As I’m getting my stuff together to attend today’s regional NCAA basketball tournament game in Indianapolis (courtesy of the fine folks at Dove Men+Care), my thoughts reflected upon the latest post of my blogging partner Creed Anthony. He wrote of his decision to put his coaching career on hiatus to spend more time with his family. Having directed middle school drama together for the past seven years (and what middle school doesn’t need more drama?), I know from personal experience how much he enjoys working with students outside the normal school day and how hard not molding young athletes must be for him. It also made me think about my personal “Easy Decision.”
It was during the spring of 2005 that my wife and first started to seriously consider moving back to the Midwest. We had been living and teaching in Southern California for the previous fifteen years and for the most part had enjoying doing it. We both were secure in our careers, had great friends, and several members of my side of the family, including my parents, were only an hour’s drive away. Plus, the weather was awesome with an average of over 330 days of sunshine a year. Yet, it was becoming more and more apparent that negative outside factors were beginning to encroach upon our lives. The amount of gang-related violence in our area was increasing, including a drive-by shooting only a few blocks away from our home. My wife’s daily commute, which was once a little more than half-an-hour, had steadily increased to the point where any given Friday might find her spending upwards of three hours in her car. Despite the best efforts of our staff and administration, my school had suffered through several large student uprisings. We could have probably weathered through all these difficulties if it wasn’t for two little things.
Jack and Daniel were nine and six respectively when we decided to make our move back east. Looking around at the direction things were going, my wife and I both felt we could do better by them. We wanted to relocate while they were still young so as to lessen its impact on them as much as possible; and with the housing bubble ready to burst, we pulled the trigger on our decision to leave. No part of this was easy for us. Anyone in education knows that to get hired in a new district with fifteen years experience on your resume is a hurdle by itself. The prospect of not seeing my parents and sister for literally years made me realize how important they were to me, and it made me truly understand the sacrifice my wife had made when she moved away from all of her relatives when we started our new life together here as newlyweds.
Fast forward nine years and we find the family ElRite has weathered the transition pretty well. We live in a city ranked one of America’s best by Money magazine. My kids attend the best public school district in the state, which I can proudly say my wife and I both are lucky to teach in as well. They have so many more opportunities than I could have imagined had we stayed put in California. My wife has been able to spend infinitely more time with her relatives including a brother who lives minutes away. The weather is not as good; but we do enjoy the change of seasons, especially the one from winter to spring. Still, the passage did not come without cost.
I miss my parents more than I thought I would. I haven’t been able to attend any more of my nephew’s birthday parties. And I would be lying if I didn’t admit some guilt for leaving my fellow educators behind. They give their all to work with at-risk students who need desperately their support but who often don’t realize it yet. It’s incredibly difficult to face that scenario every day where you know that your best sometimes isn’t going to be enough, but you have to give it anyway. I will always be proud of my time among them as their colleague and will forever treasure their friendship.
Speaking of friends, I have made a couple of new ones. Creed Anthony being among the best of them. Through his prodding, I have found my voice as a fledgling blogger; and with that comes opportunities. Like today, when, as a guest of Dove Men+Care, I will be taking my family down to witness live one of the most exciting events in sports. This is something I would not have been able to do without their support. So when you go out to do your weekly shopping, if you could throw some of their fine products in your cart, I would truly appreciate it.
While I was not compensated for my thoughts or this post, I was given complimentary tickets to the Regional Round of the NCAA Men’s Tournament. My thoughts are my own.