I was born and raised in a middle-class neighborhood in the center of a large suburb of Chicago. I lived in the exact same house until I was 21. While college took me to Iowa, and I lived in Pennsylvania for one summer internship, I always returned to home base. My husband was also born and raised in the Chicagoland area. His family moved a few times but stayed in and around the city. We enjoyed living close to our extended family when we got married, and we moved into the same neighborhood as his folks shortly after we found out I was pregnant. Our first home was in a great school district, close to the highway, train station, and local resources. Being familiar with the area and having so much help from friends and family, especially in a pinch, was a blessing after we brought our daughter home from the hospital. We planned on staying. Our whole life was there. Why would we leave?
The only constant in life is change. The offer my husband received was a position with a great career path in a company we liked. He would be working for a boss he had worked for at a previous company. The catch was the job was in Columbus, Ohio.
Ohio was a place you drove through. The fact that an absurd amount of astronauts are from the Buckeye State spawns the joke, “What is it about Ohio that makes people want to leave the planet?” Columbus wasn’t a household name like Boston or Los Angeles. The people we know didn’t take destination vacations there. But as fate would have it, we already had a family road trip to New York City planned just after my husband was approached about the job. We decided to make a pit-stop in Columbus on the way. You know, just to check it out.
We were disappointed. Not because Columbus was sub-par, but because we were so impressed it made our decision that much harder. It would have been easy to say no to relocating and stay within our comfortable little bubble back in Illinois, had Columbus been unremarkable and unable to meet our needs!
But as you know, Columbus is AMAZING. At least, it is to us. It’s like this hidden little Midwestern gem. We could drive twenty minutes one way and be downtown amongst the capitol buildings or historic, diverse villages. We could drive twenty minutes in the other direction and be on a farm petting animals or picking blueberries and apples. In Chicago, you have to drive one to two hours or more to do any of those things.
Columbus is incredibly family-oriented with good school districts, great museums, a silly amount of free, kid-friendly activities, and my word are the metro parks gorgeous! Chicago has all of these things, but the museums are so far away and expensive when you add up a membership, drive time, and parking. Most activities for kids in Chicago cost money. Library story times are free in Chicago, but I saw everything they lacked once I attended a Ready for Kindergarten story time in Gahanna. Not to mention the cost of living is about 20% lower in Columbus. If Columbus really had everything we needed and more was there really a choice? It seemed to be the Godfather job offer.
Nevertheless, we felt sad and hesitant as we hemmed and hawed for weeks after our initial visit to Columbus, discussing every detail, pro and con. Was it right to raise our child so disconnected from her extended family? What would I, an extrovert and full-time mom, do without my intrinsic support system? Our school district in the suburbs was going to build a brand-new elementary school in our neighborhood. It would stink to miss out on the opportunity for our daughter to attend it! No matter what we could come up with, we reluctantly also came up with perfectly good alternatives and options.
We began to realize that Ohio was two states away, not half a world away. We would still see our family and thank goodness for video calls! Once we started talking about a potential move to Columbus, people came out of the woodwork with folks they knew in town. Friends of ours have friends or family in Columbus they were happy to introduce us to. The brother of my best friend growing up lives out here with his girlfriend. Realistically, not having to live down the street from a construction zone for six months and subsequently deal with before and after school traffic congestion for decades should be put in a “Pro” column.
Two years later, we are thrilled that we held hands and jumped into this adventure feet first together. We found a beautiful house we immediately fell in love with on our first walk-through. We’ve taken the six-hour drive back to Chicago countless times in order to still be there for holidays, graduations, birthdays, and special events. Our family and friends have done the same in return. My husband loves his new job. Our neighbors have made us feel like we’ve lived here for twelve years instead of two. I found some of the most wonderful women and families by joining a local moms group, many of whom have been there for us when we needed help. A few of them are even my emergency contacts now that I need locals on file at our doctors’ offices and our daughter’s school.
We’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing tourists in our new home. Fewer family obligations means we are able to spend more time as a family of three. Whether it’s checking out a festival for the first time, or working on our home with continued renovations, we’ve grown closer doing it all together. We will always say that Columbus is missing a lot of the people we love, but at the end of the day, we feel like we’ve only just relocated home.