Editor’s Note: We’ve asked a lot of questions in 2012. And you’ve shared a lot of stories with us. So many of them are about change — of one sort or another. So we’re marking the changing of the year with stories of people actively making changes in their lives that are affecting their physical, emotional or communal health. This is one of those stories, told by Public Insight Network source Carolyn Waters about the always stressful endeavor of moving. Find our other stories of change here.
This year, I decided to move from the North Cascades in northwest Washington state, where I had lived for six years. I moved back to Louisville, Ky. — my hometown — to be closer to my boyfriend and his family. This also meant a job change for me. I had been working seasonally for the National Park Service and a nonprofit partner as an environmental educator. I have been in Louisville for four months now, and have had three different temporary jobs so far.
I traded in an extremely rural lifestyle for a very urban one. In Washington I backpacked, canoed and rock-climbed regularly. In 2013 I’ll try to keep that up in Louisville, but I anticipate that it will be difficult to do so.
I had chickens and a large vegetable garden in Washington that I shared with roommates. We lived at the confluence of two glacial rivers, where coyotes, bears, and bald eagles were regular visitors. Here, I live in the carriage house of a historic home with my boyfriend. While we still have a small vegetable garden, we share the space with the groundskeepers’ plants and won’t have as much freedom to do what we want with the land next year. Here, the animal neighbors are mostly robins, gray squirrels and cottontail rabbits.
In Washington, we spent time throughout the year managing our wood supply to heat the house. Here in Louisville, we have a central heating system that I will hardly have to think about.
I now live in a place where my field of work (environmental education) isn’t as close to the forefront of most people’s thoughts. This is going to make it very difficult for me to find a job in my field during 2013, but means that I may have the opportunity to carve out a unique niche for myself.
There have been tradeoffs both positive and negative as far as health is concerned, but my transition isn’t complete. The physical health changes are the most obvious. My job in Washington required me to hike several miles each day with a heavy backpack. I no longer have a job like that, so I have to go out of my way to get regular exercise.
Any outdoor adventure in the North Cascades is guaranteed to be more physically intense than what I can do here; the topography there is so extreme that you can walk uphill for miles. Doing that kind of activity on a regular basis is like drinking from the fountain of youth. There’s nothing like that in Louisville that I’ve found yet.
Being closer to my family is a definite bonus for my mental health. Even though family relationships can create a lot of stress, I think it’s healthier to deal with those conflicts in person, rather than from across a continent. Moving in with Robert, my boyfriend, has been wonderfully fun. I was definitely lonely in Washington, living far away from him. Laughing with him at the end of every day is a vast improvement on phone dates.
I can’t say what the final outcome will be here either. I can say with certainty, however, that there’s a marked difference in how I feel everyday just based on my surroundings. I hope to find a balance between embracing the city life and taking refuge in wild places.
>> We want to hear your story. What’s the biggest change you made in 2012?