A one-way ticket out of my comfort zone
By Morgan Baker
Hawai‘i was never on my bucket list of places to visit. I wasn’t interested. It was too far away, too expensive, too resorty. I didn’t get the hype.
Then my husband, Matt, went looking for a new job in his early 60s. Who does that? We discovered that ageism is a real thing and that experience doesn’t always get you the job, and you better be flexible. You might have to move. Eventually, he was offered an interview for a position in – Hawai‘i – 5,000 miles from the home we’d lived in for 27 years, raised our kids and where most of our friends were and one of our two daughters still lived.
I am not a daredevil. I am not the moving type. I like the sense of belonging and staying put.
He flew out for the interview, met a cousin he hadn’t seen in decades, came home and told me it was beautiful and warm there. And then we waited, while I daydreamed of sandy beaches and then panicked about leaving my life.
Long story short – he was offered the job, and then flew me out to see if I could see myself in Hawaii, or Paradise, as some refer to it.
I am not a daredevil. I am not the moving type. I like the sense of belonging and staying put. I enjoy seeing the same people in the grocery store every time I go. I like having my daughter and her boyfriend over for dinner. I like working out with my cousin twice a week and having coffee with the same group of ladies and sharing writing projects with my writer friend. I even stayed at the same job for more than 30 years. I don’t do change.
But suddenly, as we drove around the island and imagined ourselves in different areas, Hawai‘i seemed doable and maybe even exciting, albeit a bit scary. The job was the perfect fit for Matt and I thought he’d be a fool to turn it down. It was fun to think about where we might live – near the ocean or in town – and in what kind of house. Maybe we could have less stuff this time around. We’d have no baggage.
“We’re going,” I said. Who was this person? I didn’t know her.
It struck us both that if we didn’t take this opportunity, we’d always wonder, what if? We weren’t getting any younger. Our kids were grown-ups. Matt had always wanted to live abroad, and while Hawai‘i is a U.S. state, it really has its own culture and history. And, it’s far enough away to be its own country. It was once. Going on mini adventures on Oahu and the other islands and learning about its diverse history could be invigorating and educational.
It was the “what if?” that really got me. Sitting in a restaurant in Santa Monica with Matt’s sisters and brother-in-law after our Oahu visit, he hemmed and hawed about whether we could do this. “We’re going,” I said. Who was this person? I didn’t know her.
It forced us to look at the future.
I wanted to do what was right for Matt – he needed this to put a smile back on his face, but there was something else – instead of constantly looking at the past in our house, like the children’s bedrooms behind closed doors, it forced us to look at the future. When we did eventually move, I even told Matt he couldn’t bring any pictures of the kids when they were little. I wanted us to move forward.
I also wanted to step outside of my comfort zone. I didn’t have an adventure when I was young and we didn’t travel a lot as a young family. I’ve never really lived anywhere other than Cambridge and New York, with brief forays to Pittsburgh and London. This was my last chance for that adventure.
We moved at the end of July. Matt started his job and I went with him for five weeks to make beds and buy a coffee maker for the house before I returned home to pack up our real house and teach one final semester in the classroom at Emerson.
This is not to say that I haven’t cried, yelled and stamped my feet a number of times over this move, and all I’ve left behind, but now it’s January and I’m sitting in a sleeveless shirt on my screened-in porch with my dog. Not too shabby.
I’m learning to embrace adventure – to try new things.
Things can be much harder, I’ve discovered, when you anticipate them than when you actually do them. You really can adapt to almost anything. I am developing a new routine here, and I’ve always been good at keeping myself busy – writing, quilting, walking.
I’m learning to embrace adventure – to try new things. Matt and I discovered a fabric shop where they custom make the Aloha shirts he wears to work. We go to two farmers’ markets every week. We eat our dinner at the Thursday evening one and the woman at the crepe stand on Sunday mornings knows my name. I even wear hats now. I own five straw hats and change them depending on how strong the sun is.
I went paddle-boarding for the first time last week when my daughter was visiting. I stayed on my knees most of the time and we went down a canal rather than out on the ocean, but I stood at the end. I didn’t fall in and I want to go again. I have plans to join the Y and the library here in our town – oh, we chose to live near the ocean.
I want my daughters to see me as someone who dares, not someone who chickens out.
My family lives in three different time zones now which is strange. I loved having us all under one roof for so long, but I have to count on my fingers to figure out what time it is for each daughter when I text or call. They are living their adventures. While I am envious of my friends who live around the corner from their children, I know this is the right thing for my family. I want my daughters to see me as someone who dares, not someone who chickens out.
This adventure wasn’t planned, but I’m reading, exploring, and learning a lot. I don’t know how long we’ll live here, but it’s not so bad, crossing the street to go for a morning or evening dip, or walking the dog without a winter coat.
Even when I’m lonely, and Matt says we don’t have to stay to make me feel better, I know I want to stay. I don’t want to lie on my death bed and think I was a wimp. I want to be brave. I want to grab the opportunity to do something different, daring and drastic. Something so unlike me.
About the Writer
Morgan Baker is the managing editor of The Bucket. After a year in Hawaii, she is back in Cambridge, where her new adventure is adding a puppy to her family. She teaches writing at Emerson College. Her work can be found in The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe Magazine and The Brevity Blog, among other publications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This was inspiring to me Morgan. After John Downing passed, I met & eventually married Greg. He coaxed me from my comfort zone, always loving an adventure, and dragging me along! But as time went on I stayed behind to dog sit instead or other.. than adventure. Gregs gone now and if I could turn back time, I’d hire dog care, and be the first to pack and go. Good for you on embracing this new journey. What a picture of a loving, supportive wife you have modeled for your children. And as for Matt, I e seen the photos… Read more »