We’ve lived in the desert for almost a year now (I can’t believe it) and I can’t help but muse how life is so very different in the California sun than in a bustling East-coast city.
After getting my masters north of Chicago, I moved down to Lincoln Park near the ball field for a few years and then moved to D.C. in my late 20s, where I lived for eight years.
I spent many days walking Dupont Circle, where people in tailored suits and sundresses hurried past, looking all-important and serious. They had somewhere to be dammit. I sneezed when the cherry blossoms bloomed in April, and relaxed by roof-top pools in July and went apple picking and on hikes on the Appalachian Trail in October.
I frequented coffee shops like Tryst in Adams Morgan, ate out at crammed restaurants and, in the early, single years, bought jumbo slices or stumbled into El Tamarindo at 2 a.m., drunk after a party or playing pool at the bar. I lived in cheap townhouses with great roommates and dirty carpets and tried to avoid the rats in the summer. I took the Metro most mornings, which vaguely smelled of soot, and pushed my way onto crammed trains with grumpy commuters. I dated, a lot — I met men on Match.com, in cabs, at the bars. I had great stories, and I worried I’d be single forever. I dreamed about living abroad. I was always on the move — I had plans most nights of the week — volleyball, yoga, dinner with friends, parties, running in Rock Creek, talks at National Geographic, author chats, indy concerts like Blind Pilot.
Then I fell in love. And life sped up, just like that. I met him, the man I wasn’t sure existed. And, after a year-and-a-half of courting, all hell broke loose: I had a baby, quit my job, got married and moved cross country to a three-bedroom house and retired neighbors.
I moved from a crammed two-bedroom apartment in a 100-year-old building to a house with a backyard full of fruit trees (it’s pomegranate season!). From hectic city noises — police sirens and drunken carousing — to the quiet. From city buildings to mountains and sunshine. From liberal 20-somethings to church-going 70-somethings. From playgrounds packed with 20 kids, to those five times the size with one kid. From eating Thai and Korean and seafood at restaurants to canning peaches and making whole-wheat pizza from scratch.
I moved from spending my days hurrying from one place to another, to spending my days mostly at home, reading novels, cooking and playing with my toddler. From alarm clocks to waking up with the sun. From shopping at Anthropologie, blow-drying my hair daily and brushing on mascara to wearing yoga pants, flip-flops and sunscreen. From spending my time with friends to spending my time creating. From winning marathon medals to winning ribbons at the county fair.
My pace of life is so much slower — more like When Harry Met Sally rather than Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon — and, after giving myself time to adjust, I’m good with that. I miss my friends, deeply, but I don’t miss feeling stressed or over-scheduled. I miss inspiring and intellectual conversations, but I don’t miss the drama. I miss eating good food out, but I don’t miss the crowds or the noise. I miss feeling accomplished at work, Tiny Desk Concerts and my coworkers, but I don’t miss sitting at a desk eight hours a day.
My best friend S. muses that I’m doing my version of the Peace Corps. Perhaps she’s right, or perhaps we’re finding a lifestyle that fits us better, right now, while we have little ones. I’m not sure where we’ll go after our few years are up here. This much I know: I would struggle more emotionally if I thought living here was long-term. But this much I also know: I love exploring, I love my boys, and I think we can be happy anywhere. After our time is up in the dry desert teeming with ravens circling the blue sky, we may go elsewhere for a few years or back to the D.C. area. In the meantime, I feel confident in allowing myself to slow down, breathe, relax and enjoy the quiet.