We live behind what is called the Redwood Curtain. This is an area that is secluded from the rest of California. Our county is surrounded by redwoods on three sides, and on the other side, we have the Pacific Ocean. Behind the Redwood Curtain, life is fairly peaceful. It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. When the thick Northern Pacific Fog rolls in, it sits on our trees like a down blanket, and it makes this place one of mysticism and awe. But one can only live so long under a wet blanket. This was a lesson we learned last weekend, and something I wanted to write about before the big bomb was dropped in our laps.
Last Sunday, until said bomb, we had a fabulous day exploring our new hometown-to-be. We started off by driving around to a few apartment complexes that I had scouted out. We stopped at one, had a tour from a super-skinny woman with Lee Press-on-Nails (I had no idea they still existed!), and found ourselves more than a little underwhelmend with what they had to offer for the high price they were asking ($200 more than we were hoping to pay). This started us on a small downward spiral. As we drove up to other complexes, we started realizing that the places we thought would be in our price range were exactly the sort of places we would have settled for as college students. They are not, however, the sorts of places we want to live in our thirties, and they are certainly not the places where we want to have a baby. That was it. We were officially discouraged.
Then J saw a sign for another complex, and we took a look. It was this beautiful villa-style place that had class and charm and was around the same price as the first place where we had stopped. And then we saw some others like this. J looked at me and said, “This is what we need to be looking at from now on. We have to stop lowering our standards.” And she was right.
We found a great Mexican place for lunch, and we proceeded to have a fairly monumental conversation about why we have been aiming so low. I say this because we were really starting to consider pouring wine at the local wineries for jobs. We were seriously considering living in substandard dwellings in pretty crappy neighborhoods just so that we could move. But when you add all this up, it means spending thousands of dollars to move, then working jobs for which we are way overqualified, living in apartments that we outgrew about seven years ago, watching our backs in bad neighborhoods, and generally being miserable. We had to ask ourselves, how would this be any better than here? And why are we aiming so low? And how is it that we’re suddenly thinking that we ought to aim higher?
When we sat down to lunch that day, we realized that behind the Redwood Curtain, we have learned to strive for mediocrity–for just getting by. For example, recently one of our mentors (the director of the program in which we teach), upon hearing where we were moving, told J, “I can see you running an office.” Alas, this is not the first time someone has urged us into careers as receptionists and secretaries; some of our best friends have done that too. But we have masters’ degrees. The thing is, with masters’ degrees, people here behind the Redwood Curtain are receptionists, secretaries, bartenders, and waitresses because that’s what this place has to offer. I have the greatest respect for people who hold these positions, but we have five college degrees between us. We teach at a university. We don’t have any business being secretaries.
That day at lunch, we sat there with tears welling in our eyes, becoming aware of just how oppressed we have been by this place. We’ve been brainwashed by our colleagues and mentors here that we are doomed to lives of multiple jobs and part-time work without enough pay, but suddenly on that day, as we looked out at this city sprinkled in autumn leaves, sunlight, and people walking through the park and playing with their kids, that we’re capable of so much more. It may seem a simple realization, but to us, it’s what we had to discover on our fact-finding mission because it’s the only thing that is going to get us out of here, out of the fog behind the Redwood Curtain.