To go home or not to go home?

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We’re getting out of the Coast Guard. You know this. Other than that one time we were uncertain for 48 hours, we’ve been certain for the past two years. The day Josh had to drag Parker screaming and crying into his last day at his first elementary school was the day he came home to me and said, “I’m done. I’m can’t ever do this to our kids again.” And then Texas happened and it sealed the deal.

This decision does not have to do with the CG. Okay, well it does a little. But mainly, it is a decision we’ve made based on what Josh and I believe is best for our family. So now that that’s established, everyone outside of our little family of five can stop weighing in. No more, “I just want you to make an informed decision.” No more, “But you can retire when you’re 44.” No more.

Josh is a recruiter. He makes his living selling the pro’s of joining the Coast Guard. He is informed. His contract isn’t up next week, it’s up in over a year and a half. Getting out isn’t a rash decision, it’s something that we’ve thought about, planned for and are preparing to do. Josh can retire from the Coast Guard when he’s 44 but he can’t retire from working. The word “retire” means something different for military people and the sacrifice that is made in exchange for “retiring” at 44 isn’t something we’re willing to give up any longer. We don’t care who you know in the Army/Navy/Marines/Air Force/Coast Guard/National Guard/Firefighters Association/Police Corp of America/Doctors with Borders/Teachers Union or Librarians of the United States who successfully and happily served until they could “retire” with a smile on their face to that beautiful paradise that everyone who retires at 44 apparently lives in. Our experience is unique to our family and that’s what we’re basing our decision on.

So. Now that that’s out, let’s move on. The only sentence from that entire rant that I intended to actually type was “We’re getting out of the Coast Guard” but the rest just seemed to flow so I went with it. What I meant for this post to be about is the constant struggle that Josh and I deal with when it comes to deciding whether we want to move back to our hometown once our Coast Guard days are over. Is this common? Do any of my military wife readers struggle with this too because it’s something that is weighing on us nearly everyday.

You see, Josh and I both have this love/hate for our hometown. We come from a very small place with a pretty bad economy but the people are the best. We’ve lived in 6 different cities in 4 different corners of the country and when it comes to respect, morals, values, and ethics, the midwest wins hands down. When we went home for our county fair last fall I nearly died when a group of 5 teenage boys approached me to ask where I had bought my drink and then 4 out of the 5 proceeded to thank me when I gave them directions. In New York, 5 teenage boys would have approached me, mugged me and stolen my drink (kidding!!).

When Josh and I sit down and start talking about moving home (almost every Friday) what we love and what we hate are always this same. We love love love the small town. This is part of why we loved Cape May too so we know for sure that we’re just small town people. We love the idea of our kids doing the same things that we did when we were kids. Sledding at the pool hill, Friday night football games, Firestone 4th of July’s, the Clipper clap. We love that our friends are all still there, that it’s a safe community where we know most of the people (and most of the people’s parents and grandparents…), that the cost of living is dirt cheap but the schools are excellent. We love that Ohio is central to the great lakes, Canada, the east coast, the major midwestern cities, and parts of the south (meaning we could get to any of those places within a days’ drive). Josh, who loves Ohio a tad bit more than I do, has his own list too – being back on the fire dept., coaching, Steamer’s, season tickets to PNC, being called Beef again (I kid!!), etc.

As for what we dislike, there are a few negative things I’m not willing to blog about but mainly it comes down to the fear of being stuck. Like, we got out once and we don’t know if we’ll be able to again. Especially because our boys, Parker in particular, bleed scarlet and grey. If you ask Parker where he’s from he will tell you Ohio even though he only lived there for less than two of his 8.5 years. And of course the kids want to live near family. So the fear is, what if we move back and hate it? What if things have changed in the past six and a half years and don’t end up the way we imagine? What if we’ve changed in the past six and a half years? If we take our boys back it will very possibly kill them to leave again. We’ve also thought about just devoting the next 15 years to our kids. Giving them the childhood they (think they) want in the place they (think they) want to be and then reevaluating, once they’ve moved on, where we want to be. But of course it’s not that simple.

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Even though this is constantly on our minds, it’s easy to push it away because it’s not an immediate issue. Like I said, Josh still has a year and a half left in his contract. But last weekend something happened. Our realtor (the mother of a man who graduated with my mother from the same high school where Josh and I graduated from and where my mom taught for 15 years – see how that whole small town thing works?) emailed Josh a house that just came on the market because she thought we may be interested. And we are. It is in a perfect location and meets nearly every item on our dream wish list and is within our budget. And I can’t stop googling it and scrolling through the pictures and imagining our furniture throughout. Of course we know who lives there now and funny enough they’re a family of five with two older boys and a baby girl. Fate? The house is already set up for us. *Another ironic fact on a slightly creepy scale – when my sister was here a few weeks ago she was admiring my changes in decor since the last time she had visited and said, “Your style reminds me of Mr. *******’s house.” The exact house in question. As I paged through their for sale photos I couldn’t help but notice that she was right. Fate. 

So now we’re at this weird place again where we’re texting each other love notes about the house “Even the paint colors are perfect” and planning something that may not even happen and getting all sweating palmed over a hypothetical life. Someone, some other crazy Coastie person, please tell me this is normal! We all do this, right? And in the meantime, I’m kinda just hoping the house sells quickly so the pressure can be off.

Whew! This life, huh?

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4 thoughts on “To go home or not to go home?

  1. What’s so funny is, when you described the mother of the man who graduated from high school with your mom, I knew EXACTLY who you’re talking about–and I had her as a teacher in high school. People who didn’t grow up in one don’t get the small town thing…. but small towns are definitely great places to grow up! You know what, though? Anyplace can be a great place to grow up. And anyplace can be a horrible place to grow up. Which is why you have both enjoyed and hated almost every place you’ve lived. You learn to adjust to the things you hate, and focus on the things you love. For the most part It’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with. You have three gorgeous, intelligent, healthy kids. And your kids have two amazing parents who have the ability to make any surrounding a happy home for them. So they’ll be fine anywhere. Just like you have been. 🙂 (funny/creepy side note – I find myself wondering whose house it is. Even though I haven’t lived in our hometown for almost 30 years, I’ll bet I know it! And BTW – every time I go back I both love visiting/being there AND can’t wait to leave!)

    • Thanks Tracey. That’s really sweet and you’re right. It’s tricky living in this kind of limbo where we’re not settled and we’re constantly wondering where we going to end up. The owner of the house I’m talking about moved to Columbiana just a few years ago so I doubt you’d know him but the house is right next to the park so I’m sure you’d know it. And that love/hate that I wrote about is exactly how you describe when you visit. We’re so excited to go back but we are equally excited to leave.

  2. We aren’t a Coastie family, but I read this and completely understood where you are coming from. I’ve lived in Nashville for 10 years, and I still go through months of questioning why, exactly, I live here instead of Ohio/our hometown. When I think of raising a family in a city culture that excludes field parties, Friday night lights, and a community of people who care, personally, about our family, I don’t really know what to do. At the same time, when I go home to the Youngstown area, I miss out on other things (legitimate organic food, lack of fracking, art museums, more public spaces, and other city perks). Sometimes I wish I had never left at all because now I feel like I’m cut off from my roots and I can’t go back. I think Pittsburgh could be a good compromise for us someday, especially since I’m a freelancer and can work from anywhere. And, we would need way less money if we didn’t live in a really expensive city with crazy high housing prices, and that would be a great bonus.

    • That’s exactly how I feel Megan and that’s why I’m afraid of moving back. Aside from friends, family, and the Midwestern culture, there is nothing for us back home. It would be extremely hard for Josh to find a job in his field and we’d have to travel to do any of the things we’ve come to love doing. I think I cling to the idea of moving back (against logic) because I haven’t felt “at home” for quite some time.

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