The mister and I met while we were both in art college in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was there from Copenhagen, Denmark, and I was there from 100 miles or so south, from northern England. We were both doing our MFA’s in Sculpture, we went out for many a drink, and Bob’s Your Uncle, we started making artwork together, in more ways than one, if you know what I’m saying.
A year or so after graduating, he got a teaching job in rural Wisconsin, so we packed up our lives and moved half way round the world. I think “culture shock” would be a fair way to talk about it, “the dark years” is how I often think about it.
When we moved to the States, we both thought Wisconsin would be a stepping stone to one of the coasts, either Seattle or Boston. (Who knew that academic jobs would be so hard to come by?) Instead, we moved into the Twin Cities, first St Paul, then later Minneapolis, and he commuted to work for the next 9 years.
Meanwhile, we had daughter #1, then almost exactly two years later, along came daughter #2. Then five years later, daughter #3 was due. And because having babies just isn’t challenging enough by itself, the mister got a job in Auckland, New Zealand… We moved when I was 34 1/2 weeks pregnant…
On the plus side, I didn’t have the baby on the plane, or in a hotel room, so there’s that. Within not too long, we knew that living in New Zealand forever, whilst a beautiful country, was not for us.
We began to explore our options. Our options were… limited.
Having given up our house, pets, lives, and jobs in the States, we knew if we came back we’d have to start all over again. From zero. But if we stayed in New Zealand, even with The Job and The House, we knew we’d get more and more miserable.
In January, 2014, we got on a plane back to the US without any real idea of what lay ahead for us. Our mantra became one foot in front of the other / one day at a time / baby steps. Fittingly, our youngest, took her first independent steps in the airport back on American soil.
We moved, sight-unseen, to Portland, Maine, because a gazillion articles on Facebook about the best places to raise kids can’t all be wrong. We arrived in the dark, in the snow, on a cold January night, with one sentence in our heads, we have to make this work.
For the last three years, we’ve been making this work. We came with high hopes of creating a thriving lives for ourselves as artists, making it work outside of the teaching system, creating a new existence for ourselves which would allow us to live the creative family life we’ve been dreaming of since daughter #1 was but a speck.
But, if I can be truly honest, what we’ve been doing is making our lives into work, just plain hard work. We made sure that the kids got settled, that they’re on a path to happy, and then discovered that we have nothing left to give. We really have been trudging forward, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, heads down, shuffling on.
SOMETIMES, YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE DECISION TO MAKE THE CHANGE. AND FOLLOW THROUGH. WHEN THE KIDS ARE PRETENDING TO BE COLLEGE RESEARCHERS AND THEY ASK YOU “WHO IS YOUR BEST FRIEND AND WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES?” AND YOU BURST INTO TEARS… THEN IT’S TIME TO MAKE A CHANGE.
Designing a Happy* Life started when we decided to leave New Zealand and choose to make the life we needed to thrive as a creative family. Over the last three years this site has been sadly neglected as it stood for everything we hadn’t managed to achieve. As of today, it’s back, and this time it’s serious.