We spent our first five months in the US on a perpetual search for places to live. I made it into a game, seeking out this pot at the end of the rainbow.
Should we live in the Pacific Northwest? How about the Carolinas?
Every time we started narrowing down our options, I thought of a place I’d never visited that ‘sounded good.’
“What about Boston?” I’d say. “I’ve always felt a pull to Boston.”
I haven’t been to Boston. Never. Not one time.
We circled around the same cities, halfheartedly applying for jobs all over the place, hoping that something would land and make the decision for us.
I kept a running list of places that were just as good as each other: San Luis Obispo, Fort Collins, Seattle. I grew obsessed with the idea of San Diego, another place I’ve never visited. Then there was our base in Jacksonville, where we had use of an apartment and car, not to mention the weather advantage.
As long as we hadn’t made a decision, I was convinced we could still make the right one. So we delayed, giving ourselves time to explore.
The more we saw, the less equipped we were to pick one place. This became evident during a two-week road trip along the California coast. We drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco, across to Sacramento, then all the way down to San Clemente.
And California delivered. Ocean drives, redwoods spiralling into the sky, otters cruising through Monterey Bay—all of it met or exceeded my expectations.
But there was no lightning bolt, no moment where I thought this is it. Sure, we could easily see ourselves living in any one of those California towns, but we could also imagine being in Boulder, Seattle, or Boston.
I approached the question of where to live as if there was only one right choice, but there’s not. There are multiple right choices. The trick was to pick a place, then do our best to make that choice the right one.
But I needed a catalyst, something to force my hand.
That happened when Jared was suddenly offered a job in Jacksonville. We ran a list of pros and cons, and on paper it made sense to stay. But over the next 24 hours, I felt a mounting sense of dread.
Was I really going to live in Jacksonville? The place where we’d landed by default? It didn’t feel like making a choice, it felt like taking the path of least resistance.
At the crux of this decision-making process, I had a light bulb moment about myself: actively making choices about my life is really important to me. If I let myself get swept along with the tide when my instinct is to get out of the water, it never feels right.
I thought back to when I moved to Ireland after graduating from college. It wasn’t about Ireland specifically, but what the opportunity represented. I was desperate to test out a life that I’d chosen myself, rather than one I’d been dropped into.
It’s the kind of choice that not everyone has access to; luck and privilege have played a big role. Sometimes I think that I should learn to be happy where I’ve landed. Plenty of people would snap up a no-assembly-required life, and I’m aware of what I walked away from.
But what would I prove by staying—that I can ignore my instincts?
If you’ve ever attempted to quash your intuition, you know that you can make it veryvery small, but it never goes away. If I stayed, it would be like wearing a pair of shoes three sizes too small, pretending that they fit.
It became clear that we needed to make a plan, not wait for a plan to find us. That weekend we held an impromptu summit, in which we listed our priorities, narrowed down our options, and made a decision.
We moved to the USA to be closer to my immediate family, who are in Washington D.C., Austin, and Colorado. We also wanted access to an active lifestyle, either mountains or the ocean, preferably in a walkable area. It no longer made sense to consider options that we hadn’t visited, so pipe dream possibilities like Boston and Seattle were cut.
Based on our shortlist, Colorado ticked all the boxes. We had two options: keep looking for alternatives that might be equally as good or better, or move to Colorado.
We chose option number two, and it felt so good to finally make a decision.
I started writing this post when our decision was fresh, sitting at my parents’ kitchen table in Jacksonville. I am about to hit ‘publish’ while sitting at the kitchen counter of our apartment in Louisville, Colorado.
So yes, I have many updates to come, but for now I’ll leave with the largest (and perhaps most obvious) lesson of this experience: decisions don’t make themselves. You can stand still, waiting for something better to come along, or you can go out and find it.