This first week in Salem has been crazy – the kind of crazy I dream about living. I’ve received tons of congratulatory messages about some really great news, all of which made me feel warm and fuzzy inside; eaten at lots of new places, most of which were awesome; made several new friends, all of whom I already love; and been reminded of why I believe in taking life slow and being a kid for as long as possible.
The one question that has finally superseded “so are you engaged? When are you getting married?” for me lately has been “so why did you move to Salem?” I suppose it’s a reasonable question; a move requires a huge amount of back-breaking work, and if you’re going to do it, it should be for a good cause. There were several benefits for moving to Salem. Obviously the opportunity to work with Dan Cederholm is a big draw; I also appreciate Salem’s proximity to Boston, a big city both Jason and I love. There’s also all the ways Salem is different from Orlando. For example, I’ve yet to hear any stories about men beating their mothers with giant Polish sausages. Yet even benefits such as these do not trump the real selling point for Salem.
For me, Salem is like something I would have dreamed up as a kid. Even though I lived in Florida for most of my life, many of my best childhood memories have taken place in small, historic Northern towns. My family would frequently take trips to Gettysburg, and I was always awestruck when I stood where Lincoln once stood, or touched cannonballs wedged in the sides of two-hundred year old buildings. When we weren’t hanging out on Civil War battlefields, we would visit small towns in New York, where I’m from. Running around my Grandpa’s big creaky house on Christmas mornings while the snow fell outside was the definition of happiness for my younger self.
Now in Salem as I walk past houses where George Washington slept, or hear my century-old floorboards groan under under my feet, it’s hard to believe that I am lucky enough to get to call this place home. The history and atmosphere of this town have made my childhood dreams tangible; the affordable bakery, ice cream, and candy shops don’t hurt either. I’ve been warned many times that I’ll grow to hate Salem during Halloween, but most of these warnings have come from grown-ups; people who have spouses, a commute, and a real bed time. For someone like me – someone who has no plans to be that kind of grown-up any time soon – I can’t see how a town-wide halloween party where I get to dress up, gorge myself on candy, and re-live ghost stories could possibly be bad.
I used to read a lot of productivity blogs written by grown-ups – people who would recommend that I get out of bed at dawn, do my exercise regimen, prepare a pre-planned nutritious breakfast, participate in a pre-allotted period of time for my children, work during daylight hours, share a pre-determined time slot with my spouse, briefly reflect on my day, and sleep. Then repeat until I retire / die. I can understand the appeal of such a schedule – I imagine it’s pure chaos to maintain a marriage, a family, an income, and overall health when you have so many responsibilities, and structure is probably the only way to survive sometimes.
However this schedule leaves little room for the kind of daily activities I’ve come to value most in life. These include, but are not limited to: laying in bed an extra thirty minutes because there’s a nice breeze coming in through my window, deciding that a doughnut from the bakery next door makes for a better breakfast, playing on the swings with my best friend in the park until the mosquitos come out, and staying up through the night to create fun and (hopefully!) awesome looking web sites while the rest of the world is quiet. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than live the life I’ve been living lately, and I can’t think of any other place I’d rather do it.
The only bitter-sweet feeling about this whole experience is that I want the same kind of happiness for all of the over-worked grown-ups in my life. I know they’re busy, but my charge to any of them who have an allotted period of time in their schedules to read this is this: tell the productivity police to give it a rest for a day, and go play frisbee in the park. And if you’re not happy where you are, don’t stay. Sometimes moving is really, really worth the effort.