In the early phases of my career in marketing, the company for whom I worked shipped me out East to Philadelphia from Chicago. The President of the company walked in my office one day (because he was the one that hired me) and said, “We’re moving all marketing activities to Philly. You need to move by August.” It was April.
The company paid for the move east. The movers packed up all my stuff and I drove separately to the house in Paoli where I’d signed a rental contract.My furniture and belongings did not arrive for several days. That first night I lay on a sleeping bag spread out on the floor crying my eyes out, alone and afraid. I knew no one back East save for some childhood friends 70 miles west in Lancaster. That was little solace. I was on my own.
So I went running a bunch those first few days. I’d brought my running shoes and gear in a separate suitcase and went out the door twice a day for long runs. Granted, the land was beautiful. But the roads were confusing in eastern Pennsylvania. It was horse country and White Mare Lane would t-bone into a different road and pick back up a hundred yards to the left or right. I got lost several times. It felt like a cruel trick.
Obviously, I survived the move, just as I survived the move back to Chicago nine months later when the company decided that consolidating the marketing department under the leadership of an effete marketing theorist and his flirtatious assistant VP was a bad idea.
And this time, the company did not pay for the move. So I took some of that severance money and drove down the Atlantic Coast to get naked in the surf and say“fuck it” for a few days. Then I called up my buddy and asked if I could move back to live with him in Chicago.
A month later, I packed up all my crap in a giant U-Haul van and started heading back west. The van stalled on the incline up a Pennsylvania mountain. It was so symbolic and scary at the same time. But I got the thing started again and made it through several dark tunnels as well.
The trip west with my van full of stuff was bittersweet and strange. I’d ridden those turnpikes with my family just thirteen years before. That was when we pulled up roots and moved from Lancaster, Pennsylvania to the tiny town of Elburn, Illinois. My father had landed some sort of job and went ahead to try out the territory. Then when school ended in the spring of 1970, we piled into our Buick Wildcat, all four brothers and I, with my parents up front and my youngest brother between them, to drive away from the house we loved and the place we considered home.
We survived that too. But I recall my brother Jim and I huddled in the backseat of the Wildcat singing clips of Beatles songs together as we drove away from Lancaster. “Onetwothreefourfivesixseven….allgoodchildrengotoheaven…”
Yes, we claimed special significance to those Abbey Road tunes, especially the back side medley, which would come true for all of us in the coming years. “Out of college, money spent, see no future, pay no rent…all the money’s gone nowhere to go…”
There are two aspects of moving that we all need to get. There is the actual “get moving” part that comes with packing up all our stuff and going to a new place. Then there is the philosophical part to “get moving,” n which you try to come to grips what what your move will mean, or does mean, or meant. In your life.
I can’t say that any move that I’ve chosen to make or been forced to do has been bad for me. That all came with unexpected benefits. Moving out East that summer of 1982, I teamed up with a great group of guys at the Runner’s Edge, a retail store that sponsored a team. I learned a bunch about smart training from that group of highly elite runners, some who ran in the low 29:00 range for 10K. But while I was running with them, I was also aching for friends left behind in Chicago.
The simple truth is that there is pain to any move, yet it is often balanced by joy. The moving process in college is an annual thing, for example, and is filled with expectation and trepidation each year it seems. You camp out at your parent’s house during the summer, or do some camp thing to gain work experience and make money, then it’s Back to School come August. That starts next week for many kids in high school and college. If you’re an athlete, that’s when practices begin as well.
As every parent (and teacher) knows, that cycle starts all over next week for kids in high school and college. If you’re an athlete, that’s when practices begin as well. The kid behind me is entering freshman year in high school. I remember that year so well I can still taste the sweat earned through those practices. Still hear the call of the coaches as they guided us through our runs. All urging us to get moving, in a good way.
The new school year is always challenging. The summer training you did is all behind you. Whatever base you’ve built up is what you’ll live with now. All those sweaty August miles will start to feed you now. Build your endurance. That’s how it works. September is just a few weeks aways. That means races. Competition. Fighting for team spots. Fighting for places or wins or team success. Get moving. The time is now.
What we can learn from this process is that all of life is change. Even the sweet lady in the riverside cottage with the perfect gardens and an old basset hound trotting around the fence must sooner or later face change in some way. The signs are always there. One year the nasturtiums bloom like gold. The next year, they wilt like rusted wire. We’re part of a changing world. Evolution waits for no one. Neither does God. It’s a fact of life.
And when the day comes, and that little old lady passes away and her home is unceremoniously sold to a new owner, that person may come in and change things altogether. All the people who pass by the house will note those changes. “It’s too bad that little old lady passed away,” they might say. “That little cottage was so cute while she was alive.” Which is proof that Realtors and pastors and funeral home directors have much more in common than you might think. All preside over life’s transitions. Some quote mortgage rates while others quote the price of heaven or cremation of the body. We can live in denial of these facts, but we deceive ourselves.
And that’s why every time we step out the door for a run or go cycling should be a celebration of the present. Because when we pass the cottage where the little old lady’s tended gardens once pleased the eye, we are witnessing evidence of our next move in life. It is inevitable, you see. None of us gets out of here alive. But when we’re alive, it’s important to get out, and get moving. Lest we die in one place, or another.
And that brings me to memories of that fall road racing season the year of moving back to Chicago. All that summer in the city I trained like a madman. The first road race that season was a 10K in Arlington Heights, Illinois. It was called Run For the Money.
My summer training had been done in Lincoln Park on the north side of Chicago. There were long, fast runs up to Montrose Harbor and back. My roommate and I lived right on Clark Street at the southern tip of the park. We could see the Chicago Academy of Sciences from our front window to the north, and the skyline and the Hancock building to the southeast. And every day I ran up and down that lakefront for all I was worth, thrilled to be living in the city and a bit miffed about the events that had led me there. I let my anger fuel me.
Perhaps we don’t like to admit it, but there always seems to be a bit of anger that follows us as we move through life. There was for me, anyway. The move from Seneca Falls to Lancaster disturbed me even at the age of five years old.
The move from Lancaster to Elburn, Illinois forced me to give up dear friends back east. At thirteen, I was angry and depressed about that. But people didn’t talk about such things in those days.
Then came yet another move from Elburn to nearby St. Charles. I gave up being Class President and a top runner at little Kaneland High School to start life all over (yet again) as a junior in high school. I recall being more sad than mad about that move. But my father was right. I was a social kid. He knew I’d adapt.
The moving wasn’t finished, however. We moved from a rental house in St. Charles to a country farmhouse outside of St. Charles. My parents were raised on farms, and it felt like a fun idea to try country life again. But the landlord was a psycho farmer with a control streak and we only stayed out there a year. Plus it was a twelve-mile commute to deliver my younger brother to high school basketball practices. That had to change.
So we moved back into town again, to the house where my parents then stayed for 38 years. A house I never liked. The house I gladly cleared out this spring into two big dumpsters after my father passed away. He’d lived with the effects of a stroke for 15 long years.
And then came those moves after I married. To the little rental house in Batavia. Then to the 750 square foot brick bungalow in Geneva. Then to the 2700 square foot ranch in Batavia that I’ve now owned for 20 years.
There is a chance I will move again soon. My fiance Sue and I are trying to decide what the best course may be for our financial and family future together. It’s not an easy decision. She hates moving more than me perhaps. She’s done it a few times the last few years, and she despises disorder. And moving is the biggest disorder you can create.
So I don’t blame her for the angst it brings. But we want to make the right decision. There are family considerations to make, sets of kids to consider, of whom some exist in transition coming out of college, and one who is just starting. My kids are on their own and figuring out their own lives. My home has been something of a foundation for them through all that, and more.
There are sentimental reasons to keep my house. But there is also the need I feel to embark on a new chapter in life that challenges me in new ways. I have long learned to accept my faults, and have grappled with the benefits of working for myself and having a steady paycheck. I’ve launched into my art again, and have a studio where I pump paint out of my fingers, it seems, in mad expression of all that lurks within. I have a new show coming up this weekend.
And between all that I run, ride and swim. And wrestle with the purpose by which we motivate ourselves to get out, and get moving.
It is a lifelong process if you love it. And I do. And I will. Get moving.