It was the final paragraph in a months-long chapter that started in April when, out of the blue, I got an e-mail asking if I'd be interested in a reporting job at a newspaper out West with the subject line, "Coastal opportunities."
From that e-mail, a phone conversation, more talk, mailed newspapers and resumes, and finally a four-day visit to the area to see beautiful sunsets, beachside highway stretches and very, very, very expensive houses and condos.
It was exciting. Thrilling. Flattering. I thought I could close my nine years in Austin, pick up my things and start a whole new life in California.
But it's not that easy when you're not single, young and foolhardy. My adventurous side already pictured my drive to work, was already rationalizing living in a much smaller, much more expensive home. The sacrifices that would surely need to be made were already made in my head. All I knew was that I'd be smelling ocean air every week and that I could reboot all the minor annoyances that come from living in one place for too long.
It was one of the two or three hardest decisions I've ever had to make in my life. With great luck, though, I didn't have to make the decision alone.
We made lists. We talked and talked and talked. I asked for advice from co-workers, family, friends. We crunched numbers, talked to real estate agents, did online job searches, missed a flight, wondered how long it would take to sell our house, debated gas prices here vs. gas prices in California. We argued, a little, and I fretted that if we didn't go, it would somehow be out of fear. That we were, ultimately, just two Mexican-American kids from South Texas too scared to move across the country to live in big, scary California. (In our younger years, we've each lived in places including San Francisco, Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi, Germany and all over Texas.)
I wanted to know that we would go or not go for good reasons, not because we were intimidated by crazy house prices or too complacent with our comfortable lives to take a life-changing risk. Our gracious host out West told us we could come for a year or two. We could always move back if we hated it. This wasn't for the rest of our lives. This didn't even even have to be for the rest of the decade.
Those were such sweet, calming words.
One by one, my wife threw down scary things that could stand in our way: earthquakes, wildfires, freakin' mountain lions. One by one, the editor I'd have worked for dispelled them. By the time we came back from our trip, we had the smell of the California coast in our hair and the light of a gorgeous cove sunset we witnessed in our eyes.
Then, days and weeks later, after discussing it to death, we didn't go.
It was for a lot of reasons, mostly financial, others to do with opportunities here and goals we're still not close to achieving. We also have a house that we just built a year and a half ago that has only recently begun to feel like a real home. For months, we've been afraid to put pictures up on the walls because we thought we'd only be taking them down again in a few weeks.
The best thing about a tough decision is that it helps clear the way for every other smaller decision that comes after. We resolved, together, to make some big changes in our lives here. It was beginning to feel like both of us that a move to California was going to be a big change for the sake of change, not because we really need or want to be there at this moment. But now we have a renewed sense of urgency to do the things here we've been putting off: to do something about our huge commutes, to make our home more comfortable, to live life more fully instead of watching it pass by.
The timing was bad, I guess. Because the place we saw was wonderful, a dream really, and it is always hard to say no to something that feels like a dream.
But it feels very good to have a decision made, to look ahead and see forks in the road instead of big question marks.
It feels good, in the worst way, to say goodbye to California.
I tell myself, though, that it's just goodbye for now. I think I know we'll be seeing it again and maybe next time we'll be staying a while longer.
I did a recap of the (defunctefied) Aquaman pilot that was supposed to end up on the CW network, but somehow is on iTunes instead. Check it out on Television Without Pity:
Fishy Doings and a Downed Pilot -- If they'd called it Aquaman in the first place instead of Mercy Reef and if they hadn't tempted fate by featuring an actual shot-down pilot in the pilot episode, this show might have swum to a full season on the CW. Instead, it's iTunes chum, albeit with an attractive cast and Ving Rhames The Unstoppable.