Did you know that Liz and I were - for a while - planning on moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico? Maybe you didn’t; in retrospect we did a poor job of telling folks that we were leaving Indianapolis to make the trip out West.
Liz is a writer, and on and off over the years has looked towards earning a PhD in English Literature as the next step in her career. Last fall - several months after we moved to Indianapolis from Chicago - she applied to a handful of programs, aiming for schools which (a) had programs she admired, (b) offered fully funded programs, and (c) were situated in attractive locales. As a long-time Midwesterner I worked hard to lean into the change, encouraging her to dream big and apply to far flung institutions. As a compassionate partner she took pains to accomodate my aversion to geographical change, weeding out locations she thought I might not find comfortable while still acknowledging her own draw to the West.
The University of New Mexico checked a lot of boxes. It would bring Liz West, where she would feel at home. Having spent my early childhood in Phoenix, AZ, I happily & surprisingly possess an intuition for the Southwest. New Mexico’s beautiful landscape & abundance of Local/State/National Parks awoke our inner hikers, which had been put into hibernation the last few years (damn you, Chicago). Fr. Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation is based in Albuquerque. The UNM English department seemed to be pursuing interesting topics. And crucially, they let us in.
In February we spent a few days of our honeymoon in Albuquerque, enjoying the weather and scoping out the town & university. We visited Old Town, saw a friend in Santa Fe, watched Parasite in an artsy theater, ate spicy food, went for a hike along the Rio Grande, spent over $50 in the Center for Action and Contempation bookstore, and Liz took a tour of the English department. We had a blast! And we felt like we were able to start putting together a vision of how we might live in such a far away place.
Liz and I on our Rio Grande hike in Albuquerque
In early April, Liz accepted the offer from UNM. We told our families. We told our Midwestern friends we were planning on moving away and told our Western friends we were moving closer. We gave our apartment’s property manager a notice to vacate. I borrowed PTO so we could fly down to look for house rentals in July.
But I’m here to tell you that now, we are not moving to Albuquerque after all.
The short version of the story is this: Last week, we came to realize that Liz’s UNM program was not guaranteed to be funded, and instead could cost tens of thousands of dollars. As such, we decided to reverse course and stay in Indianapolis. But there’s also a longer version.
Over the last few months, as we began piecing together a vision of a new, exciting life together in Albuquerque, we also started feeling sad about moving away from the rich sense of community and groundedness that we have found in Indiana. I’ve spent most of my teenage & adult life in the Midwest, so I began to feel this sense of loss as soon as Liz started applying to schools. Though Liz worked hard to help me through tough moments, after a while I started working to keep it to myself. I had been anticipating the struggle brought on by moving away from the friends, family & places I love, and saw it as my job as a supportive husband to paint on a smile and cheerlead through the transition.
But when Liz started to vocalize her own sadness about leaving Indianapolis, I was surprised. Liz and I moved here in Spring of 2019 in order to get out of Chicago, which was unhealthy for both of us. After we moved here, we decided that pursuing her PhD was the top priority for our twenties, no matter where it might take us. And after a lackluster tour of the IUPUI graduate English program, Liz realized that would mean moving away from Indy after our year or so here together. Indianapolis is a city where I have lots of family, where we have & have made lots of friends, but it was not in the plan for it to be permanent. With her first six months working from home as a paralegal, the next three planning & executing our wedding & road trip, and three more trapped in the house under lock down, I had certianly not expected that Liz had built such a strong affinity for this city. When Liz brought it up, I actually requested she not tell me about it; I had no interest in making the move away from Indy any harder.
Several developments over the last few months have given pause regarding our move to New Mexico. The COVID-19 pandemic would make finding housing, moving, and building a new community in Albuquerque tough and require a set of solutions with which we had no experience. The Sante Fe New Mexican published an article about how the University was going to navigate “uncertian waters”. We were also finding it difficult to break into the UNM-adjacent rental market (though I’d like to give a shout out to my grandma Natalie’s friend Gwyn, and my work friend David, who were indeed each very helpful).
What’s more, we had a set of rather discouraging experiences with the UNM Department of Graduate Studies. I’m sure they were just a series of poor coincidences, but a mixture of bad communication and missed connections didn’t inspire confidence in UNM’s ability to replace the structures of community we have here in Indy. And as I mentioned above, the teaching assistant position which would have comped the cost of the program and provided a stipend turned out to be less guaruanteed than we had been led to believe. We learned that we wouldn’t know whether Liz would have graduate funding until as late as the week before classes start. That funding makes a difference of over $20,000.
This new & precariously high level of uncertianly gave Liz and I a chance to revisit some of the decisions we had made. We were able to express to each other a lot of the feelings we had been developing over the last few months, which we had not been sharing. I was able to take a break from cheerleading, and Liz was able to speak frankly about her ambivalence. In the end we were thrilled to learn of our mutual feeling that we didn’t want to lose the rich & wonderful life we’d begun building in order to pursue a vision which was becoming murkier & less appealing by the day.
So we have decided to stay in Indianapolis. Our future plans now feel reconciled to the way we were feeling; we feel peaceful and very excited.
Liz serving Andrew tea in the apartment in which we’ll continue to host our friends
Building community is one of the things I love most in life. It’s a project that holds spiritual significance for me, and it’s something I’ve planned around and worked to do throughout my twenties. But over the last four years, I’ve moved to three different cities in three different states, which has made forming and sustaining deep relationships challenging, tiring, and discouraging. Now that Liz and I are finally married and settled, our decision to stay put in Indianapolis has brought me a sense of existential rest. After so much movement, I feel absolutely privileged to get to continue building the relationships we have begun to develop here in Indy. My sister Theresa and her husband Alec live a 10 minute bike ride down the road; my cousin (and best friend) Andrew is just a 15 minute drive away. Liz and I are surrounded by friends new & old - what a blast it has been to tell them all that we are here to stay. Life is good!
Andrew serving me dinner, crica 1996. Looking forward to many more dinners to come!
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