By Steve McIlwain
The car was full. Our bags were packed. 3,000 miles of road lay ahead of us. Ash and I had just made one of the biggest decisions of our lives, and the future stretched out to the horizon.
Since we first got married, Ash and I had discussed where we wanted to “settle down.” The area we lived in was great for our current stage of life, but we always wondered where home sweet home would be. Getting to that point would be one of the most exciting, difficult, and frustrating topics in our young marriage.
I am a native Californian who loves the golden state. I was born and raised in the bay area and moved down to southern California for my adult life. California is a mecca for things to do: big cities, small towns, beaches, mountains, sports, concerts, wine country, theme parks, lakes, rivers, national parks … it really is an endless list. For me the hustle and bustle of everyday life in California is energizing and exciting. While the cost of living, congestion, and light-speed pace can be altogether overwhelming, it is a wonderful place that I didn’t really ever think I’d leave. But as time went on and I imagined where we would be long term, the vision of southern California grew a little hazy.
Ashley grew up in Central Pennsylvania. Her family lived on 30 acres of land in a small town. Ashley loves the quaint, picturesque appeal of small town living. She also enjoys the amenities of a big city, but heart and charm go a long way. While she did enjoy our southern California adventures, her vision of settling down was a more idyllic dream.
Early on in our marriage we began discussing our ideal long-term location, and we both tended to default to what we knew. For me that meant somewhere in California, and for Ash it meant somewhere on the east coast. We had a lot of frustrating conversations, trying to align our visions, but struggling to break out of our individual defaults. As months turned into years, we knew that our decision point was getting closer and that by not making a decision, we were indeed making a decision.
So we had some serious digging to do; what did we really want as individuals, and what did we really want as a couple? We both spent significant amounts of time pondering on our own to determine what was truly important to us. We also spent substantial amounts of time discussing the pros and cons of various parts of the country. Some of those discussions were, let’s just say, quite heated. But we continued to wrestle with our visions of the future, and as time went on we found our common ground. A front runner began to emerge. We wanted to be near one of our families, some small town charm, some big city life, seasonal changes that were relatively mild (no arctic winters for me), access to the beach, proximity to the mountains, sporting events to attend, tasty cuisine, and reasonable cost of living. After years of struggling to find our ideal location, we found it: Raleigh, North Carolina. There might be a few other parts of the country that kinda fit that same bill but, as the saying goes: when you know, you know. Once the dust settled on all our deliberations we just knew. Raleigh was it.
But there were still details to be worked through — the largest being a job for me. It took more time, patience, and resilience for that to fall into place. But just like the rest of the process, we trusted in each other, trusted in God, and new that the right door would open at the right time. Eventually, it did.
Looking back, this situation was quintessential marriage: a big decision to be made, two people with different points of view, a lot of discussions (some not so fun), wrestling as individuals, searching as a couple, seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and eventually leaping together. Ashley did not make this decision. I did not make this decision. We made this decision. Although there were certainly some drawbacks to our move, the positives far outweighed the negatives, and it was a major life decision that we made together. Today we are living in our new area, soaking in the reasons we moved here, and excited about the thought of building our life here.
So there we were … car packed, 3,220 miles of road ahead of us. We fired up the Jeep and began one of the greatest journeys of our lives. In the end it didn’t necessarily matter that we were headed to Raleigh (although we were really excited that it was). We could have been going anywhere. What mattered is that we were on our journey together; enjoying life, struggling to find answers, using a difficult situation to grow closer together. Marriage … is a highway:
There ain’t no load that I can’t hold
Road so rough this I know
I’ll be there when the light comes in
Just tell ’em we’re survivors
Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I wanna drive it all night long
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