As I flew back from New Jersey after my sister’s wedding, this time solo with the two kids (husband stayed behind to go on a business trip), I wearily got all our luggage and the two kids on the bus. With my daughter asleep in my arms, my son sat next to me and said: “Mommy, why can’t we live in New Jersey with Abuela and Grandpa?”
The answer to that question starts long time ago. On the eve of my wedding I got a rejection from my top choice business school on the East Coast and a few days later an offer for a full ride to attend Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. One does not turn down a full ride to a top 5 business school. So shortly after the wedding, we packed up all our stuff and moved out west. We talked about how this was a two year move, and we’d come back East after school. We even kept a car at my parent’s house for a long time.
After my second year in the MBA program, I had lots of interviews but was having no luck finding a job. Near graduation I found myself interviewing with a well known firm in San Francisco “as practice”, and with my dream company in New Jersey. I soon found myself really liking every person I met within the San Francisco firm. Then I flew out to New Jersey to interview for my dream company. After my interview, I went to my car and cried in the parking lot. I had hated every minute of the interview and knew I could never work there. The writing was on the wall and at that moment I knew my life would change.I kept trying to tell myself I would only stay in California a few years and then go back. “I will go back once I’m pregnant” I said. But in 2009 when I was pregnant with my first born, the job market wasn’t great. I didn’t have the courage to give up a job I really liked for the unknown back East. Every time I got bored and was thinking about job hunting back East, my company came through with a promotion, a new job, or a nice raise. Before I knew it I was celebrating 8 years with my company and 10 in California.
When I first came to California, it was cheap enough for me to go home 3-4 times a year. But soon gas prices went up and so did airfare. Then kids came along and soon they required seats on the plane as well. When my daughter became a full priced ticket, I told my New Jersey family we’d only go to NJ once a year. But somehow that doesn’t stick and it often ends up being 2-3 times a year. Add to that that we try to go to India every 2 years to see my husband’s family, and we are now four full priced plane tickets. People used to ask why we didn’t own a house; it’s hard to stop raiding the down payment fund for airfare.For years I have felt torn with a foot in each place. I miss my family in New Jersey terribly and wish I could be more a part of their day to day lives. My grandmother is getting older and it breaks my heart leaving her every time. But now, I’ve been in California for 10 years. We’ve made a life and a family here. My husband has a cousin and we are close to his family and their similar aged children. My best friend is here with my god – daughter. My good friend who’s come back from her around the world travels. The list goes on and on. I often said I’m open to going back, but each year the idea gets fuzzier, more distant, more abstract.
Then, the end of 2015 happened. In a few weeks my husband and I endured a series of life altering events that led to us to have the means but also the necessity to quickly purchase a house. We found a sweet place that needs some work but we can make our own. But most importantly, it gives us a sense of permanence we have never had before. This house cements our decision to stay in the Bay Area. It’s bitter sweet. We are happy to have a place to call home and raise our family, but it means our lives will never be in New Jersey, where my family and my heart lives.
When my son asked the question: “Mommy, why can’t we live in New Jersey with Abuela and Grandpa?”, I turned it on him. I said “If we did that you wouldn’t see your friends, cousins or god-sister as much”. I saw his mind churning and thinking about this. Then he said “How do we fix it so all our family is together? Because I would miss both sides”. That, my son, is the million dollar question, but it’s something we can work on together.