To move or not to move?

moving west

On the move: Grandma McDaniel, and her husband Grandpa Frank (not pictured) headed west to find an edge. They packed the truck and loaded up the kids, ready to risk everything and move the family from North Dakota to Washington in 1932.

Families have been in motion for hundreds of years. Some sailed across the Atlantic to a brave new land. Others piled all their belongings into covered wagons and journeyed from familiar surroundings to unknown places – always expecting to find a special place that they could call home – to create happiness or find their fortune.

More recently, the transitions have involved trains, cars, busses and planes – moving vans, freight trucks and shipping containers. No matter how it’s accomplished, it has been part of who we are and how we change since the very beginning.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of people who have lived rich and full lives in the same towns that they were born and raised. Some have lived on the same street, in the same house with the same neighbors for decades. They’re very content and happy with the stability and consistency of their lives. It’s actually pretty great.

I experienced that comfortable lifestyle for the first two decades of my life. It may have been an unstated expectation my parents had for their family, siblings and children. Whatever the reason, my parents made it very hard for any of us to want to move very far away. The closeness of family was measured by more than the distance between our addresses. The closeness of our family came from shared values; time honored traditions, and a genuine desire to be there when needed. Those were just a few of the reasons why our small town was so connected. Very few of us ever moved away.

Frist houseThe house I was raised in evolved through the years and benefited from several additions and remodels. But we never moved. Not even after my parents bought a half-acre lot adjacent to our home and had plans drawn for what they believed would be their dream house. My dad told us that our mom just couldn’t do it. He said that there were too many memories within the old house’s walls to ever leave. If he’d been telling the whole truth, I’m sure he would have had to say the same for himself. The sentiment and love that that was in our home had come from decades of raising children, celebrating birthdays, working in the yard, shooting hoops, playing cards, and so much more. There was no amount of new and shiny that comes in a brand new house that could replace or improve on that.

After moving west from North Dakota, our only living grandparents and nearly all of our aunts, uncles and cousins lived within a few miles of one another… and we had lots and lots of cousins. It was a rare weekend when someone in the family wasn’t celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, or just getting together to share a meal for no special reason at all. Being in the midst of so many smiles and so much joy was easy to take for granted. It was all we knew. It was why we stayed put from generation to generation.

Then things changed.

While attending college, I fell in love with a girl who was born in Indiana and whose family had subsequently moved to Pennsylvania, Idaho, and Washington - four different states in her address by the time she was a freshman in high school. Each of the moves left one of her siblings behind. It was new to me and was something I didn’t understand or appreciate at the time. 

By the time we graduated and married, I was certain that we would settle down in my hometown and be part of the family and traditions that I’d learned to love while growing up. And that would have been it. The beginning of what would have been a familiar and happy ending to the story. But that’s not how life works.

Instead, with degree in hand and the highest unemployment rate the country had seen in many years, I set out to start a career that would put my education to work, make my parents proud, and provide something “better” for my family than what had been provided for me. Had I realized back then how much I’d been given by the friends and family of my hometown, maybe I wouldn’t have chased the career ladder quite so aggressively. But that’s not the way it went.

Job opportunities were far and few between. My first role – selling advertising for a weekly newspaper – was in one of our neighboring towns. As years went by things began to change. Shortly after starting a family of our own, my parents passed away. The critical connections to family gatherings and traditions that centered on them began to fade.
Meanwhile, with work experience, and an improving economy, new and better career options started to appear. Most would require that we pack up our things and move. Each time, a career enhancing decision for me would cause yet another relocation for my wife and children. And despite the disappointment that comes with leaving friends and familiar surroundings, I don’t recall them ever complaining. 

Some of the moves would take us just an hour down the highway. Others would cause us to move to the states of Arizona, back to Washington, to Utah, and back to Washington again. In all, we lived in three states and nine homes in twenty years. Quite a contrast to the stability of my first twenty years. Quite a difference from the home my parents couldn’t bring themselves to move away from.

Oh how much wiser we get with age.
Moral: Sometimes you must move from where you are to see the edge. Sometimes the edge can only be seen by staying where you are. You have found the edge when you know when it's time to move and when it's time to stay put.

Your comments, suggestions, and stories of your personal edge are always welcome in my guest book.