How we got to California
In 2016, my husband, Colin, and I made a decision that completely changed the trajectory of our lives. I'm very aware that from the outside (and even for those of you who know plenty of the details) our journey has been confusing and difficult to follow. Friends and strangers (and family members...and acquaintances) alike have sent me messages like "Wait, are you living in Oklahoma, Europe, or California?" and "I know you moved, but where in the world are you and how did you get there?"
It feels surreal in the best way to think back on the past two and a half years of our lives from here, sitting poolside while I enjoy some of what I consider to be the most perfect California weather. That's why I'm here though, so here goes my best attempt at the storytelling.
Within a few days of Colin's job applications being submitted, he got a call from a company in Oklahoma City asking him to interview. The crazy part about that was he never applied for this job-- they knew him from an internship he had done the year before. We knew we never wanted to live in OKC (that's where we grew up, if we had to stay in OK we would have preferred Tulsa), but Colin decided to do the interview anyway since nothing was set in stone yet for after he graduated. Almost immediately they offered him the job, and they asked for decision within 2 weeks. He wasn't even supposed to have heard from the other, out-of-state companies by then! We were happy that he got a job offer, but we were devastated to not even get a chance to move somewhere new. It was terrifying to think "if we don't do it now, we may never do it." In the end, Colin and I both felt he needed to accept this job rather than wait to see if anything else came up. Some of our best friends were also moving to OKC after graduation, so we believed the reason we should live there too was to spend more time with them. I'm so glad we did. We got engaged one week after he graduated that May and we were married 3 weeks after my graduation on January 5th, 2013. It was the best day of my life up to that point, and every single day since has been even better.
At the end of July, our sweet friend moved to Texas to get her PhD. We were so sad to see her go, but we drove the 6 hours (each way) in a caravan to help her move. It was on that drive that Colin and I had our usual "where do we see our lives in the next year?" conversation. We check in on that every once in awhile, and every year before that drive, our answers had been "Doing exactly what we're doing exactly where we are. Keep pouring into this place and these people and our jobs and keep our hands open to whatever new opportunity might present itself." This time, though, the conversation went differently. Both of us had this strong feeling that our time in Oklahoma was coming to an end. We had never given up on our dream to move somewhere else--if anything, we were more determined than ever to make that leap if we got an opportunity since we didn't do it initially after college. Admitting that we felt it was about time to move felt so scary, but what was even scarier (and also exciting) was the fact that neither of us had a specific place we felt we were supposed to go. Colorado? We both have family there and we love the natural beauty as well as the outdoor culture. New Mexico? It's my favorite State and it has both mountains and the desert as well as plenty of art and history (not to mention the food....ya girl loves New Mexican chiles, both red and green). Chicago? We're both city people and Chicago is one of our favorite cities in the world. We had no idea where to start, so we decided to start praying about it separately to see if any specific place felt right. So we did, starting the next day, August 1st of 2015, we started praying about where we should move.
I don't know if you're a spiritual person or if you believe in God or any type of influence of the Universe or Spirit (or whatever language you use) in our lives, but Colin and I both felt immediately, like on the first day we started praying about where to go, that England was somewhere we needed to start. I won't pretend like I understood that process (I still don't understand it, really), but it happened and it changed everything for us. We were unsure for so many reasons, but like I said before, we were determined to walk through life with open hands ready to receive whatever came our way.
I had been teaching at a yoga studio in OKC for a few years, and we had a meeting with our team at the owner's home. "The owner," Sarah, also happened to be my mentor/life coach/jedi master like she is for so many of the people in her life. She's one who can look at you and really see you in a way no one else can--like she has x-ray vision. It's lovely and terrifying all at once (love you, Sarah). Anyway, at this meeting, Sarah told us she was closing the yoga studio. We were all heartbroken, but in that moment I also felt completely set free. That was the last community I had been worried about leaving since all our other ones had either ended or changed in a way that made it clear we were not needed there anymore (we were welcome, we just weren't needed) earlier in the year. In talking to Sarah after her announcement, she told me it had been clear to her in praying over me that this ending was part of us being released to go and be in England for whatever we needed to be there for. She said lots of other things too, and it was one of those conversations where it felt like she was holding up a mirror to everything I had been praying about and known deep in my heart already for the past year. I knew it was time before she said anything, but her saying it felt like confirmation. When I got home and told Colin, he felt sure too. We both felt like we had been swinging blindly above the forest floor for a year and this was the landing point--solid ground. We knew that we knew that we knew we were supposed to be in England, and we knew we were supposed to be there in the first months of 2017.
Based on the savings we had and the generosity of our kind and wonderful friends in England (hi everyone, love you all!), we were able to stay there for about 4 months! We had to prove to the customs officer that we had enough money to stay for that long and that our friends were really our friends and that they were down to host us for that long, and I felt almost as soon as we landed that this trip was probably just that...a trip. Colin wasn't as sure as I was, so again we just decided to walk with our hands open--ready to receive whatever came our way.
The entirety of our time abroad was incredible. We spent time with our existing friends, made new lifelong friends, saw so much of the country we both had loved our whole lives, and embraced the opportunity to have this amazing transition period as we decided what was next for us. It was perhaps one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given to spend that much time with Colin. Neither of us was working, so we spent our days walking mostly. Walking to coffee shops and restaurants and used book stores. Walking for miles in the English countryside. Walking around our favorite city in the world, London. We walked through gardens and along rivers and in museums. We walked and walked and walked and sometimes we were quiet and sometimes we talked and mostly we balanced questions about what was next with gratitude for what was now.
So, Colin began applying for jobs in all 3 of those areas. He had a couple of Skype and phone interviews while we were still in England, and when we landed back in the USA in June, he had two in-person interviews scheduled! One was for a company he had always loved in LA, and the other was for a job in San Jose, California...yeah, random. His Skype interview for a job in Denver had gone really well, but the office ultimately wanted to hire someone else. They called him back though, and asked if there were any other offices of that company he would like to apply for (they have offices all over the US). He mentioned California, so they sent his information to all their California offices. Shortly after that, he got a call about a job in San Jose! Colin grew up coming to LA regularly since his grandparents used to live there, and we both love SoCal, but neither of us had ever been to Northern California. We were open though, so he did a phone interview and a Skype interview for the San Jose job. They were so enthusiastic about him we were surprised, and they generously offered to fly us both out for a final interview. We flew into Chicago from England on a Sunday, stayed there until Tuesday before flying back to OKC. Saturday I shot a wedding, and the next day (one week after arriving) Colin flew to LA for his first interview. I didn't go with him since I was exhausted from the wedding and because I knew I would be ok with living in LA if that was the job he chose. Colin came back on Tuesday, and one week later we both flew to San Jose for his second interview. It turns out, this (perfectly lovely) company basically wanted to show Colin around to see if he felt the job would be a good fit--they offered it to him while we were there! We were overwhelmed in a good way, and we slowly fell in love with the idea of moving to San Jose. He accepted the job a few days later.
Colin (my husband) and I were seniors at Oklahoma State University preparing to graduate. He finished school in May and I finished in December. We had been dating for 6 years, and at that point we knew we wanted to get married after I graduated. We didn't care much about making plans for what would come after we got married, but the thing we knew for sure was that we wanted to move away from Oklahoma. We've never had anything against Oklahoma, we just knew we wanted to see and experience more of the world than what we had always known. People were always telling us "everyone dreams of moving away while they're in college, but no one ever actually does it" or "if you don't leave right after school you'll never do it" because...reasons? Anyway, we knew in our deepest hearts that we wanted to see the world, so we tried our hardest to leave Oklahoma right after school. When Colin was preparing his job applications, he was only looking at jobs outside of Oklahoma--we prayed and prayed that anything would work out so we could achieve our dream.
We were living in OKC and absolutely loving it. Our community was messy and beautiful, our home was perfect for us, we got our sweet pup (Bozeman!) we were adventuring and traveling as much as we could, we were saving money, we were working hard, we were learning so much about life and marriage and friendship and adulting. Slowly after we got married, we learned to love OKC more than we ever thought was possible. I decided to intentionally soak up every single moment of that place instead of resenting it--every 105 degree humid day, every tornado watch, every sinus infection brought on by allergies, every party we threw in our backyard on homemade tables, every two-stepping session, every trip to my family's "Ranch" spent covered in bug spray that causes cancer, every dinner around our table, and every day I got to spend in the sweetest coffee shops and restaurants with my dear dear friends was so incredibly special. I felt awake and so happy to live where we lived, and so did Colin. Even as I write this I feel so warm inside remembering all of those sweet moments and that season--I will forever be deeply grateful for that time!
So we just held the idea with our hands open. We had no idea how we would get to England or under what circumstances, or if we were just making up the calling to start there (we had both dreamed of living in England since we were in middle school). So we prayed and prayed and asked questions and told our friends and said yes to one tiny step after the other even though it felt like walking in complete darkness in an unfamiliar place. We had already put a Europe trip on the calendar, so we decided to spend more of that trip in England than previously planned just to see what opportunities might come of it. We were introduced to the loveliest couple that used to live there but who now live in OKC. They asked if we would like to meet their old community while we were on our trip, and we said "we only have one more free night but we'd love to."
We went on our trip, we spent 24 hours in Bedford, England with wonderful wonderful people and became instant friends. Every day we felt more and more sure that England was a place we were supposed to be. But other than meeting our lovely friends, nothing there that would allow us to get a visa really felt right. There wasn't a job or a school or church program that felt particularly suited to us, but we were more and more sure we should be there as the year went on. We processed it with our friends and prayed and prayed and prayed some more. We had all sorts of questions and excuses like "what about our jobs?" "What about this community and that community we're a part of?" Then on August 1st, 2016, one year after we started praying about where we should go, there was a conversation that changed everything for us.
So we started making plans. Colin looked at a few job openings in England, we did lots of research, we told everyone we were moving, we began the really difficult work of letting go of everything in Oklahoma before we had a sure place to land on the other side. There was so much we didn't know, and it quickly became clear that we may not find a job before we knew we needed to be there. That meant we had to make a decision between waiting on a job or another way to get a visa and showing up in England at the time we knew we were supposed to be there even though we couldn't stay longer than a few months. One thing we knew for sure was no matter which we chose, once we took this step we would not be coming back to Oklahoma (to live, we'll always be back to visit). So we continued letting go of everything, and as the time before leaving got smaller and we still didn't have a job figured out, we decided to just make it an extended trip. Americans can visit the UK for up to 6 months without a visa. Colin quit his job, we sold most of our things, moved out of our rental house, gave our dog to my best friend (thanks again for taking care of him, Beth and Ostin! We still owe you guys), and bought our flights to England!
We left for England on Valentines Day, and one thing we told ourselves was that we weren't going to start discussing where we might live next until April 1st. When that day came we sat down in the park to talk about what could be next. We had prayed about it over and over, and the only answer we ever got was "where do you want to be?" This baffled us (we felt we'd rather have an exact answer), but we eventually decided to ask ourselves what exactly we wanted in a place to live. We made lists and put them into categories and weighted them by importance. Some of the things we wanted were "proximity to natural beauty" and "walkability/ease of getting around without a car" and "a diverse and passionate community." Colin put all the information into a spreadsheet (based on my doodles I had been writing on my sketch pad--this is what happens when a creative and an engineer get married), and we started listing cities we had visited. We included OKC for reference (it's the city we know best), Chicago, Denver, LA/San Diego, Washington DC, Madison (Wisconsin), Austin (Texas), London, and more. Every city was given a score in each category, and the spreadsheet spit out our top 3 cities based on the scores. They were Denver, Southern California (we couldn't pick one city), and Chicago. Those were the top 3 we had in our minds as well, so it was good to see them score so highly on paper.
What was crazy about San Jose was it actually scored higher overall on our spreadsheet than any of the cities we were considering! The only reason we hadn't scored it before was because we had never been. The only category it lost points on was cost of living, but every single other category had basically perfect scores. SO exactly 5 weeks after arriving back in the US, we had all of our things (and Bozeman, yay!) in a moving truck ready to drive halfway across the country from OKC to SJ. We signed a lease for an apartment before we had seen it in person (we lucked out with the perfect place, but I wouldn't generally recommend this practice), and we pulled up to it 26 hours of driving later. Colin started his job a few days after that and thus we started our new chapter of life in California!
People ask us all the time if we really love it as much as it seems like we do--and the answer is YES! We say to each other regularly "I'm so glad we live here!" Of course it's hard to be away from our people, and of course it's less comfortable to live in a new place rather than the place we spent our whole lives up until now, and of course it was a scary and wild process of getting here, but we know without any doubts that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. California is a dream in so many ways, and getting to live so close to a major city like San Francisco has been the greatest. And y'all...we live 40 minutes away from the beach. 40. Minutes. In Oklahoma we were 9 hours from the closest beach. What is this life? Every single day feels like an adventure, and it's the greatest.