Reflections on Relocating

How opting out of one set of harmful conditions can often lead to buying into others.


I hit a robin today with my car. I was on my way home after picking up R from forest school, coming down a big hill. The robin was sitting too close to the side of a road, distracted with a worm, and was startled when I got near. Instead of flying off into the brush to the right, it frantically turned left and straight in front of my vehicle.

There was no time to stop.

I held my breath and checked the rear view mirror, secretly hoping it had ducked below the vehicle, but instead saw it drop to the road with some feathers trailing behind.

I wish I had stopped, but I didn’t. I was sad for a few minutes, and then angry. Angry at my car, the death machine that it is. Angry at myself for not being more careful. Angry at the world for placing me in a position where I have to drive to reach community. If you’re anything like me, you’ll know how this anger can spiral quickly.

I reminded myself that the robin would likely feed a predator that night, or maybe the turkey vultures the next day. And so the cycle of life would continue, just not in the way it might have had I not killed that poor bird.

(Later on in the drive, I vindicated my conscience by pulling over to help a turtle cross the road. One life gone, another saved. Or at least that’s how I try to make myself feel better.)

This is not the first time that I have cursed my car, especially after moving to the country four years ago. When you live out in the sticks, you are dependent on a vehicle. And while I knew this would be the case, the dependency has worn me out. Ours is not a culture that promotes active transportation unless you have the capacity to prioritize walking or biking to get where you need to go.

Before we moved, my kids and I travelled around town mostly by biking or walking, sometimes taking the bus, and sometimes driving if the distance was too far for small legs. One of the things that I’m very excited for when we move back to the city in a month (a month?!?!?!) is public transportation. I’m hoping to trade in my minivan, the death machine that it is, for bikes for the whole family.

Sometimes you have to know what you’re missing in order to appreciate it, right?

I’ve thought about this concept more than once during this phase of deciding to move back to the city. I wanted badly to live in the country during the year leading up to our move. I daydreamed, planned, imagined, and prepped for that moment where I could have a big garden and spend my days outside without the din of the city in the background. I felt that a move to the country would help facilitate my divesting from harmful oppressive systems by living more simply, slowing down, running our own home business, and growing much of our own food.

In some ways, living rurally has helped me opt out. It’s given me the space to do the mental work required to better understand these systems. Looking back, I feel I am in a more informed place to critique capitalist colonial culture, but it’s hard to say if our move to the country facilitated that personal growth. I mean, there was a pandemic in there too, right?

I am currently standing on the edge of a major life transition, and I suppose that has made me reflect on our intentions in moving here and also moving back. The truth is, though, that while our move here helped me divest from some pieces of our oppressive culture, it made me more dependent on others, such as the car. I am also at the mercy of gas prices and country corner stores that mark up the price of basic goods in order to turn a profit. Trying to do community work here is much harder as the community is spread thin over many kilometers. Folks here tend towards racist, homophobic, religious, and/or patriotic. Sometimes it’s hard to join a community when you feel unsafe in the space.

Obviously, you can guess which way the scales tipped when we weighed the positives and negatives of moving back to the city. I know that we’ll be giving up a lot of what we gained by living rurally. I’m especially anxious for my poor nervous system, but I know that green space and nature connection are just as accessible in a city as they are in the country, if not quite as majestic.

And the point that I’m rambling towards here is that, regardless of the choices we make in how we live our lives, we are often trading up one bad thing for another, swapping one perk for the next. Yes, I can grow mountains of food on two acres, but I have to drive my death machine absolutely anytime I need anything. Yes, the city will inevitably make me disregulated, but active and public transportation will improve my health and wellness. The scales tip one way and then balance out on the other side.

And in the grand scheme of things, these decisions have seemingly negligible effect on the overall state of the world. Bombs still drop. We continue to lurch closer and closer to a western fascist state. I have argued with myself many times that it’s hard to contribute to a movement when there’s no movement in sight. I am happy to be going somewhere where I can be of use to others instead of just growing food in my garden.

That being said, I am both excited to move and dreading leaving, and I suspect that this is a reflection of the good things that exist in both places.


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