Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Long time readers of this blog know that I have a deep and abiding unhappiness with Oakland and that I've wanted to get out of this city for a couple of years now. We've talked on and off about what that looks like, what it would mean for our careers, and our finances, and we've finally entered a phase where we're looking more at planning than discussing. Sure, there are still hundreds of discussions left in front of us about what we're going to do, when, and why, but we've reached a point where we've at least decided on a timeline - we're looking to leave Oakland in the next 24-36 months. I'm pushing for the 24 month mark, while Alan is thinking that 36 months is more likely. I'm guessing we'll meet somewhere in the middle.

So yeah, the countdown to is on.

As I said, we're looking at a handful of different options (in no particular order).

1. Portland

Portland is a city that I really, really, really love. It's green, and lush (because of the rain - which makes me giddy) and while sometimes a bit quirkier than I'm down for, there are a lot of sensibilities in that city that match my own. The other great thing about Portland is the variety of neighborhoods and housing options. We could live in "the country" or in a loft in the Pearl district (having lived in a loft before we know it's something that we can do, and enjoy - some people don't like all that open space and lack of privacy).

The other area that I really like is a vast departure from the gritty urban-ness of The Pearl. I'm talking about the well-to-do suburban enclave of Lake Oswego. Normally, the burbs don't appeal to me at all, but I'm getting old and with age comes a desire for clean streets, quiet neighbors, big yards, and lots of privacy. Also, I hate hipsters (which I am fully cognizant is a major problem with living in The Pearl), and Lake Oswego pretty much has a 0% tolerance for these lazy a-holes. Unfortunately, what it does have is perfectly manicured stay-at-homes wives & moms (with two nannies), thousand dollar strollers, and lots of snotty attitudes. I imagine this is also where Portland's only Republicans live. Alas, the lots are beautiful and the community is really nice. And I kind of want nice after living in not nice for so damn long.

Another huge positive with Portland is that my team is based there and a move there wouldn't impact my career at all. Also, Alan's company opened a 500-person office there last year (or rather, they opened an office and want to have 500 people there - I'm not sure what the situation is specifically) so a transfer up there might not be too difficult. Another great thing about Portland is its proximity to both the forest and the ocean, and technically speaking, we could drive to Tofino from there in a day, making it all the more easy to spend time there. I really love the team I work on and genuinely enjoy being in the office up there, so it wouldn't be a total hardship to give up my 100% work from home routine.

On the downside, Portland is a lot like Oakland in that its core is urban, and thus it has a lot of petty crime and political issues. There are whole parts of the city that we wouldn't want to live in because they are basically replicas of the neighborhood we came from. That's disappointing because they are generally the parts of town with the cheapest real estate and best restaurants. The other neighborhoods that I really like are, naturally, the most expensive. Moving to these areas would mean that we'd have to continue on much the same way we've been for the past 12+ years and it wouldn't be a total change of lifestyle, which is something I'm also interested in and one of the reasons I want to leave Oakland to begin with. (That, and you know, the out of control crime problem.)

2. Ohio

This one should be fairly obvious to anyone who has been paying attention for any length of time. This is where my sister - aka my best friend - lives with her family. (Side note: our friends at Old Town Home also have a lot of familiarity with the area.)

This is an interesting location for us to consider because it means a complete change in our employment circumstances, which also translates into a major reduction in our finances. I don't know that I could keep my job, being in a different time zone than my team, and while Alan's company has many individual contributors that live all over the country, that's not really what Alan's role is. He has his hands in many pots and it requires a lot of face time and interactions. That's kind of hard when you're remote. Still, his company is very flexible so that might be an option. If not, Cleveland - to the surprise of many - has an emerging tech scene, and I'm 100% confident that he could easily get a job there. Not to brag or anything, but he has a damn fine education and a history of good work in Silicon Valley that any tier 2 tech area would be salivating over. On the flip side, the Cleveland metro area isn't exactly a hub for communications professionals. Also, if we move to this part of the country, I don't want to continue on in this field unless I keep my current job or go freelance. So yeah, moving to Ohio could effectively put an end to my career prospects. I'm okay with that. It'll five me a chance to think about what else I want to do with my life and really consider what will bring me personal happiness and fulfillment.

The other big question mark about moving to Ohio is where we'd actually move to. There are several options available to us.

The first and most obvious is Cleveland proper, because that's where Alan will be able to commute most easily from should he need to get a job there. This includes neighborhoods like Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, and University Heights.  The houses here are BEAUTIFUL and very inexpensive, which goes extremely well with a proposed reduction in income. Any of the houses below would be nearly a million dollars in this area.

If, however, Alan could be an individual contributor with his current company, I'd love to live close to my sister in Elyria or the surrounding communities (Grafton, Lagrange, Amherst). In addition to that major positive, the houses here are also cheaper. We could get a really nice place for under $200,000 depending on what part of the area we settled in. An ideal situation would have us in spitting distance of my sister's house in the Eastern Heights neighborhood because that would mean we could spend a lot of time together and I could help her out with the kids since her career as a nurse isn't really known for it's predictable 9-5 work schedule.

We've actually peeked inside this next one, while we were there for my sister's graduation. I love the house and the lot; Alan is the exact opposite.

The other thing we've discussed is moving to Elyria, but buying a house on a large lot so that we have more space. While my sister's neighborhood is amazingly adorable, one of the things I don't like about it is how not private the yard space is. There's a part of me that would love to buy a house on some acreage, lots and lots of acreage. Maybe even a farm! Alan wants a wooded lot, but that would likely require us being on the other side of Cleveland (in a place like Chagrin Falls, for example, which is a place I LOVE) since the places with acreage near Jenny are flat, and more resemble farmland that woods. This is a generality of course, since there are houses on large wooded lots, but we've found them to be the exception rather than the norm. 

Our other thought when it comes to moving to Ohio is to live in a small, liberal arts college town about 25 minutes west of my sister's place. I'm talking about Oberlin, of course. Oberlin College & Conservatory is most famous for being the first American institution of higher learning to admit female and black students. Today's most famous alumni include Ed Helms and Lena Durham. 

A little about Oberlin (both the college and the town):
Oberlin College's role as an educator of African-American students prior to the Civil War and thereafter is historically significant ... In 1844, Oberlin College graduated its first black student, George B. Vashon, who became one of the founding professors at Howard University, and the first black lawyer admitted to the Bar in New York State ... It is also the oldest continuously operating coeducational institution, since having admitted four women in 1837 ... The college was listed as a National Historic Landmark on December 21, 1965, for its significance in admitting African-Americans and women ... One historian called Oberlin "the town that started the Civil War" due to its reputation as a hotbed of abolitionism. ... Oberlin was a key stop along the Underground Railroad. In 1858, both students and faculty were involved in the controversial Oberlin-Wellington Rescue of a fugitive slave, which received national press coverage. Two participants in this raid, Lewis Sheridan Leary and John Anthony Copeland, along with another Oberlin resident, Shields Green, also participated in John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry. 
Alan and I both love college towns, and this is one beautiful college town. While it's close to my sister, it's also close to amenities like bars, restaurants, and the arts which are things that are important to us in a community (and sadly, things that are lacking in Elyria). Another plus for Oberlin is that a childhood friend of Alan's recently moved there with his wife as she is a new adjunct professor at the college, so we'll have both friends and family in the area.

Houses in Oberlin run the gamut. There are expensive, in-town houses, inexpensive in-town homes, and houses on acreage further in the country, but still pretty close to the main town.

This one is currently my favorite houses of any I've found in the area. I imagine autumn in this home and I'm giddy. And then I picture the area covered with snow, and my family gathered around the Christmas tree, and I want it so bad that I can taste it.

There's a third option that we're tossing around, but it's more of a "What If" scenario right now and not at all formed. It's kind of just an idea and one that requires a lot more discussion and research so I'm not really ready to talk about it yet. What I can, unfortunately, tell you is that no, it's not moving to Tofino. As much as I'd love to be a Canadian, they don't seem to want us, and trust me, I've looked into it. Apparently we don't qualify to emigrate. 

So there you have it ... possible phases in the next stage of casacaudill.