This is Bittersweet.
I moved for the first time when I was 7 years old. My parents had decided to leave Harbor Springs, Michigan to go to Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Half-way across the country and far from the world and culture I knew. From that point on it seemed that every 4-6 years of my life I have moved. I learned in those moves the older I became, how every place you go in life is no accident. You never arbitrarily land somewhere. Instead, even when something feels like it just happened, you can recount all the ways it actually was meant to be. Each town, I went to as a kid I would mentally and emotionally box it up much like I did each of my rooms while I was growing up. Now as an adult, I do the same and it seems as I age, I find the boxing up harder and harder to do. Maybe it is with age comes knowledge of how things go when you leave a place. The repetitive motion of letting go, saying goodbye, leaving a community, leaving a place that has helped make you. Each place holds memories, experiences, people, names, moments, laughter, tears, growth, joy, failures etc. All important details of how that place had shaped me over the years. And now, together Mike and I are packing up another box of a place in our story.
When Hayes came along it wasn’t long before we began wondering about how much longer we had left in Raleigh. There is something about having a baby that clarifies so much in life. We realized quickly how far we were from our families (Mike’s in Texas and mine in Northern Michigan). Realizing that you no longer are just responsible for yourself but for this little life and shaping it seems to show you what matters and what doesn’t. It also shows you your place in your families at large. Hayes became the thing that exposed that our days here in this town were numbered.
Before we left for the summer, we were tossing around the idea of moving. Mike asked me what did I want more than anything? My response, a garden…a half acre garden, chickens, a magical place for a table to bring together people I loved, be debt free, and to simplify life down to living from what we grew. While in Raleigh, we have been far from able to do these things, that over the years since being here, I have realized are essential to my nature. These things coupled with the desire to be close to family, meant we had two options: Texas or Michigan.
When we left for Michigan this year we had very seriously made the decision to move to Austin, close to Mike’s family. We love Austin. That town is so cool, fun, full of creative energy, and we had family and friends already. Remember our little trip? Yeah, that was to scout out places to live. It was just days before we left that I started getting a funny feeling that something didn’t work with Austin, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
But as we thought about it in the first few weeks of being up north, we realized that this whole time, we had never really left Michigan even though we bought a house and “moved” to Raleigh. There was a moment we realized that our hearts and souls just waited and anticipated for the time we could get back to Michigan. All this time we thought we had been doing our summers in Michigan, when in actuality we had simply been wintering in Raleigh.
So on that walk that day, we began the discussion of moving back to Michigan and what that meant. We tossed everything out on the table with our business and why we originally left Michigan to begin with. What we realized was many of the reasons we left no longer were something that mattered. It almost seemed silly to think about why we had originally moved and we realized we no longer had any reason to remain in Raleigh other than a few friends who have meant so much to us. This realization all came to us the week before we had planned to spend 2 weeks in Traverse City. We made the decision that our next place would be something we designed and built so we knew we were now officially on the hunt for land in Leelanau County, the place we have always dreamed about owning a place, though we never thought it would be where we would be making home full time. We did research on schools and talked with friends. We prepped ourselves for a land mortgage and got in touch with our realtor with the anticipation of this taking time. We had some very exact things on our list of desires.
A week after we started looking, I was perusing the land options on Realtor.com and came across a 10-acre piece of land on the Leelanau Peninsula. We both loved it and so we set up a time to walk it with our realtor. We drove down the dirt road that day to look at the land and arrived at the base of the two-track drive that takes you back into the woods. There sat a piece of land we thought would take quite a while to find. It had the internet we needed, electric run to it, woods, apple trees, blackberry bushes, fields, wheat, valleys…you name it it was there. Our 10 acres of heaven we thought couldn’t be found. Knowing our past experience with buying real estate, we took the approach that if this was meant to be, it will be. So we put in our offer and no sooner found out we weren’t the only offer. After putting in our top offer, we figured it wouldn’t be good enough, but that weekend we received a call that we had been the winning offer on the land. In that instant, we realized this was really happening. This place that we thought wouldn’t exist a week ago, not only did, but it was now becoming ours. And this week, on Monday, we closed on that land officially making it our’s.
It wasn’t two weeks after finding the land, that we received an email from a real estate agent in Raleigh who had a buyer potentially interested in our home. Buying the land in our mind wasn’t a decision to move from Raleigh in that instant. In fact, we knew it would take time to get things arranged to build the house and get everything setup to do so, not to mention the time it would take to build. So, we had not put out any feelers on selling our house other than telling one or two friends we would potentially be moving in the coming year. So, this was completely out of the blue. We figured at that point we would entertain it, I mean why not?! A week later we went under contract with the buyer completely off the market because the offer was the right one for us to feel it was the right thing.
They say that there are no coincidences in life and at times I have been skeptical of statements like that, but this summer, my feelings have changed. I believe that when something is meant to be all things come together to make it happen. And though sometimes it doesn’t happen in the time you believe it should, it still does because whether we know it or not, it is the right time for it to happen. Sometimes that means waiting and sometimes that means sooner than expected. This time, we have landed very much in the latter.
So, this week we have been spending packing boxes and memories of not only our house we thought would hold our lives much longer than it now will, but of life here in Raleigh. It is bittersweet. There is no other word to better describe it all. Raleigh has been a place we had hoped to be something different for us than it was, but different doesn’t mean wrong. Raleigh was right in many ways. Our parents each have asked us at different times if we regretted our move to Raleigh as we have made this decision to move, and we resoundingly say no. It took us time to feel like we wouldn’t be running from this place, to find peace with what has been learned here, and to grieve leaving some of the most precious and beautiful times and relationships in our lives. In ways we didn’t anticipate, Raleigh has been better and worse than we could have expected. Raleigh is a town growing, changing, and a little like a teenager trying to find out who it is. There are a lot of growing pains here culturally, politically, economically, and creatively. We have made some amazing new friends we never could have imagined we would make and we know they will be lifelong relationships. We also sadly lost old friendships we never expected to. Raleigh has made us work hard to learn who we are and even more so who we are not, which when you leave your 20’s is a great thing to know.
For us, Raleigh has been a town of extremes. We have learned some very hard lessons here and felt great loss, but we have also experienced the greatest joy of welcoming a child here and deep laughter with people who have shown us true community. We have grown into people we are proud of and we know that only happened because of this town. We have learned the importance of community here on this street we live on amongst these people we have come to love just like family. We have shared meals full of laughter and tears. We have celebrated holidays, births, triumphs, and every other part of life with our neighbors. We have found family amongst the people who live on our street with us. We have never felt more blessed to know such loving people. We have danced harder and lived fuller. We have had the chance to learn what it means to be there for a friend in need. There is no doubt to us, we were meant to be here on Plainview Avenue the last three years. This was where we were supposed to learn, grow, become, and define ourselves.
I can recount some of the most beautiful times of my life happening here in Raleigh and we moved here because of how much we desired that kind of community. The community we found was different than the one we intended to be apart of, but we have learned life is best when it goes against our plans. I still remember the first time our neighbor Angela came to our door and introduced herself. A single mother of two daughters, running a restaurant downtown, and living 1,000’s of miles from her home in Columbia. The gifts she would leave us reminded me to love people unexpectedly. I remember the first time we met our friends Tara and Ryan when we rented the house across the street from them. Over the years they have given and loved on us more than we have ever known friends to do. The willingness to share, take care of us, feels like something we will never be able to repay at times. Tara and I grew so close and she has been my confidant through the last three years. We are so different in hundreds of ways, but I couldn’t think of a better best friend. We danced at concerts together, had brunches together, got drunk together, had many amazing meals together, had late night text chats together, everything. It is hard to think of life without her being our neighbor anymore.
But harder than the city to leave is this home. I could write a whole post just about leaving this house. This little old house that was our first and the one we expected to have longer than we will. I know every creak of the floor, where to hop over so I don’t wake Hayes. I know how long it takes to get it clean. I know how it feels in the Spring to open the windows all up and listen to Willie Nelson on a Sunday. It has become our safe place. It has been the place that held us as we grew, changed, dreamed, fought, created, and refined. Though we knew when we unlocked that door the first day that this wasn’t our forever home, we anticipated we would be here longer. That in the least there would be a good 5-6 years here in this house. We built the studio of our dreams for a business we thought we knew where it was headed. None of that do we regret or feel we made bad decisions on. In fact, we feel quite the opposite. That studio served its time for us. We enjoyed it. It paid for itself and we will miss it.
As we have been packing up our home over the last few days, we have been sorting through the last two years that were lived here. I have been realizing the number of deeply personal moments and experiences that have happened in this home for us especially considering the short amount of time we have been here. I didn’t anticipate leaving the place where we brought Hayes home for the first time before he was 1. I walk past the mirror in the bathroom and look at myself as I have hundreds of times over the past two years as I have changed physically, emotionally, and spiritually as a woman. I see the pre-mom me, the moment I found out I was pregnant, the first time I saw a bump, the me that stared at me after a shower the night before being induced, the postpartum me, and now this me a woman stronger, fuller, and deeper than I have ever been before. This house has been transformative for me maybe something like a chrysalis in these two years and the woman I entered here isn’t the same today, in all the most beautiful ways.
I don’t know if I will ever fully let this house go in my heart because of who I have grown to be here and how I welcomed my first baby home here, but I do know that I am thankful endlessly for this little light filled bungalow of our’s. I am thankful for the neighbors that loved on us as a family and brought us meals, gifts, flowers, and cried with us and laughed with us. I am thankful for the love that we have known here and the dreams that have happened in these walls. It has loved us so well and we hope it feels the same in some way. This place became home and being away this summer, made me realize how much it had. When I leave here next week for the last time, I will leave with a baby in my arms and a heart full of beautiful memories that I hope echo in these walls and my heart for years to come.
So as we spend the next few days packing our truck, I will mentally and emotionally be packing up another box in my heart and soul of a city that has made us better than when we came here. We aren’t the people we anticipated, but we have become better people because of the experiences we have had and the people we have been lucky enough to share these last few years with. This box will be a sad one to close, but what lies ahead is something that we have been dreaming about for years and years never knowing if it would ever be possible. The other night I told Mike, “Moving to Traverse City is the most sure I have felt about a decision…right up there with making the decision to marry you.” The road we walk is winding and wild, but sometimes it leads us right back to where we began only as different people so that we can best enjoy the place we left.
Next week we will be sharing more about what lies ahead with our move to Traverse City and how this all will be affecting this space in all the greatest possible ways. We have never been more excited, sure, or calm about such a major decision thus far in life.
Till then, we say goodbye to the chapter that took us south to a new place to a new us.