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I’ve been avoiding writing this post for weeks now. Not because I didn’t want to share, but because it’s taken me some time to collect my thoughts. Our decision to move happened really quickly and pretty unexpectedly so naturally I’ve needed to sort through a lot of feelings. And to be honest, I think it will be a while till it really hits me that we’ve left the Bay Area. So I’ll do my best to unpack this huge news: that we’ve officially moved to Minneapolis!
If you had told me in 2019 that by the end of 2020 I’d be living in Minneapolis I would have laughed in your face. In fact if you had told me that I’d be leaving the Bay Area entirely there would have been a 100% chance that I wouldn’t have believed you. Then again I don’t think any of us would have predicted what 2020 would bring. It has been a life-changing year – that’s for damn sure!
Late in 2019 C and I started talking about what we wanted our next several years to look like. We felt like 2020 was the year we wanted to expand our family and hoped to take steps to make that transition a little more comfortable. We looked at our 2 bedroom apartment in San Francisco (where we both work from home) and knew that we could certainly make it work but it wasn’t necessarily what we wanted. With the exorbitant rental and housing prices we weren’t super confident we’d find something we’d like (or could afford) but we figured we’d look.
Due to a lot of luck, we pretty quickly found a rental house in Marin (a northern suburb of San Francisco) about 40 minutes outside the city. I was nervous about moving so far away from our community but we took the leap anyway. I’m not going to pretend that the transition wasn’t rough. I missed the city everyday and disliked suburb living more than I thought I would. It felt pretty bland and boring and the house itself felt cold and damp (the irony that it would be hot and dry for the rest of the year is not lost on me!).
Then everything shut down.
In hindsight I am very grateful we moved as it gave us more indoor space, an outdoor space for Bodhi and eventually the ability to add a second dog. The community I was missing was also sheltering-in-place so we weren’t seeing anyone anyway. I felt like I might be okay there for a while.
Simultaneously, C and I were trying for a family (which obviously didn’t play out as we anticipated it would) and could imagine at least starting the next phase of life where we were. We also kept our eye on the housing market and a place where we could plant roots.
What we never imagined was that on top of an already inflated market that 2020 would make housing pricing skyrocket in the Bay Area. While we’ve been saving as much as we can to prepare for this huge purchase, we basically got priced out. Now I want to add that we are deeply aware of our privilege and how incredibly fortunate we are. But the Bay Area’s level of wealth is so beyond what most people could imagine that even we fall on the lower end. It became pretty clear that getting a house even remotely within our budget wasn’t going to happen.
But it was okay because we felt like we could stick around in our rental house a little longer and a) see what happened to the market and b) continue to save.
The Rug Got Pulled Out From Under Us…
What I didn’t mention in this post was that in the week from hell we also got a call from our property management saying that the house we were renting sold off-market and that the new owners were planning to move in. That gave us till the end of the year to figure out a new housing situation.
Since we likely weren’t able to afford what we wanted and I wasn’t exactly obsessed with suburb living we found ourselves at a crossroads. It didn’t help that the wildfires were raging and we literally could not leave our home or open a window despite 100 degree heat. Like I said, week from hell!
I started to look around and began wondering why we were trying SO HARD to make this life work. It felt like everything was working against us and we just weren’t up for the challenge. We decided we needed some space away from the Bay to figure out what really mattered to us and what we wanted to do moving forward.
A Trip to Minnesota
“Getting away” in a pandemic isn’t exactly easy. Luckily we love a good road trip so we decided to pack up the dogs and drive to Minnesota. C’s Mom graciously took us in for an indefinite amount of time that ended up being exactly what my soul needed. Sitting in the car for many hours also forced me and C to have challenging conversations that we’d both been avoiding.
We started to reflect on the things we didn’t like about the Bay Area (more on that below) and really came to the conclusion that while the Bay was the right fit for us for a specific phase of life, the next one we’re entering into isn’t a great fit. And as we look back on the 4 cities we’ve lived in over the last decade it’s clear that each one served its purpose for that specific phase but then naturally came to a close. It was time for us to say goodbye to San Francisco and stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
When we landed in Minneapolis it felt like the first time I could breathe this year (yes – even in a mask!). Despite not being able to see our friends and family as much as we normally would we could just feel a deep sense of community here. It felt like exactly what we were looking for for this next chapter.
And so we started to look at houses.
We recognize how incredibly fortunate we are for this to even be an option. Having been on the housing train and seen many friends struggle on this same train I know how challenging it can be. This country has a major housing crisis – not to mention a socioeconomic, racial and political crisis so flaunting a new house feels like a real punch to the gut. But at 31 we knew we weren’t up for another rental (which comes with its own challenges) and the possibility of having to move AGAIN in a year.
Anyone who has wanted to buy a house knows that once you start looking it’s hard to stop. We basically spent our days on Redfin favoriting homes and getting a sense of the market here. C’s high school friend is a realtor here and she was wonderful in helping us navigate this process. We also got incredibly lucky (in a year full of pretty crappy luck!) and the second house we toured we just knew was our home.
I basically walked around the house going “fuck fuck fuck” and “oh god oh god oh god” because I just knew. Getting the house wasn’t nearly as easy. A bidding war ensued but in the end we got it and I feel SO GRATEFUL that this was even a possibility. Truly, this is not lost on me.
Goodbye to San Francisco
But we still had a life and a house to empty back in the Bay so after our offer was accepted and the ball was rolling with closing we turned our car around and drove back to San Francisco. Note: if you guys want tips on road tripping safely in a pandemic and/or moving in a pandemic let me know!
We had a month to sell things, hire movers, pack and say goodbye to our friends and family. It was hard, but in a year where it’s felt like we’ve been at a standstill it was nice to feel like we were moving forward.
Which brings me to what were the deciding factors in leaving the Bay. My feelings on this are complicated. I LOVE San Francisco. Truly, no place has brought me so much inspiration. My heart swells when I think about the bridge, the bay, the fog and just the overall beauty. But just because something is beautiful doesn’t mean it’s built on a sturdy foundation.
For one, it became abundantly clear to me that if I wanted to live in the Bay Area I wanted it to be in San Francisco. While I respect that it’s right for some people, Bay Area suburb living is not my thing. It lacks color (literally) and culture and you know, your house could burn down at any moment. What fun!
But C and I also want a family and the city simply doesn’t make family living easy…unless you have a lot of money.
And that’s the other piece. While we could certainly make our life work there, we don’t necessarily want to raise a family in a place with such income disparity. The middle class has all but disappeared and quite honestly, that’s not the example I want to set for my future children (should we be so lucky). It’s one thing to be DINKS (dual-income no kids) and live in San Francisco. It’s another when you bring kids into the picture.
I know how this reads and I’m sorry if this sounds like a long list of complaints from a privileged, white girl who clearly has more than enough! But here’s the thing: I want to live in a place that values community over everything. That shows up when you need them (and vice versa) and cares about things other than money, if your company IPO’ed and what Tahoe vacation rental you got. I feel fortunate that our personal community in San Francisco isn’t like this but the overall vibe is there and it’s not what we want in our greater community.
There is no denying that San Francisco has changed me for the better. I’ve stretched and grown in ways I never expected to and I will never regret the years we’ve spent here.
I will miss our friends and family. I’ll miss beautiful weather in March and October. I’ll miss 65 degrees for most of the year. I’ll miss the butterflies I feel when driving over the Golden Gate into the city. I’ll miss the ocean. But that’s about it.
I won’t miss the cost of living. I won’t miss rainy winters and dry, hot summers without A/C (especially in the suburbs!). I won’t miss the flakiness. I won’t miss fire season.
And I’m sure there’s so much more I will and won’t miss as the days, weeks and months pass.
Why Not Somewhere Else?
When I shared on Instagram that we were moving I got a lot of questions about why we picked Minneapolis. The answer is quite simple (unlike the rest of this post!): We want to live around our family and community. My immediate family all lives in Toronto. C’s is split between Minneapolis and San Francisco. When San Francisco was no longer the right fit we evaluated where else we’d really feel comfortable moving to and the only two places that fit the bill were Toronto and Minneapolis.
Now I know what you’re thinking: why would we not pick Toronto in the current US political climate and I don’t have a clear answer for you. Toronto just isn’t our forever place. We value outdoor activities which Minneapolis offers in abundance, even in the winter. As much as I love Toronto and especially our people there, it just isn’t conducive to our lifestyle. The lakes and how much people embrace them here sealed the deal for us.
Welcome to Minnesota
Now here we are, about 2 months into this long saga that’s finally moving in a positive direction. We officially landed here 10 days ago and closed on the house. It is certainly an interesting time to be moving given the spike in cases and the impending doom of winter. But honestly, this year has given me so much perspective on what matters.
I’m grateful for C and the pups and my mother-in-law who provide the best company and navigators through the crazy ride that is home ownership. I’m grateful to our friends here who have welcomed us with open arms (and 6 feet of distance!) and make this place feel like home. If this year has taught me anything it’s that we have no control of our futures, simply gut instinct and the courage to follow it.
I’m excited to see what Minneapolis and this next phase of life has to offer. I’m ready for hot dishes and the inevitable Minnesota accent I will develop. I can’t wait till I get to experience my first Minnesota state fair and eventually develop a strong dislike for the Packers (this one seems unlikely given how little I care about football). I’ve dusted off the old parka and snow boots and this Canadian is getting ready for her return to winter.
I feel ready for whatever happens and happy to be along for the ride. Bring it on!