There’s been a change in my dreams. Not the dreams that occur while I sleep, but the ones that are running constantly through my mind. My non-stop reel of wants and hopes and wishes and what ifs.

I want to live there. No, there. I want a house with a black door. I want a house in an old neighborhood. I want a house with land. I want to live on a commune. I want to live in a sleepy foggy beach town. I want to live in San Francisco. I would like to have a yard big enough for a pool. I want to live somewhere with more privacy. I want to live somewhere more alternative. I’d like to live in New York City. I’d like to live in a bus. If I moved here, life would be better. I want to live somewhere with community. I need something with character! I need something brand new that I design. I need a bigger house with a wrap around porch! I want to live somewhere I can ride my bike on errands. I want to live in the middle of the desert. I want to move to Washington. I want to live in another country. Maybe San Diego…

Daydream, wanderlust, grass is greener.

I do not by any means live in my dream home. I live in a small tract home. My neighbors’ identical windows loom into my backyard. I can practically touch their house from my back door. We are on top of each other. We are in one of those useless gated communities that pepper southern California. The gate adds nothing except thirty seconds to every trip you take. Teenagers scale it, easily, to get into our pool. Our community has visitor parking, which feels like a bad word after living in apartments for so long. We moved here eight years ago, planning to leave three years later. Then the economy tanked, our house lost a lot of value, and our plans flew out the window. I’ve been a little bitter about it. This is not where I pictured raising my family.

THE MOVING TALK is one we had over and over and over. I would beg and plead, Jeff would remind me of the facts. I would let it go. The longing would return, I would demand we find another way, Jeff would remind me of the facts. I would let it go. For five years this went on. Last summer, a deadline loomed before us. Two of our children were heading into high school, and we felt that if we did move, it had to be before they started. Once and for all, we had THE MOVING TALK to end all MOVING TALKS. In the end I realized that I was the only person who really wanted it. The other people had little complaints about our house, but nothing worth ripping apart our life to change. Moving was simply a fantasy for me, a selfish desire that I longed to fulfill. Perhaps a habit left over from all the moving I did in childhood. My wandering had been bred into me.

Once the decision to stay was made, I had to let the bitterness go. I started looking around me at the truth. This is the home my children know. My children are rooted, why would I change anything for them at all? It is beautiful here, often breathtakingly so. My drive to the beach is fifteen minutes. We are surrounded, literally, by California State Parks to explore. My business thrives in this location. The weather where we live is the stuff I dreamed of my entire life while I sweated the summers away inland. We have found local support in many ways – from alternative health to caregivers for our children – people I would have a hard time replacing. We are an hour from LA, an hour from San Diego, two hours from mountains, two hours from desert. We have limitless options at our fingertips for schooling, health, shopping, food, and entertainment.

I don’t live in my dream house. That’s it. So……WHAT? After the decision I spent a lot of time thinking. I wondered why it even mattered. Why my identity was so tied into what my house looked like, what kind of neighborhood I lived in. I couldn’t believe how shallow and disgusting and ungrateful I had been. How long I had let things go broken or cluttered or unkempt. I may not have my dream house but I have my HOME. And it is sweet, and it protects us, and we live each day inside of it. That is what is meaningful for me, what will be the legacy I leave my family.

Once again I learned that I had been so wrapped up in everything I so desperately coveted, that I hadn’t been caring for what was in front of me. This is a common theme for many of us, in all aspects of our lives. It stretches across sex, religion, age, race, and status. We are all living with blinders on.

A lot of you commented or emailed me after this post, asking “How?”. There are many layers in that answer, and this is just one of them.

I started by looking at my life honestly, without the protective veil of fantasy. In this instance, I actually let go of something that I had always fantasized about – having a dream home in a dream neighborhood, (whatever that meant, the specifics changed daily). I changed my attitude. When I was divided about where I lived, I focused on the future, and how a dream home would fix everything. No longer divided, living in the present moment, I was able to focus on my home. As soon as that happened, external change started to occur. Internal change always has to come first, starting with attitude. It is shocking actually, what can happen when you stop hiding from the present moment. Instead of just living with things the way they were, I began to perfect them. I had a list miles long of things I wanted to fix in my house, but limited budget and time to do them. Little by little I figure out how to do it.

I started paying attention to my surroundings. I am still an explorer, a wanderer. Being rooted in one place won’t change that. I crave newness and adapting and learning. I crave seeing new things for the first time. So I shifted. I explore. I drive and find places to jump out and look at. I am constantly on the hunt for a new place to take my family and simply be there in that place. The coast is a treasure trove of beauty to soak in. The hills littered with trails for us to embark on. With no plans and nowhere to be, my favorite thing is to get in my car and get lost somewhere new. Our outings have taken on new meaning. We are all learning how to go out without a plan. How to just breathe it in and be together. I take such delight in it. I appreciate the simplicity of it. I want nothing more than to be out there doing it.

I don’t know how long I will live here. I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. There could be a natural disaster or a death or a job change. I can never know what is coming next.

I don’t want to waste one more second living in my fantasy of what if’s and what should be’s. I simply want to explore what is.

While we are here and healthy and alive I will soak up everything our little house has to offer, everything the sun and the Pacific and the night soaked jasmine wafting in my windows can teach me.





Join the Conversation


  1. Brilliant…insightful…makes me feel like a big ole butthead for not appreciating my flawed home and weed infested front yard. But mostly I am inspired to change it, little by little and see if it makes a difference.

    You’re a rock star, Tara, that’s what you are:)

  2. This is like the thoughts in the back of my head. My lame house here, I want to travel more, I wish I was 5 pounds lighter, but just recently I decided to be happy with today. I’m glad toy hear you’re finding happiness around you, too.
    I’m taking the Super Hero photog course, love your interview you did awhile ago. You should know I for one find you very interesting, inspiring and wonderful!

  3. Tara, I have struggled with this issue ever since my 1st son was born in 2007. I felt so alone with no family my age (or the age of my children) near. I have all grandparents within 15 mins but sometimes that is not enough. And we have a small house, too. It used to seem so big but now with 2 little boys running around it feels much smaller. I felt restless and unhappy.

    After many conversations with my fabulous sister (who lives way too far away), I realized I hadn’t really tried being happy here. That the idea of being happy somewhere else was an escape from problems instead of fixing the problems.

    So that’s what I’ve been working on for a couple of years. Trying to find the joy in living here and in my house. Sometimes I feel better about it than others. So,thank you for saying so beautifully what is very real for me.

  4. This “my favorite thing is to get in my car and get lost somewhere new” is my favorite too! LOVE this post and the realness of it. It certainly spoke to me today and reminded me that we need to look at what we have and learn to appreciate it for what it is and not what we think it needs to be. Thank you.

  5. :) Your posts always seem so relevant to where I am. Right. Now. Thank you for being so open and honest about every aspect of your life. It feels good to know that I am not alone in the way I feel. You inspire me :)

  6. I used to feel the same way about Miami when I was a teenager. I needed a change of everything… that was until I moved. When I moved to Louisiana (to the middle of no-where) I missed my hometown so much I got sick. That saying, “you don’t know what you’ve got until you loose it…” hit me like a ton of bricks. I lived away for four years, each day anxiously waiting my return. It’s been two years that I’ve been living back in Miami and when I say I wouldn’t trade it for anywhere else in the world… oh boy do I mean it. Leave me alongside my loud and crazy drivers, there’s no where like home.

  7. completely doing the same thing. same story. kid starting high school in a place that i had been hoping to leave by then. and now embracing it and looking around to appreciate what is here… what i’d miss if we left.

    i think part of the issue is we’re getting to a place in life where doors start closing. until now, everything is possible. more kids. better job. new career. the world is your oyster. but then. there will be no more kids. career is established, starting over would be ridiculous. there will not be a huge pay increase. i will never be an olympic gymnast. or anything like that. your life is firmly established how it is, and the kids are fine. happy. and it becomes about getting their dreams started and moving and leaving yours behind somewhat. it’s a weird transition, dropping our “future” to go with theirs.

  8. Byron Katie. Look her up.

    I share (yes…present tense) a lot of those “nomadic” desires. The desire to just experience it all. I became a photographer because when I was little I wanted to “shoot for national geographic to see the world”. I’ve recently been experiencing this sense of not belonging…mostly because so many people I know are content just going the same routes everyday. Never exploring that small trail that shoots of the Freeway because it takes up too much time.

    Me….the path is dirt road? Lets take it.

    I want to see it all….Every square inch of it (the world).



    I guess what I really meant to say is…

    I can relate.

  9. It’s amazing how similar my situation is to yours; the timeline matches almost exactly, and for years I felt stuck stuck stuck in our house because of the economy and I was constantly bitter and angry about it. I made myself miserable, my family miserable, because all I could think of was somewhere ELSE that I wanted to be. I finally made this same realization, that I just had to see and accept and LOVE where I was right at the moment. And I did. I still think about places I’d like to go, but I don’t obsess about it and it doesn’t consume me. It makes all the difference in the world. Last year I heard an analogy that made so much sense to me, that compared this state of always wanting something else to the people in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who were always looking for the golden ticket in the candy bar, and even if they had a perfectly good candy bar, it suddenly became worthless if it didn’t have that one golden ticket that they were completely focused on getting, that would make all their wishes come true. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong to dream and hope, but don’t get so fixated on your golden ticket that you throw away the candy bar in your hand.

  10. This is exactly how I feel these days…

    “I don’t want to waste one more second living in my fantasy of what if’s and what should be’s. I simply want to explore what is.”

    that line is perfection, and something I need to remind myself of every second of every day. Thank you for writing this!

  11. I can SO relate to this! I live close to you (Manhattan Beach)- and for all intents and purposes, it is perfect. Except that instead of owning a house, we rent a tiny little bungalow that is falling apart at the seams. We pay exorbinant rent to live next to the beach and in a great school district within commuting distance of LA (my husband works in the entertainment industry, so we HAVE to be here). I have thrown up my hands about it a million times wishing we could BUY here, etc.- and I recently have had a big attitude adjustment about it. We are HERE NOW- and this our LIFE now and I don’t want it to pass me by because I am wishing for something else. So, I am decluttering and nurturing myself and on an amazing path, and it feels SO GOOD! thanks for sharing. I am so inspired by the changes you are making…


  12. That was like reading my own current realizations. I clung to every word. Wholeheartedly, I wish you nothing but that happy peace forever. :). Congrats on getting to that place, and helping others get there with your humble honesty.
    “Explore what is”. Amen sista. xo

  13. tara yet again you pull my thoughts directly from my head and type them into your blog. it is uncanny how in sync our lives seem to be right now… the main difference is that you have this amazing gift of putting into words! i just can’t seem to get my thoughts out in a way that others can understand. after reading your post(s) i sort of feel like i understand myself better. weird? crazy? maybe. but maybe, just maybe, a teeny tiny part of why you wrote this was to help little old me. even. if. you. didn’t. know. it. THANK YOU!

  14. I am constantly amazed at what I am learning from younger women like you who are figuring things out and sharing your journey with us. I am so lucky to have found the scrapbooking community and all the amazing women I learn daily from there! From photography to writing to growing myself into a better person–who knew! Thank you so much for sharing!

  15. My husband and I bought our home seven years ago and tried to start a family with no luck. I went through a year of horrible depression because of it. I felt trapped in a home that I had so many plans for. I actually wished I could go back to renting again! Anyway…enough of the heavy. Things got lots better for me when I really took in my life as it was and realized it was pretty great! I think we all just get bored sometimes! I can bet when a move does come our way someday we will cry like babies! I envy that you live in Cali! We took a two week road trip around there last summer and I fell in love with your state. I couldn’t believe how many Californians I met at Yosemite that said it was their first time there! You guys have a rockin state! Loved this post! You have a way with words.

  16. Ah Tara. Once again your writing resonates with so many others!
    I too wandered as a child, with no stop longer than five years. And no, we were not a military family. Now I’ve been in one town for almost TWENTY-EIGHT years. That’s 25 years beyond the planned three!

    We’ve been in our second house for 14 years and I still miss the first one. Our children were born and raised in one place, with one phone number. I am still amazed; I still can’t quite comprehend the differences – my husband can; his parents’ house has been in the family for over 60 years.

    Fortunately, a teacher-friend of my parents in TX told them which towns had excellent schools in our current area – location, location, location. We moved into one of those towns – never planning to raise children here. Joke’s on us; the youngest are out of high school. And we’re still here!

    I’ve now spent more than half my life in one town. Yet I still think of myself as a wanderer, and I love to travel, to follow random roads.


  17. My favourite line from a song is in John Lennon’s ” shaun”:
    When you cross the street
    Take my hand

    it becomes my little mantra to myself to remind me to live in the moment. And while I relate to your own dreams (my husband and I joke that we both must have gypsy blood; we are just about to embark on our 6th international move in 20 years of marriage), I truly admire you for being able to make that decision and stay and be happy. To be honest, my kids would prefer if we stayed, but this move is one of necessity as my husbqnd has been out of work for a YEAR. All other big moves we have sought out, this one we are having to take on because it is the only option. We had other plans… Living in the moment is hard to do, but I have learnt over the last year that it is an essential part of being happy.

  18. You are lucky to be where you are! There is not to much “beautiful” right where I live and I am always searching to find some of it. We always want what we don’t have but it makes perfectly good sense to make use of what we do have. Happiness and being content is hiding in all of us. I do believe it is.

  19. You are such a fantastic writer. I am in the same boat as you with 4 kids and still in my non so dreamy home. But my kids are happy, we won’t be broke and it is our “home” most importantly. My attitude has shifted to gratefulness as well. Thank you for this post!

  20. Oh Tara…how I can completely relate to this WHOLE post!! We have been in AZ for 5+ years and my husband is coming up on a possible promotion in TX and I get sick about it, I get excited about it, I cry about it, I look forward to new things to do, I look forward to a NEW house…but then I start the what ifs, the wanting to stay somewhere because I love my current house and life here and feel like I am almost ‘cheating’ on them by even contemplating a move. In the end, who knows what will happen, but I’m going to sit back and see what unfolds and be happy with what is. A great post!!! xo

  21. I’ve been following your blog for years. I feel like the last few “bearing your soul” posts you have done have been speaking right to me. I’m feeling the same way, about blogging, about my home, my life, feeling overwhelmed and confused and thinking the grass is greener everywhere else but here.
    This post was a breath of fresh air for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and being so honest about it. You are truly an inspiration in your personal as well as professional life.
    Today i have a little more courage to be me, and be ok with it.

  22. You hit the nail on the head and put the cat in the bag. In the words of Jerry Ma-f8&cking-Guire…you complete me. Okay, maybe I went to far on that one, but I LOVE THIS POST!

    You have an awesome way of writing how I feel…how can that be? You don’t even KNOW me…but I like it!

    Thanks, Tara! (HUGS)

    Tracie up in Oregon

  23. Tara this is amazing! I hardly ever comment on your blog, even though I have been reading forever. I had to comment on this though, because this is such a good reminder for all of us! Any home can be home & so few people have their actual “dream” home… Such a good reminder to enjoy what you have, especially since our daily lives can be inundated with what others have that we want… Thank you for the reminder! :)

  24. Thank you. I have recently taken a long break from running in circles, chasing multiple “what if’s” and “should be’s”… try and embrace what I already have…to soak up every detail and moment of it. There’s more to the why’s of what happened and the extreme disconnect….but am so thankful, more than ever for what I have. I’m excited for you Tara. I hope that you receive as much encouragement as you are to others.

  25. You write so beautifully. I think a lot of people needed to read this. I am such a grass is greener person. Its actually more exciting to live in the moment. Then I can truly love who I’m with and love where I am. Instead of this making life grow stale, it infuses it with love and hope and joy. Anyway, thanks again for the post. These are the type of posts that would be good to print out and keep in my journal as a reminder.

  26. Cudos to you and your therapist. That’s an amazing path you’ve chosen. I admire your strength in coming to the realizations that you have. A lot of chronically depressed individuals, myself included, can learn from this journey you have taken. I really appreciate your honestly about life, with all it’s joys and missteps. I need to learn to live in the now, find joy in that and let go of the “what ifs”. Thanks so much.

  27. I love your transparency, but just wanted to say, as someone who lives in my dream home in my dream neighborhood, it’s not something that brings me joy daily. My joy has to come from my relationship with my loving creator (that’s what I believe). My dream home still has dirty toilets and floors and piles of laundry and takes more work than I like. Even in my dream home in my dream neighborhood, it’s hard every day to appreciate what I have. I take it for granted and complain about it all the time! My joy has to come from something else. Someone else. My home, as much as I love it, will never bring me fulfillment. I’m betting even people who live in homes on the covers of magazines don’t get true fulfillment and joy from that.

  28. Jasmine! The Pacific! Exploring! I just moved to SoCal (LA) from the midwest last fall, and I have been nonstop exploring ever since. There is SO much to do here. This states is full of wandering potential. I totally understand how easy it is to get restless once you’re settled somewhere, but if you’ve gotta be settled, California is the place to do it =]

  29. Pingback: I Am | Ali Edwards
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