Guest post by Whitney Gronksi-Buffa
I imagined myself sitting in a bay window, looking out over rooftops in any major metro, sipping coffee and reading with a dog curled up close by. I’d have a job at a big-name magazine, and a flawless wardrobe. The fantasy never included a husband or a child. Certainly never a mortgage. Just me, on what was obviously a Sunday morning. There, the sun would be constantly streaming in, illuminating my life. There, in that imagined bay window, I’d find adulthood happiness.
This is where I imagined myself in my twenties. This is not where I’ve been in my twenties, not for even a moment.
I don’t have a bay window, and the windows I do have overlook other mid-sized family homes and a Methodist church. I now live in a town smaller than the hometown I so badly wanted to escape. My teenage self would be aghast.
This was supposed to be a temporary thing. Six months to a year at a starter job before the husband found his starter job somewhere else. We “just knew” we’d end up relocating out of state. We were eyeing DC and Minneapolis, having conversations about Chicago…
And here we sit, in Big Rapids, Mich., almost six years later.
This perplexes people in our lives as much as it perplexes me. We’re often asked when we’re moving home, when we’re moving away. I had an intense text exchange with a friend recently after he sent me an ad for a job near him in Chicago, and I found myself defending this life I fell into ass-backwards as if this had been my plan and goal all along.
“I’m often bored, and if we wanna do anything or see anyone, that means getting in the car for a minimum of an hour or two,” I wrote. “But let’s be clear. I’m not unhappy right now. I like my job, I like my house, my childcare situation is great. I don’t believe I need to be somewhere big to have legitimate success and impact.”
I shocked myself with that one.
I didn’t expect to be here AND happy. (Or “not unhappy,” which sounds a lot like when I admit I’m “fine” after an argument.)
Karin has been writing about her countdown to 30. I’m on the same journey. I turn 29 on Easter this year — the metaphor! — and I’m already taking inventory of where I’m at. I’ve done all the steps, but funny thing: That wasn’t my plan, and even though I’ve done it, it doesn’t look quite like I thought it would.
Most days, I am an amalgamation of coffee grounds, pretzels and second-hand knitwear lumped together to form the shape of a woman. I don’t own a dog, but I do own a house and too many cats. I have a husband and a kid. Whoops?
I feel sorta successful, even if my life trajectory is different than I’d imagined.
I think I’m a hiring catch, even if I look a bit like a business casual Kesha on a good day.
I believe small towns need good people, too. That big cities aren’t the only places to prove your worth. I believe I can do great big things for this tiny town, and my impact might be greater here than if I’d fled to a major metro on either of our country’s coasts where I’d struggle to make ends meet.
Whitney Gronski-Buffa is a freelance reporter and stay-at-home mom. You can follow her on Twitter @whitneymae.