Last week I had a panic attack in my dream.
It ended with me hyperventilating, first while asleep and then after my husband, Jason, shook me awake. I didn’t think that kind of thing was possible in a dream, but look at me, blazing trails on new ways experience crippling anxiety. My parents would be so proud.
So what am I stressed about these days? Is it my job? Or maybe my impending fertility procedures?
No. It’s house hunting in Los Angeles.
If you ever want a good laugh, pull up a real estate website, type in Los Angeles and see what you can get for $150,000 (nothing). Or $400,000 (a tiny house in a neighborhood that has a not-so-tiny crime rate.)
When we first started looking, I thought we’d be able to easily find the perfect property – something similar to the house I grew up in. I quickly realized how naïve I ‘d been. It turns out L.A. offers no cozy farmhouses with a wrap-around porch nestled on a five-acre property.
My list of “must-haves” slowly dwindled. I felt like I was bargaining with Los Angles and it was answering me as best it could. How about a yard that hosts the occasional deer and other wildlife? No, but we’ve got squirrels.
Okay, what about a bunch of one hundred-year-old trees framing the house? No, but you’ll love the cactus trying to poke it’s way through the concrete.
Maybe neighbors who will lend me sugar? No, don’t talk to them. They’re very, very busy.
In fact, L.A. could not be more different than rural North Dakota. If they went on a date, they’d decide to be just friends because they have nothing in common.
And that’s where my anxiety makes an appearance. The problem, I believe, is expectations. Because I wasn’t raised in a big city, I wasn’t prepared for the reality. My husband tells me there is a Buddhist saying that goes something like, longing is the root of unhappiness.
That Buddha had a good head on his shoulders because that’s exactly how it feels.
I’m not just talking about the money. Because sure, I long to pay less of a mortgage, but more than that, I long to give my future children what I was lucky enough to have as a kid.
Space, for one thing – so much space. A backyard I could get lost in, fields I ran through, and the only concrete in sight was in front of our garage and had my handprints in it.
To me, that’s the kind of property where you raise kids.
Every time I stand in a little house in Los Angeles that looks out onto a busy street and has a tiny concrete space for the backyard, I think about that.
Will this be enough for them? Will they be happy here?
So I take a deep breath and I remind myself that living in a big city will give them experiences I could only have dreamt about as a child. That’s where the trade-off comes in – that little detail that’s so easy to forget.
I was lucky in my childhood. I loved our little farm so much that it’s hard to admit another way might be just as good. It’s hard to let go of what you’ve always thought of as the ideal experience and chose something different for your children. Especially when you have no idea what it will be like for them.
But there are opportunities here that kids wouldn’t get where I was raised. There’s the diversity, the access to exciting food and experiences. And maybe most importantly, the fact that they will wake up every day and know that they they live in a big city because their mom followed a dream she’d had since she was their age. That it’s very important to listen to that part of yourself – maybe even more important than five acres or a wrap-around porch.
I can’t give them everything I had as a kid, but I can give them that.
This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum. You can find them (and me) here.