In 2011, shortly after Megan’s lung transplant, we decided to have a 5-year plan of moving out of the house we currently live in. We bought this house the year we were married...2005 It’s small, in the city, with a busy highway, shopping area, and rail line within a few hundred yards, lending an ambient soundtrack of engines, train horns, and truck traffic around the clock. The house itself is old, with funky shaped rooms and ceilings, and it creaks and groans, showing it’s age.
But, it was affordable for a young couple just starting out. It was halfway between my work at the time, and our parents...30 minutes either way. The small lot took no time to mow, and the small house was easy on the heating and cooling costs. The neighborhood, noisy as it may be, is pretty safe and decently maintained. It’s not a housing development, with manicured lawns and homeowner’s associations, but it’s not run down or dangerous either. There is a gorgeous river gorge just on the other side of the highway, publicly accessible as a park, and we are 5 minutes from Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
There is a a lot of upside to this little salt-box style, 1.5 story house. Yet, by the time Megan was getting healthier, Shelby was in school, and we were starting to talk about OUR “next chapter”
Megan really didn’t want to leave the area. She wanted to be near her parents, and to have Shelby go to the same schools she went to. We wanted a little more land, a little bigger house (one that didn’t have weird sloped ceilings in the bedrooms), and a little quieter neighborhood. I had succeeded in convincing her that we should at least live outside of town, and maybe we could be a little further away than 30 minutes from either of our parents (they all live within a few miles of each other, in the town we grew up in). We could find good schools for Shelby elsewhere in the state.
So, we made a plan, starting in summer of 2011. We paid down debt. We cut cable and made sure lights were turned off. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars at an amusement park, we went to the natural park, for free. We quit eating out so much (which had an added benefit of eating healthier). By 2014, our five-year plan was looking good. I wasn’t feeling “stuck”. I even took a new job that year, one that paid better and was within walking distance of our house. The end goal was on the horizon...just in sight.
You know the story...then Megan got sick. Then she spent 6 months in the hospital. Then she died. Well, there went that plan. Not only did moving not seem like an option anymore, I started spending the money we had saved, almost as a form of therapy. When I met Sarah, not long after Megan’s death, the plan of moving was already seemingly years behind me.
I spent money on experiences, not bills. On things, not goals. The progression and process towards Megan and I’s next chapter was gone. Why should I care? I deserved a little fun, right?
Well, as Sarah puts it, “The honeymoon’s over”. We’ve been together two and a half years at this point, and she’s been here in Ohio for almost two years now. While we’ve repainted every room in the house, changed around a lot of the pictures and decorations, and made the house that Megan and I lived in as much Sarah and I’s possible, it’s not an effective salve.
We really want to be somewhere else. She has the uncomfortableness of living in the house that Megan, Shelby and I started our lives together in. I am in the “stuck” feeling all over again.
So, we’ve talked, and talked. Oh, we’ve also talked, followed by talking. We are starting a new “five year plan”. I’ve started this before, but never got to finish it. It’s harder this time because of that. I’m worried it will just be another false start, another unachieved goal, and I will be living in this little house when I’m 80 years old.
I’m worried about boring Shelby, because we’re “saving money”. I’m worried about telling my, and Megan’s parents that the end result of this goal is that we’re probably going to live out of state, and not just one border crossing away. I’m worried that Shelby will resent us for moving her away from all of her friends and family when she’s a teenager.
You see, Sarah and I have both lived away from our friends and families for extended periods of time. We’re both much more comfortable with it. Megan hadn’t. I was willing to stay in the area for her, for good reason. Housing, frankly, is more affordable in this corner of Ohio than anywhere else in the country. We didn’t have any of the other complexities of being outside of a day trip away from friends and family, and we could save money and still entertain Shelby here. I never had to worry about taking the biggest reminder of Megan away from her parents.
Why do I always feel so beholden to our parents?
But, Carolina’s on my mind. Always has been. I vacationed there when I was little, and lived in North Carolina for 3 years as a Marine. I fell in love with it. It’s 8 hours, minimum, away from our families, but, I have to grit my teeth I guess and restart our modified-not-Megan-but-Sarah-kinda-sorta-next-chapter, with a five year plan.