Finding the Perfect Place to Live
Long before I retired, I began looking for the perfect place to live. Oakland had been good to me, but I knew I wanted a different, quieter, more picturesque life for my later decades. I looked everywhere I ventured, from Europe to Costa Rica and even in other parts of the U.S. I finally found what I was looking for, almost in my own backyard.
My childhood included many trips to Fort Bragg. In fact, our family used to joke that we had relatives on every corner there. My aunt worked in Mendocino’s general store, my uncles were lumberjacks and fishermen, and one relative owned a sheep ranch in Albion. But I never saw the area as one where I’d return to live.
Then one day I wandered through Mendocino’s village and I knew instantly that this is what I had been hoping to find. Although I knew no one else in the area, I bought a house and packed my bags for the new life I’d chosen.
The part I’ve left out, however, is that I also left the man I love to be here.
Unlike my mother, I never chose marriage. There were proposals; I wasn’t interested. My unhappy childhood and my feminism had sealed my fate. I never again wanted to be in a situation I couldn’t easily leave, and neither did I want to deal with societal expectations surrounding marriage.
Prior to Phillip, I’d been unpartnered for many years. Nevertheless, within my first three weeks of knowing him I told him I didn’t “do” marriage, and, by the way, I’d be moving to Mendocino. He took the risk, we lived happily in Oakland together for three years, and then I made my move. In spite of my great love for him, I left for the life that was calling me.
I breathe more freely here. I walk daily, I’ve become obsessed with birds, and I stop to smell the flowers and enjoy the views. I’m learning to paint, am active in politics and study groups, volunteer everywhere, belong to book clubs, take yoga and pilates, march under varying banners in local parades, and I even took acting classes for a while.
An unexpected pleasure here is that I’m also surrounded by women who are decades older than I am. They’re active artists, political leaders, and wonderful role models for aging and living the lives they’ve designed. I’m lucky to be able to call them my friends.
As for me and Phillip? We struggle with the miles between us. Our bond is strong but the separation is difficult. We each travel the seven hours round-trip between Oakland and Mendocino at least once each month, and we keep trying to figure out how to make our relationship work. I miss the daily intimacy of being with him, but Mendocino is the dream I chose, and although he loves it here, he also loves tall buildings and cement. Maybe he’ll move here or maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll buy a house closer and we’ll rotate between our two residences. Or maybe we won’t last, which would make me very sad.
As for my mother? She was married to my father for over 60 years, and she would never have left him or created a life distinctly separate from his. She wouldn’t have risked security for the unknown, and she undoubtedly would not have approved of my choices. But I have no regrets. I’m happy here, I know this is where I need to be, and it’s where I plan to stay.
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