Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

This week, thoughts from another Curious Millennial: Sarah Vaona

I’ve lived in five cities in the past five years, roaming the west coast looking for home. In my life, I’ve packed up my things and moved and unpacked more times than I can count, leaving me with dueling loves: on one hand, I love the feeling of a fresh start in a new place; on the other, I love deeply rooted community and stability.

I wouldn’t call myself an adventurer; I don’t necessarily like change and I always need a plan. But I find myself restless, scouring real estate websites for the perfect city like it’s my job. I look at city data for weather, walkability, and cost of living. I check school ratings for my little one, park accessibility for my sweet dog, and the type of work that might be available to me and my husband. We always cite job changes as our reason for moving, but there’s more to it than that. We’re looking for something. We’re hoping the next town, the next community, the next move will bring us just the life we’re seeking.

Of course, the place itself will never hand over the perfect life. We’re responsible for creating that ourselves.

This most recent move has brought us back to where we first met, eleven summers ago: Riverside, California. Again citing work as our driving force, we left our townhouse in Seattle and moved into track housing in the ’burbs, convinced that this would be the magical place where we’ll achieve a simpler life. But, alas, I have to say it again: the place itself cannot hand over a perfect life.

During this move, I discovered a book almost written for me called This is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving Where You Live. If you’re a serial Mover like me, I suggest you pick up a copy and read it. Twice.

Here’s what I learned, and what I’ve always known, in my heart of hearts: We choose to love where we live. We can build community or we can hide. We can show up and spend our money at cool local places (might I suggest Arcade Coffee and Jammin’ Bread — two absolute gems), or we can buy stuff at Target. We can engage in all the lovely things our community offers, or we can whine about the heat. We can join groups (for mamas like me, nothing beats Fit4Mom), make friends, pick up trash, and live like someone who loves their city.

I’m knee-deep in getting connected to the fun things Riverside has to offer, and being a mom helps. In the midst of moving so much, I’ve been blessed with the gift of being home with my one-year-old since the start of the year. But now that I’m unpacked again, the reality has set in that I have to start looking for work. This move, like the ones before it, has provided me yet another opportunity to reassess what I really value, and I always welcome the lesson. I’ve realized that I want flexibility that offers me time home with my daughter, I want to do work that has a genuine impact, and I want to free myself from my student loan debt. Hopefully, work will be a way for me to be more deeply connected to this city.

I don’t know what the future holds for me and my family. When people ask whether we’re settled — done moving and staying in Riverside — I don’t have a good answer. But what I do know is this: I’m going to do the work to love being here. Whether we’re here for two years or twenty, we’re going to support local businesses, shop at the Farmer’s Market, find a great church community, work hard, and grow where we are planted.

For more from me, check out my blog, The Pursuit of Brunch.

Thanks for having me, Patrick. Stay curious, friends.

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