There are so many opportunities to embrace lifelong learning, but we can easily get stuck in our own little box. We can all benefit from the words of wisdom that Spencer Johnson offered in Who Moved My Cheese?: “What would you do if you were not afraid?” Therefore, I Start Wondering… will periodically feature some examples of people who are following their curiosity in order to live their fullest life.
Take it from Kathy Harris — moving leads to a lot of learning opportunities. Kathy pulled up roots to move to Colorado more than a decade ago. She hasn’t given up all things Texan, but she has created a new life chapter complete with husband and son.
Kathy’s the author of two Amazon bestselling novels, one of which won a national literary award in 2013. She’s also written children’s books, magazine articles, a nationally recognized online column on mountain living, short stories, essays and award-winning poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous published anthologies, as well.
How long were you thinking about moving to Colorado before going?
Does childhood count? Even as a kid, I was mesmerized by the idea of living in a log cabin in the mountains. I blame Laura Ingalls Wilder and reading every other book I could get my hands on about the pioneer settlement of the West. I remember fantasizing about mountain-cabin living as early as fourth grade, writing in my little pink diary.
As an adult, I had vacationed in Colorado and fell in love. I had also traveled to Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and New Mexico — but there was something special about Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. I began seriously considering how to make the move about a year before the day I packed up the U-Haul.
What planted the seed in your mind to move?
Well, mostly, I turned 30. I was going through a tumultuous time in my personal life and career. It was hot as hell in Texas. I think of it as my first mid-life crisis. I needed change. Big, huge change. I still remember the night I began browsing Colorado online job boards on a whim. I had been out jogging in a warm summer rain; I swear that rain must’ve been magic. It just felt like I was on the cusp of something. When I got home, I powered up the laptop. For the first time really, I understood there were jobs out there, where I wanted to be, and I could make this dream happen financially. So I floated out a few resumes and things took off from there. (Just FYI, I wrote about my propensity for mid-life crises on my blog a while back.)
How did you mentally prepare for the move?
I read a lot about Colorado and the mountains. I sold or gave away just about everything I owned — I wanted a clean, smooth break from my life at the time and inner turmoil. Other than that, the hardest part of my before-move prep was telling my family I was indeed leaving. I was a fifth-generation Texan. No one in my family had ever moved out of South Texas. Ever. And my dad’s health wasn’t great. I felt an enormous sense of guilt over leaving them. I remember I gave my mother a zero-balance credit card in my name, so that if either of us ever needed to get to the other one quickly, money wouldn’t be a second thought.
What surprising things did you learn after moving?
I learned that moose damage to my SUV was fortunately covered by my auto insurance policy. I learned driving in snow isn’t so bad, but driving in snow on top of ice is. I learned I could hike 10 miles in the backcountry by myself. I learned snowstorms can move in very quickly and to always check the weather forecast before heading out for a 10-mile hike (not a fun lesson). I learned there are good people everywhere, ready to help you if you need it. I learned it’s perfectly okay not to know where the closest grocery store is — just finding it can be an adventure. I learned that some friendships just don’t survive when you move away. And I certainly learned that moving to a new place, knowing no one, can be very freeing. You can recreate parts of yourself, if you like. Which is nice because a big move like that triggers change in so many parts of a person.
Did you find that you were homesick after moving? Did you ever have any regrets at any point?
Not one regret. But yes, I still get homesick. I miss Texas the most in the spring — those bluebonnets, you know. I’ve certainly missed other things, too. Good tamales. Milestone moments in my nieces’ and nephew’s lives. Not being with friends or family in person when they needed me.
What did you learn about moving to a home at 10,000 feet when you had been living closer to sea level for most of your life?
I learned to have far more respect for nature — we are really so not in control. There’s not much you can do to change things when a nine-foot snowstorm has you snowed in, with no electricity or water. There’s not much you can do when you come face-to-face with a large predator, like a bear or mountain lion. You have to be smart, yes. But you’re not really in control, and that’s okay. Also, there’s no beer as delicious as beer that’s ice-cold from time spent in a snowdrift (you make do when there’s no power), after you’ve been shoveling for a couple of hours.
And honestly, as a writer, I learned that sometimes it’s much easier to write about things when you get some emotional and geographic distance.
Has your move been everything you had dreamed about?
Yes and more. I belong here. In a log cabin. On a mountain. Along the Continental Divide. Where I get to challenge myself in ways I never thought possible. Plus, there are more people, more like me, here in Colorado. Writers, liberal Democrats, tree huggers. And if I feel the need to debate, I can still find a good Republican to fit the bill, too, if I look around hard enough.
What practical advice related to learning would you give to someone who has a dream of living in a particular spot?
I think there is no better way to expand your horizons and learn new things than by immersing yourself in a new place. I miss that feeling, in fact. You’ll not only learn new things about the physical landscape, the people, the history, but also new things about yourself. It’s practically forced learning. It opens up something inside, I think. Some practical advice: Figure out how you can make the move happen financially. Once you have a money plan, the rest falls into place. And remember, there is always a Plan B. So if your head is filled with all those “what ifs,” like, “but what if I move and then I hate it there?” … tell yourself you can move again, then. At least you’ve tried, and any price you paid was worth the experience
You can stay in touch with Kathy through the following:
Her author website, with a link to her blog: http://www.kathylynnharris.com/
Her author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BlueStragglerFiction