We’ve been thinking about moving to a healthier city with a milder summer climate for a long time now, and this June we are finally taking the plunge. We’re moving to Sonoma County, California, so that we can be near my family, though we also seriously considered Seattle and Denver.
I’ve always realized there would be things I’d miss about the South when I left, but as the time draws closer these tradeoffs and compromises are coming into sharper focus. I thought I might share them here, in a series of posts. I don’t know how many of you have been to the South or are curious about it? For me, these last 10 years in Nashville and Tuscaloosa have convinced me that it’s a more special place than I initially gave it credit for, and one that I’ll be sad to leave in many ways.
The first difference that comes to mind is hard to put into words, but I think essentially it is the pace and focus of life. Since moving to Tuscaloosa five years ago, I can probably count on one hand the number of people who have asked me where I went to school or where I’ve worked before. That is five years of Christmas parties, tailgates, co-workers, and introductions without trading sentences like “I did my undergrad at [impressive university]” or “I started out at [impressive company].”
Of course, this may just be me; I don’t work in a field related to higher education or a particularly competitive one, and I’ve never been a social butterfly who mixes and mingles at a huge number of events. It also may be that this is a smallish city where a high value is placed on being close to family. Thus, most people went to the same colleges in the area (Alabama, West Alabama, Auburn, Samford, Montevallo), so maybe that’s just not a typical conversational point. It could just be coincidence, or all in my head.
But nonetheless, this type of thing stands out to me as a sign of a refreshing lack of pretension, and a focus on lives that are not so driven by climbing the ladder and society’s typical definition of “success.” My colleagues do not expect me to check my email on weekends, nor have I ever felt the need here to respond to a message just to prove I read it soon after it was sent. There is never any pressure to pick the “right” wine as a hostess gift, because so many people here don’t drink for religious reasons that bringing a bottle doesn’t seem to be expected. There doesn’t appear to be much one-upping each other in terms of vacations because most everyone loves to go to the same places: DisneyWorld, the beach, and the Smoky Mountains. No one is embarrassed to admit they bought something at Wal-Mart or liked the latest non-independent, big budget, mainstream action movie.
Is that making any sense? Does it sound too abstract? Of course, there are tradeoffs to not having big, impressive companies in town. Even without them, though, there is constantly construction and development going on around here and people spend good money on all kinds of things, so the city looks like it is doing pretty well economically. And I’ve always been Type A and a hard worker, so certainly I see the benefits of that kind of production and am no stranger to those environments. I guess right from the start I’ve just noticed and enjoyed the greater emphasis on work-life balance and the break from some of that social competition.
We’re hoping Sonoma County will be similar in some ways since it is happily a bit outside the San Francisco/Silicon Valley orbit, but regardless, I’m glad to have had this experience and seen life from a different, slower sort of angle, the kind that makes time to sip a tumbler of sweet tea on the porch with friends. I think we may have bought the only house in California with a front porch, so we plan to retain at least a bit of this Southern perspective. :)
We’ve packed 23 boxes so far, so we’ve taken another step forward in the moving madness. My blogging may slow down amid the flurry of bubble wrap and packing tape, but I’ll try to share as much with you as I can. Hope you’ve had a great weekend!