Friends and Family

To move or not to move, that was the question my husband and I were mulling over one night not long ago.  We live far, far away from where I grew up and where the majority of my family still resides.  Home, sweet Michigan.  When we moved to Washington (thank you, Microsoft), we had a roughly 5-year plan to stay before moving home to start a family.

I remember sitting on the plane as I flew out here to find us a place to live and mulling over the future as I passed fields and then mountains.  It dawned on me, quite suddenly, right about when we were flying over the Cascades, that I would be having my first child out here.  The idea that we would both quit our jobs, find new ones, and move home all right before becoming parents was suddenly absurd.  I started to cry, thinking of having a baby so far from all of the relatives who had helped raise me: my parents, grandparents, the Aunt Hill.  But there was nothing for it.

Fifteen months ago, our son joined the family and we set up a website to share his pictures and progress with our relatives.  Many of my generation had also moved away from home and this seemed a bit more normal.  A very tiny little bit.  But every so often it comes back to me how much my baby grows up in between visits home, and how much he -and I- am missing out on by being a long plane ride away.

Last year while I did a weird amalgam of teaching part-time and caring for two boys the other part (my guy and the son of my teaching partner), I didn't have as much time to yearn for home.  Now, with him full time, it feels completely pointless to me to be out here.  If I'm going to be focusing on raising my toddler to be a happy, healthy human being, why on earth would I not tap many of the very people I credit for whatever mental health and happiness I currently have?

So I said as much to my husband that night.  At 11:00.  He was unimpressed with my timing.

A bit of friction and a night or so later, I brought it up again.  Why on earth are we here?  The answers were both long and short, and made us think a lot about what is most important, not just to us but to SP, our son.  What is the best life we can give him?  What is the sense of family we want him to have?  How can we achieve those goals?  {It is clear we think a lot of things about his life are in our control.  This is a false impression, as any parent knows, but we all do what little we can to think we matter.}

And what about friends?  My husband maintained when we moved out here that our friends would become like family.  I looked at him in blatant disbelief.  I probably did more than look.  I may have even choked on my airline drink and scoffed audibly.  No one who has grown up in a family like mine could or would ever make such a statement, I thought.

But I figured I would try.  I would create new traditions, I would celebrate holidays with new friends, I would build a support system here that I could lean on when future children were born.  So I tried.  Ok, I cried at every holiday when I wasn't home, and I might have made my husband a little miserable in the run-up to each one.  But I did make new friends and I did make a big effort.  And the bottom line is that it didn't really work.  Though I truly love some of the friends I've made here, overall I don't feel like I have a family network here in WA.  I don't think this is a major shortcoming on my part.  I blame my family for spoiling me and making it too hard to replicate the warmth and laughter and deep sense of safety I have with them.

We talked about what it meant to have a family or even friends that felt like family, and I told him that it involves being part of something bigger than yourself.  It involves being one part of the web, not just a hub with individual spokes than connect only through you.  A family has that naturally, and it is strengthened in mine by the fact that we like each other, too.  Building a web of friends is considerably harder unless you have an easy baseline connection like a hobby or work. 


Our conversation unresolved beyond the point of agreeing that we should stay for at least another few years for various (important, I grudgingly acknowledged) reasons, I've been thinking, thinking, thinking.  And usually when I do that much thinking, I come back around to my serenity prayer, and that landed me here.

What I can't change:
I live here now.  I'm going to live here for at least another few years.

What I wouldn't want to change:
  • The friends I have here already, and the wonderful fact that I live only two hours from my sister, brother-in-law, and hilarious nephew X. 
  • The beauty of being close to urban, suburban, and rural areas. 
  • The mountains and water.  I cannot get enough of them.

What I can change:
  • How much I connect with my family given the modern-day conveniences of the phone and internet.
  • My attitude about living so far.  This is an experience, too, and has its goods and bads just like living in Michigan would.
  • How I spend time with my friends, and whether I let them more into my life and heart.  
Yes, I needed enough wisdom to see that this last one is a choice.  Whether I am able to make the right one remains to be seen.


  1. Love this post, Jessica! We moved away from all of our friends in Boston to be near my family in Pennsylvania for my daughter's birth. It's been two years here in PA, and it's still rough. I think you're right that, no matter where you are physically, you need to be committed on a mental and emotional level. I'm still working on being a good sport!

  2. okay - moving on to this blog! I'm not a journal writer either, but I have found writing a sentence or two, once a day/week/month - whenever it hits me is quite helpful. For ex. after reading your blog last night I wrote WA SUCKS! Simple and to the point. However, after looking at it again I then wrote, It's good for JJ and S for now, maybe not forever. Some of these sentences, quotes, thoughts I have ripped out and shredded because I came to realize they don't help me for future positive thoughts. Others I re-read to bring me back to reality when my thoughts stray to the dark side!
    Maybe you've both decided that making a big move isn't the best decision right now, but leaving it open to possibility in the future can be what motivates you to work on strengthening the relationships with which have. You may find yourself missing them when you are ready to make a move. Enjoy the people, scenery, things you most enjoy in WA now so you have that many more memories to bring back to MI when the time is right. Maybe you can revisit the moving idea just before SP heads to school? It also gives some of us more time to save money to come out and visit so you can tour us around to all the wonderful things you enjoy on a daily basis! Believe me, I'm trying desperately to talk myself into liking the cold weather since it's right around the corner here. I'd much rather open the blinds to see mountains and rivers!
    Your blogs are fantastic - I love reading your thoughts and ideas!
    xoxo - A.Julie

  3. Rebecca, thanks for reminding me that everyone's experience is different and yet similar. Can't imagine being sad about moving back to my family! I clearly need to work on being a good sport, too.

    Aunt Julie, I love the one sentence journals! I have been keeping one for Sebastian for several months now. And we sure would love to have you guys come out here. It is quite beautiful, no doubt about that.