I have lived my entire life in a 50 mile radius.
I was born in a suburb of Denver (the same suburb where my mom was born and grew up), moved to Boulder for college, moved back to Denver afterwards, and have stayed put for the last 12 years.
I like Colorado. It’s beautiful here, and sunny more days than not. It can snow 2 feet and then get melted by 60 degree sunshine. People wear jeans everywhere. There are more microbreweries per capita than anywhere else in the world. And Denver is a medium sized city with art museums and theaters, good restaurants and coffee shops and bars, but it’s still small enough that you don’t get too lost in the bustle.
And I’ve never had a good reason to leave. I thought about going away for college, but the idea of amassing even more debt than I needed to just to leave a state I love didn’t make sense. And by the time college was over, I had a job and friends and nothing pulling me to leave.
But here we are, with the idea of moving becoming steadily more real with each passing day. I’m excited about the idea, and totally terrified. Things here feel stuck, but they are at the very least, predictable. And they are not, by any stretch, BAD. They just aren’t great.
The biggest issue is L’s job. She’s adjunct faculty at a community college here, where she teaches more than a full load, but makes about half the annual salary of a full time professor, which calculates to an hourly wage of less than minimum wage. There are additional fun perks like a lack of job security, no benefits, no pay over breaks, and a general lack of respect from the institution. She’s sunk 6+ years into a job she was told would eventually pay off and become full time. It hasn’t. She’s applied for so many full time faculty positions over the last 4 years – too many to count. But, as is the case in most fields, you usually need to know someone to stand out in a sea of resumes.
She’s decided that after this semester, she needs to be done. She needs to be done being mistreated, making a less than living wage, being at the whim of a full time faculty who hates teaching and is stepping on whoever he can to get to the next rung of academia. I support her in this, because while I think loving your job is more valuable than money, you have to love your job for that equation to make sense. Working somewhere you feel taken advantage of AND making a paltry wage isn’t ok (actually, neither are ‘ok’ but we all make choices and sometimes the system we live in forces us to do crappy things.)
But, what now?
I don’t make enough money for us to survive on my income alone, at least not with our current expenses. I make a decent salary for the field I’m in, but thanks to student loan debt and, most unfortunate, a fair amount of credit card debt, we don’t have a lot of wiggle room. So while I’d love to be able to tell L to just not worry and find something that’s a good fit, I can’t do that.
Moving feels like a possible solution. Why?
Well, thanks (no thanks?) to a very booming economy and what can only be called a ‘housing bubble’ in the Denver metro area (for real, our housing market is more expensive than almost anywhere in the country, with the exception of the bay area in California) the house we bought 3 1/2 years ago for $160K is now valued at close to $100 thousand more – but it’s not likely to STAY that way. This means that we could, potentially, sell the home we own in Denver, make enough money to pay off the credit card debt we have, and then be able to afford a bigger house in another part of the country. This doesn’t work, of course, if we stay in Colorado, since our home has increased in value but so has every other property.
And this may or may not be compelling enough reason on its own to leave, and while it isn’t the only reason, per se – it is the only tangible and clear one. The others are much more ephemeral – the idea that in a new place is a fresh start, maybe more opportunities for L, places she’s not burned out working. . . but there isn’t anything obvious.
It’s getting a little more REAL though, for a few reasons:
- As I’ve mentioned, one of our BFF’s (and Ansel’s god mother) is moving to Minneapolis because she was promoted to executive director of her organization. We adore her, Ansel adores her, an Minneapolis is super queer (also super cold but, ignoring that for now) and yes, we would totally follow her out there. But also, L just submitted an app for a dreamy job at a dreamy theater and one of her friends (who is legit a celeb in the theater world. Like, y’all might know who she is even if you aren’t in the theater world) and who is very much a BIG DEAL to this theater is putting in a good word and you know, it could totally happen. So, Minneapolis . . .
- The last week a colleague of mine posted a job on FB that is, for all intents and purposes, the exact job I have now (as in, same federal funding stream, just a different site) but in the Seattle/Olympia area. I applied because, why not? And this morning I had a phone screening for the job. I feel very clear that I nailed it (how could I not have?) but they did tell me the likely salary range for the position (and my experience) is $2-3K less per year than I currently make. That’s only about $150/month difference (our CC debt bills are higher than that) but it feels hard to justify moving across the country for the same job I do now and a (very small) pay cut. And of course, I do not have the job yet so I really shouldn’t start counting chickens just yet, but . . .In other good news, L is applying for a faculty position that is also in Olympia so maybe that will happen too?
It all just feels big. And confusing. And not at all what I am used to, which is consistency and safety and DENVER. So, I’m confused. And I think I am ready to take a leap into the unknown. Funny that I waited until the time when most people ‘settle down’ to start considering pulling up roots.
Circa 2004 with one of my besties who now lives in Seattle. (this was my bike punk phase)