did it poorly. In the last two weeks, I’ve gathered my work and put it into a much better (albeit temporary) portfolio and have shopped it around carefully. The biggest lesson I learned last fall, is to keep my information out of the hands of recruiters save for one or two, as the majority of them simply don’t know the field enough to know what is valuable and what isn’t, and I eventually stopped trusting them as a whole. I believe they see most people as potential bonuses or paychecks rather than actual humans who seek a career change. Don’t get me started on the exclusivity requests.

UX is a growing design field to the point that most confuse “User Experience Design” with “User Interface Design”, including recruiters. Put simply, one is bones and one is outfit. I’ve spent my whole professional design life designing the outfits but once I discovered the thrill of the human-centric analytical bones, I fell in love with it. And quite accidentally at that, I was at an e-commerce conference and wound up killing time in a session that discussed UX and that was that. It spoke to me and I knew that’s what I needed to pursue. My boss gave me two large projects that were so UX/UI-centered, they’re now in my portfolio. But that’s all he’s had so far, and doesn’t have plans nor is he able to give me more. He knows it’s what I want, but I’m not sure he knows it feels as urgent as it does.

The difficulty, much like dating while lonely, is resisting the urge to jump at the first outfit who shows interest. Someone contacted me on Slack to ask if I was interested in speaking about a UX position he’s looking to fill. I followed up, twice, he followed up over a week later with an apology that he’d dropped the ball, cc’d his UX-focused coworker…. And then nothing. Silence. That was five days ago. Yesterday I sat there looking at my email and debated a follow up, then I thought about what it was like to wonder about a date who was supposed to call days later but never did (or did with a flimsy excuse). And also, what it’s like to work for a company that drags its feet, is highly unorganized, and leaps before it looks. I deleted the email and decided to be smarter about who I pursue this time around. Much like with people, I believe we are shown early who we’re dealing with, and it’s up to us to see them with clear eyes*.

Dylan and I have plans, places to go, things to do. He’s working at home these days for a startup and really loves it, they keep giving him more hours and training, and he can work anywhere he hangs his hat. I need to be able to work remote from time to time and that means we can go almost anywhere one day. UX is a profitable field and would allow for so much more freedom than we have now, our debts would be paid, we’d have options for travel and various life upgrades. That is of course, not the main draw but it certainly doesn’t hurt. As it stands, for example, I’d be looking at an average of about a 30% income bump, so… yes, I’ll pick up the check.

So tonight, I will four-wheel drive home in our freshly-fallen 9” of lake effect snow and plop down in front of job sites to see what’s out there, and pray my one year of UX & UI experience is enough to get me in a door. Wish me luck, a change is badly needed.

 

* If I’d have dismissed Dylan based on our first dating attempt, I’d have royally missed out. So not everything is black and white…

New Orleans

I wrote this post five years ago about New Orleans, or rather my lack of desire to ever go there. What a fool I was! I mean, to be fair, I associated the city with some unsavory people and unsavory stories and thus sort of wrote it off as a “meh” destination. I wasn’t going to dive headfirst into a town built on vice. Yet, everyone loves New Orleans. Everyone who goes there seems to always return and in the meantime, longs to.

Actually, I take that back. My first impression, very first, was the opening of Live and Let Die, where a funeral (a going home) marches down the street. I was probably 8 years old and 100% baffled how a parade and dancing went in-hand with a funeral procession, and why it started out slow and ended joyous. Now, I get it. But let me back up, and then go forward.

We celebrated our first anniversary in June of ’16 and spent the better part of the previous April trying to decide how and where to do that. We wanted anywhere we wouldn’t have to rent a car and anywhere that wasn’t a huge tourist mecca at that time of year. Incidentally all you wedding planners: keep your wedding month in mind for future anniversary trips. Turns out June is a really expensive time to travel anywhere. Anyway, we settled on New Orleans. Dylan lived in Louisiana for some time many years ago, and when Katrina happened, he went there to help. He was familiar with the city but not overly so, and it would essentially be new to us both. We bought our plane tickets and booked an AirB&B in the Lower Garden District, and researched the trip (that would be me, Dylan cares not for such planning). Unfortunately, a month before we were to arrive, our AirB&B host cancelled. We decided that rebooking would be costly in a short window of time, and put the whole thing off until I had vacation time and we really needed somewhere warm after a long winter.

I’ll spare you the starts and stops of rebooking. Suffice to say, we indeed wound up in New Orleans this month, we got home 10 days ago. It was unlike any trip I’ve ever taken, let me say that right now. We walked everywhere but for two Lyft rides twice every day, to and from our AirB&B and the airport. Of those rides, 12 in all, only two drivers weren’t chatty and/or from New Orleans. Every one of our rides involved long conversations with city natives who lived through “the Storm” and offered up so much information from the best oyster happy hours (discovered too late to go, arg!) to why the locals don’t use their a/c even in brutal summer. Of all the tips people ask for about what to do when they go there, “don’t rent a car” has been my top one. Talking to our drivers was one of my favorite parts, I learned so much from them that research would never have taught me.

The first night we were there, it was late on a Thursday so we did as you do, we walked the French Quarter and drank the fruity drinks, which come to find out days later, was a moment of brilliance. It was empty and quiet in most parts and I fell in love with the buildings, even in the dark. In the coming days, we ate po’ boys and beignets, and we took the ferry to Algiers Point. We walked everywhere, logging something like 10+ miles per day.

Oh, second tip: wear the most comfortable shoes you own. I did not and I have the blisters to prove it. We didn’t get to City Park, the Bywater, or Uptown, and I didn’t get to see the huge trees with the hanging Spanish moss along a majestic plantation road as I’d hoped, but they’ll still be there when we go back. They’ll always be there.

New Orleans is the most special place. Music, as promised, is all over. It’s in the air and on the street corners, it’s in bars late at night with no one in them and bars that are packed, but the musicians (some of who double as bar staff in the venues) are the cells in the blood in the veins, the pulse and the beat. THAT’S why New Orleans funerals have brass bands, because music is as big a part of life as is death. It’s woven in. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, strange about someone walking down the street or sitting on their porch, singing their lungs out to the neighborhood. It’s a gift given freely. It’s love, really.

The people are made from the joy and stuff that could only survive and rebuild wholly after what they went through. And stay! And thrive! They know exactly what their city is, good and bad. The street art, the galleries (and so much Prince in both), the night craft market, even our disappointment at Frenchman Street, it all found its way to my heart. I cried happy tears walking through Treme and the Garden District, overwhelmed by the beauty. The gas lamps, the retired streetcar track lines which now serve as walking paths that divide streets, that we were staying in the same area as the Mardi Gras Indians are based (look ’em up), the raised homes and razed blocks, and the constant stream of greetings and conversations with strangers we passed on the street.

Chicago, I came to really realize, is very divided and racially kind of a mess. New Orleans though, everyone mixes and no one thinks twice. You literally greet everyone you pass just the same. At least, that’s how it felt during our brief time. We did find out after we got back that we walked through a really crowded and dangerous spot on a Sunday night, on our walk back to where we stayed. Two locals and a regular visitor looked at us in raised eyebrow silence when they found out, and asked if we were ok. It didn’t feel dangerous though, at least in the ways we know danger to be in Chicago, so I don’t know what to say about that.

As we strolled around the Garden District and began to recognize streets and places we’d seen before, we asked ourselves the frequently-visited question, could we live here? What neighborhoods would we want to live in? What would we do here? I don’t know… maybe…the humidity and bugs though…  Naturally, the neighborhood that stole my heart is the most expensive one, and there’s a lot to concede to living in those old houses with another flood just a season away, but it was interesting cruising Trulia for a few days to see what’s out there. I don’t know…maybe.

Before we went, like everyone who plans a trip there, we asked those who have gone before what we should eat and where we should go. Some experienced friends offered up their favorite lists, others remained silent and in a spirit of love, put hands on our shoulders and said, find your own NOLA, a phrase we’d hear over again. Therefore, I can’t tell you where to go or what to eat because what I loved, you may not love. Except for District Donuts, everyone should go there. Yes, we saw a parade, we hung out at a fantastic divey neighborhood bar a few times where we ate some fantastic crawfish boil and got to know the staff, we drank Hurricanes, ate a piece of king cake, devoured oysters (twice), visited some breweries, got some beads (without skin), and a few other fun things, but I’m not going to tell you all about that because that was our trip, it won’t be yours.

Now I’m one of those people. I miss it. I miss the people and the energy, and I’ve only been once! I understand why people go back again and again, and why so many want to move there. Some people party their time away while they’re there but their NOLA isn’t my NOLA and my NOLA won’t be yours. All I really know is that I only scratched the surface and barely, and that I want to go back. Soon.

March On

I have about two dozen girlfriends (and a few male friends) attending the protests in Chicago and DC this weekend. I am exceedingly proud of them and admire their drive to be heard, it’s valuable and important and the right to do, and is what this country was founded on. They are traveling good distances, knitting special hats, making signs, taking time away from families and coordinating in mind boggling detail. They’re rallying all over social media and sharing valuable information among each other, with the hum of a well-run beehive. I admire them so very much.

I will not be joining them.

I’ve spent some time thinking about why I’ll skip it and I still struggle to articulate that (and for some reason, I feel like I have to). I know that had this all been going on when I was 25, I’d be right there with them, no question. I remember once upon a time telling my mother that I felt I was born in the wrong decade and wished I could have a protest arrest on my permanent record.

But time has passed, I’ve learned more about the world we live in and the cycle of politics and ideals became complicated, there are a lot more grays than there were in my 20s. I know that my friends and the march are on the right side of history and history itself will show it, they are doing the exact right and necessary thing for the time we’re in. As I considered joining, I had a hard time understanding my own hesitation and to a point, still do. Or I just don’t like how it sounds.

Someone posted an article for the protesters about knowing their rights, making sure to keep important phone numbers written in Sharpie on their arms including the local attorney’s offices and emergency contacts, not to rely on cell service so have a backup plan to meet friends that may become separated, protect the head and neck, cover the eyes, linking arms can authorize beatings from authorities, don’t interlace fingers because it causes more damage to the head and neck…. wear thick shoes and pants in case of being drug across the ground…. stay on the fringes of the crowd…. don’t resist arrest… know how to fight detainment….wait, what?

Not only do I have a hard time with crowds, which goes for any crowd from concerts to packed family functions or bars that are too full, and I also have an old back injury that prevents me from walking for long periods at a slow pace without resting. But those reasons aren’t exactly why I’m not attending, either. During the last three years, I’ve invested in and joined my life with another person. I for the first time, have something to lose and it took a long time to find him so I tend to avoid situations that might endanger anything about our lives. Sounds selfish in the grand scheme, but it’s the most important thing I have and I guard it fiercely.

When I read the headlines and watch the clips regarding our soon-to-be “leader” (gulp), I always wonder if something similar has happened before (kind of) and if the situations were reversed and would my liberal bubble so vehemently question the reactions of the other side (likely). As much as I respect the New York Times, it does have an angle. I thought CNN was a good source until I realized they devoted 75% of their talk time during the campaign, to only one candidate simply because he was more entertaining rather than informative. I love NPR but they too have a side they tend to lean heavily into. All that to say, I can’t share social media posts and attend marches without acknowledging the complex agreements and problems presented to the public.

Sadly, our government is so beholden to lobbyists, large corporations, lined pockets, and special interests, that the truth of a thing seems mostly buried. The good guys and hearts of gold rarely win, or are drowned out by the louder minority. That sounds fatalistic and cynical, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s why I’m not going to march. It makes me sad to think this way, perhaps I’ve let my general mistrust of politics, Chicago politics especially, get in the way of hope.

Bernie was hope personified and they made sure he didn’t get far enough to actually institute it in spite of igniting a country’s youth in a way not seen since perhaps Kennedy (and look what happened to him). The country repeatedly shoots down its better interests such as healthcare for all if not most, functional and practical maternity and paternity leave policies, banks run everything to disastrous consequences, credit ratings still somehow matter even after a recession, big agriculture and high fructose corn syrups ruin the health of children all the while medicines cost a fortune and people lose their homes over medical debt… see where I’m going with this?

So marchers, I applaud you. You are doing what you (we) know to be the right thing and that’s what the world needs more now. I don’t know what may come of it besides a united front and larger divide, even the people who voted for the winner that are regretting their decisions are not likely crossing enemy lines anytime soon, but maybe if only one person sees things differently it can be considered a success.

Time for a Change

It’s been quite a week or two around the homestead. First, I watched the Cubs win the Series, something I frankly thought would never happen in my lifetime (since it didn’t happen in my  diehard superfan grandmother’s lifetime, either) and then we…well, not me… elected Voldemort to the highest public office in the land.

I am one of those people you may have read about who cried the night it happened, cried when she woke up, cried on the way to work and then at work. I have a good boss who let me go home and work there for the rest of the day, I admit to having a hard time getting through those 24 hours. By Thursday morning however, I’d pulled up from the tailspin and got back to some kind of normal.

When Dylan and I realized we were serious about one another, we talked about how we’d choose to live one day. We discussed riding around the country in an RV, working remotely. We visited RV sales lots and did a ton of research, with the intention to make a serious attempt at it after we got married. Life being what it is, those plans were repeatedly postponed and even though we were frustrated, I often wondered if we were pushing a hope many years beyond our ages, and if it was simply too early to retire from a traditional life. So we set our sights on another state: Arizona, particularly Tucson. I’ve loved Tucson since I first went there at 19 and always wanted to return to Arizona to live. Chicago has become financially impossible for so many and simply a frustrating place to exist thanks to our mayor and the seemingly endless rising costs.

Then, at some point last year when it became clear that oh wait, Trump is serious and so are his fans, we looked at one another and agreed that if he were to be elected into office, we could not stand idly by and live under his banner. To stay, we felt then and now feel more, would be tacitly complicit. So we began to talk more about moving out of the country beyond simple daydreams, and Dylan mentioned Thailand, where he’d lived for a year many moons ago. At that time, visas were easy to get and it was insanely cheap to live there, so after some selling, I agreed to look into it.

While working from home on Friday, I could hear him tapping away on his computer and then a disgruntled, “oh”. He said that apparently, a major visa crackdown had occurred and in fact, long story short, moving there would be very difficult. The thriving ex-pat community is apparently safe due to being grandfathered in, but those who intend to make a go of it there will find it far harder to do. I’ll admit that this was a bigger disappointment to Dylan than to me, I couldn’t get my head around it in a comfortable way and I felt relief when he said he thought the door was closed.

Merida YucatanShortly after, I actually don’t know how, we stumbled on another option: Yucatan, Mexico. The cost is almost identical to Chiang Mai in Thailand (read: insanely cheap) and there is even an option for beachfront living with the Gulf of Mexico mere feet away. Or if we choose to live in the capital city of Merida, that same beach town is only 45 minutes north, with the resort towns of Cancun and Playa del Carmen about three hours to the east. Yucutan is the safest state in Mexico and Merida the safest city (I checked. A few times). There is a thriving ex-pat community there and jobs both in-country and remote through American companies are plentiful (though the visa difference is about $250). We dove into resource websites and looked at properties, and it looks (and feels) more and more like a viable option. I’ll admit that the blogs that seem to say a lot of “don’t expect hot water in the kitchen” and “lots of bugs” I’m reading shake my confidence a bit, but I’m a comfortable, squishy American.

The visas are easy to come by with a simple show of bank records, we can bring our dog without quarantine, we don’t have to worry about selling our car because we can bring it with us (with a bit of extra paperwork and cost but that is perhaps easier than finding someone to take over our payment), and aside from selling off a fair bit of our stuff that we’re not attached to, can go there somewhat unencumbered. This is all far enough off that I’m grateful we don’t have to make announcements or decisions, we still have to renew our passports, but our lease is up June 1st so unless we find somewhere to stay for a little while, that would be our departure date. It’s a very long drive (and I’m not entirely sure how safe it would be) so getting there takes its own research we haven’t even begun yet.merida2

That’s the latest, kind of. This country is showing signs of coming apart at the seams along with the relationships and institutions we value. I don’t see myself giving up residency or loyalty, but for the next four years I can safely say that I don’t want to be confused with someone who willingly supports a land that allowed this to happen. For us, that means living in country and going on as if. I’ve been conflicted, with all the people saying, “Don’t leave, stand and fight” but, honestly, that’s not where we are choosing to put our energies. I don’t want to fight, we aren’t fighters. We are explorers, creatives, wanderers, experiencers. We want to live our lives discovering and learning, not fighting, no matter how righteous the fight may be. Almost half the country didn’t vote and half of those, voted for him. The other half voted for someone most didn’t even really want. Who exactly are we fighting with and for?

This is a strange and scary time, literally the only peace I have is the idea that we won’t be here to watch it all unfold. I know some will see it as throwing in the towel and running away because apparently we’re all supposed to stand our grounds and prove one by one that we’re better than all this. If I was in my 20s and this happened, I would be downtown protesting with everyone else, hoping to be arrested so I could have my statement literally on record. However, I am almost 41 now and I’ve been around the block once or twice, and I know that things are cyclical. We have endured horrible occurrences in our nation: slavery, smallpox blankets that killed off entire nations and practices that killed their animals, a war fought inside our own borders by our own people, 9/11, some terrible Presidential decisions, and a seemingly endless appetite for military action. We’re still here and things are better, even though it doesn’t seem so in November 2016.

But I also have the urge to go. To travel. To not find myself in my 50s chained to my desk, doing the same designs I’d been doing for a decade. How terrible a life not lived.  We don’t have kids, we likely won’t, we have little holding us back. We love our families, but we don’t see them much and frankly, getting people to visit us in the winter in Chicago is an entirely different thing than a visit in the winter near Cancun.