The year that I decided to relocate (2003) was, for me, the Year of the Butterfly Effect. Looking back on that year, it was as if a tiny butterfly had landed squarely in the middle of my life (in the middle of a parking lot, actually) and triggered a life-altering sequence of events. I didn’t notice the butterfly at the time. Butterflies are like that. You don’t always see them, except out of the corner of your eye.
My butterfly was actually a tiny change in water temperature.
It was a frigid February morning in upstate New York, one of many I’d had to endure that winter. I was standing perfectly still on a sheet of thin ice in a parking lot, about to open my car door. The next thing I knew, I was lying flat on my back. My head had bounced a little as I landed. The ice under my boots must have started to melt just as I moved to open my car door. As I struggled to my feet, I heard myself declare, “That’s it, I’m moving.”
The early 2000s had been difficult. First there was 9/11. Then my ten-year destructive relationship had ended (again). Someone had tried to sue me. (They lost the case but I’d had to pay a lawyer). My roof was leaking. My fence had been blown down by high winds. A person I’d confided in (whined to?) suddenly had become less supportive. And to top it all off, it had been a record-breakingly cold winter.
I needed a change — some sunshine, a better-paying job, a fresh start. I thought moving to a warmer climate might solve everything. Hitting my head on a solid sheet of ice was just the incentive I needed to get moving.
I thought about where I might want to live. I was open to pretty much any warm state in the continental U.S. except Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, and all of the midwest. Not too picky, huh?
In March, I went to the library and borrowed videos on Florida, Arizona, and Virginia. After deciding that Florida was too flat, I applied on line for jobs in Arizona and Virginia. In April, I interviewed in both places and received two good offers: one in Arizona and one in Virginia. I couldn’t decide between the two. Virginia was lovely, and closer to most of my immediate family, but my brother lived in Arizona. He called me one morning and asked, “Why don’t you move out here where you’ll already know someone?” It was the gentle nudge of a butterfly wing. I decided to take the job in Arizona.
In May, I put my house on the market and discovered that the roof wasn’t the only thing leaking — there also was a leaking oil tank buried under my front yard. I’d had no idea it was there, but I gladly paid for removal and cleanup. I had to make other repairs to my house as well. Somehow, I managed to sell the house quickly, said goodbye to my family, and drove myself, my dog, and my cat 2,000 miles across the country. I started my new job, and my new life, in July, 2003.
In many ways I’m happier now, but being far away from family all these years has been tough. I often ask myself if my decision to move, made under the duress of a few bad years, was the right one. But perhaps there’s no such thing as a right or wrong decision, only good or bad outcomes, which often are beyond our control. We can’t predict the factors that will affect the outcomes. Only later can we say “Oh, that caused that to happen, which caused that, which caused that … etc.” Being in the moment, we can only try to do our best with the limited information that we have — and hope it all turns out alright.
So, was I loco to relocate? Not at all. Looking back, I know I needed that change, and I needed it badly. It wasn’t just the Butterfly Effect at work. I was thinking things through and agonizing over what to do. It was me. I was the butterfly. But I won’t lie. I still feel the pangs of remorse from time to time, and I think about moving back there. So what’s stopping me? Those long, dark winters, for one …
Instead of relocating, maybe I should just become a snow bird, with residences in two states. Lots of people out here in Tucson (the land of the loco weed) do just that, because it’s getting too hot here in the summers. It’s something to consider. Guess I’ll have to start writing that best-selling novel if I want that to happen.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep my eyes open for butterflies, especially monarchs. They’re good at finding their way home.