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Where to Live - Does it really matter?

“When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” ― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

FYI, I've been working on this not so urgent, but important (to me) story for a few weeks as time permits. This is probably just part one for now since there's so much to share about. First, I am so thankful that I have the time to share it here. Like most of my posts, its a bit all over the place, and thats OK.


Earlier this month, my mothers side of the family would have celebrated my grandpa's birthday. We call him "Daddy Eddie" and all miss him very much. He played an instrumental role raising me up and Teri played a role in his life by offering up Mustard to live with my mom, stepdad and grandpa for several months because we were busy with wedding planning. Daddy Eddie loved mustard very much.


I took a few hours to remember Daddy Eddie on his birthday and how much fun we all had to celebrate his birthday parties every year in early December:

These parties were a very big deal to my family, as many of my relatives from New York would fly out to make the event and celebrate an early Christmas. Matching shirts were just one of the things we did to make the event as special as possible. I'm so thankful that Teri had a chance to participate in two of them, "DE96" and "DE97."


For DE97, all the kids (grandkids of DE and significant others) participated in a talent show. Teri was a ventriloquist and used me as her puppet. It was a pretty memorable act that made me really happy watching it again. Teri took home the grand prize that's right next to me as I type out this post: A google home!

Note: It's a 6 minute video and half of it is us singing "Somewhere Out There."

Even though we won the conest, it's not a good use of your time to watch.


During the skit, Teri, the ventrilouquist, was making me say how much better Atlanta was to live than California. Watching this again reminded me of one of the most difficult topics we discussed since I met Teri. Where should we live?? Atlanta or California. Or neither?


The main reason we ended up staying in California was because of my career. Like most of the working world, Teri and I had "in office jobs" when we met in 2017. When our relationship got serious, Teri took the initiative with her manager to talk about working remote, full time. Her job as a web developer seemed appropriate to go remote, as other team members were already remote. My IT Manager job at Safran Passenger Innovations (SPI), not as much. People simply didn't work from home at my company. I didn't really have a conversation with my manager, I knew the answer and also didn't like having difficult conversations.


I was also on the verge of getting promoted and starting a "career defining" project at SPI, implementing a Tier 1 ERP system to replace several legacy systems I've put in over the years. I literally spent over a year putting together a plan in place and was ready to execute on it. I was also at the company for almost my entire professional career (almost 14 years) and was certain I needed to stay there and make things work. I would always tell Teri, "You don't understand." I really need to be here, just trust me. Looking back now and seeing the outcome (the company implemented an ERP system without me), I guess I didn't really understand her and how she was right.


Therefore, Teri didn't really buy into any of my reasoning of why we should stay in California because of work. She wanted me to apply for jobs in Atlanta, which I did to show her that I was making an effort and was open to change. I really wasn't. She didn't see a point in staying at the same job forever. She wanted me to grow and get out of my comfort zone. Staying in California became a point of contention for awhile, and required alot of therapy to get through.


Most people know that before we met, she was living comfortably in a two bedroom home in Atlanta with a large backyard that Mustard loved to run around in. She took the Marta (train) to work and the stop was a few minutes from her house. She was paying $950 a month for rent. She even offered that I could quit my job. I could have done so and trained triathlon all day and maybe start a business or try consulting. In some cases, I wish I took her up on her offer.


We eventually agreed that if something significant doesn't happen at SPI, I would move. And something did: I got a promotion. I finally became a "senior" manager after almost a decade of various program/people manager roles. With the help of our therapist, we agreed that the change was "good enough" and started focusing on settling in California. Teri was ready to officially move, just in time before we got officially married.


Without a doubt, there was a cost to her moving. Here is a short video of her that I took a few weeks before our wedding regarding what she would miss in Atlanta:

Teri gave up a lot to move to California. She gave up spending time with many of the friends and family that read this blog. Watching this is a reminder of how much she loved me and how blessed I was to be her husband. Reading the quote at the top of the blog reminded me of Teri.


In September 2019, we got married. Hooray! So many of my SPI colleagues came to the wedding:

This group photo was the biggest of all the group photos


Then went on the honeymoon and tried to settle in. We struggled during our first year of marriage. When we would get in fights, she would bring up wanting to move back. I would get upset. I would blame her for not making friends and she needs to be more proactive. That didn't really help her feel any better. I don't recommend telling people what to do like that. Then we got more therapy. Sometimes it would get better.


We then agreed in early 2020 renovate the Brea house, a house I'm a bit embarrassed to show pictures before I met Teri. Did you guys know I had a loft bed? Anyways, it made sense to renovate since she's always at home and we could have purchased a pretty nice home in Atlanta. Teri saved up a lot of money (she had no debt and a perfect credit score) and chose to invest it towards the renovations.


When we got started, Covid happened, so it all worked out that we had a lot of time staying in house after it was remodeled. Like many others during Covid, the home remodeling projects never seemed to end, including the biggest and most difficult project of all, redoing the fireplace:

To this day, I never want to do any home renovations and crown molding. These end pieces in the video took several hours and it drove me crazy since I felt like no one would ever notice. I'm not really an attention to detail person when it comes to house stuff. I was also frustrated most of the time going to Home Depot and Floor and Decor several times per week.


It worked out well for Teri that we had a renovated house to her liking. What was also unique was that her office was peach colored, which represented Atlanta. She did her best to make it her home away from home.


Covid was also very humbling for my career. In early April 2020, I was furloughed for several weeks, a decision that really discouraged me because there were others that were chosen in the company to keep working. I also wasn't sure if I would even keep my job, as about 20% of the staff were laid off as Covid impacted the Airline industry very significantly. I'm sure Teri said "I told you so" and I got a few lectures about work, but I don't remember. Then in July 2020, I was blessed to find a new job at Inari Medical as an individual contributor. I was so thankful to be working again, full time, at a company that was growing very rapidly.


Teri was happy for me with the new job, but also didn't like how it was also an in office job and how we were still stuck in California. All this arguing about moving to Atlanta drove me crazy. I knew how so many people would love to live in California and it's all I I knew since I grew up here. With two incomes, we could easily afford living here and we didn't need a big house since we had no kids.

Photos of us at the Atlanta United Soccer Game in October 2017


We also were pretty active people and loved the beach, mountains, and good weather. Another vote for California.


My immediate family is in California, hers was not (besides her sister in San Diego). We made it a point to fly out to Atlanta around four times a year. Sometimes Teri would go out on her own and stay for a lot longer. Every time she went on her own, I was a bit relieved since I had time to myself to do my own thing, like go on bike rides after work.


Fast forward to December 14 of last year, the day I started at my current company, Orora Packaging Solutions. A big driver of why we decided I should take this job was because of the "remote first" policy that allowed an office to meet colleagues as needed, but have the flexibility to stay home when needed. Teri and I could travel more often. We were very excited about the possibilities. As we worked on our marriage, I became less attached to where we lived and that we were together in the first place. I looked forward to just being together with Teri and working anywhere we needed to. Atlanta started to become a real possibility again, especially if we were planning on having kids and kids can be really expensive.


So what's the moral of the story?

The big light bulb moment for me was when I discussed this all with my therapist about a year ago, as the topic still came up from time to time. I learned how it wasn't really about where we lived, but more about was I willing to give up my "old life" for Teri just like she gave up her "old life" for me. I clearly was not able to, and used logic to justify why living in California made sense. It really boiled down to my attachment to comfort, safety, and convienence:


  • Going to a church I was familiar with

  • Living in one of the safest cities in the world (Irvine)

  • Keeping all my friends and family close by

  • Keeping my daily and weekly routines, especially around fitness

  • Having the best weather that rarely disrupted my plans

  • And so forth...


While I told Teri I would be fine living anywhere since I was so adaptable, deep down I felt like I needed all of this to "survive." And now that I reflect on everything that's happened and what I have now, it's still somewhat true. I'm really happy with my life here and don't really want to go anywhere else. But is this what's best for me? I'm not sure.


I won't forget the moment that I shared with Teri that her giving up her Atlanta life was very practical way of God showing me the Gospel. I really meant it. I also shared this about her at the celebration of life service and am humbled again reflecting on this truth. She did the difficult thing I was not able to do. She did it out of love and trusted God that things would work out. She did the hard thing. And it definitely did work out, with the outcome of her reading the bible cover to cover in 2022 and having a God trusting, anxious-free last few months here on earth. She also grew so much from all of it and learned to be dependent on God when she had to start all over in life and was married to a husband what was so focused on work.


While I miss Teri very much and look forward to blogging about her every week, I am so thankful to be in the life stage that I am in. I get to work, exercise, blog, sleep in, travel, and really take care of myself in ways I haven't been able to in a while. In some ways I feel guilty for enjoying most of the holiday season so far, with plenty of friends and family that want to spend time with me. It's only December 19 and my wall of Christmas cards is getting pretty full:

Thank you everyone for sending me cards!


So are you planning on moving?

I don't know, but probably not. I am paying rent month-to-month right now in such a beautiful home (mostly thanks to Teri) and am really thankful for a flexible landlord that gives me no pressure to make a decision. I'm definitely in a season still that I am trying to stablize for now, but am open to change if it makes sense. A close friend reminded of one of my favorite quotes that I shared with my former work colleagues in a presentation on the topic of mentoring a while back:


I miss spending most of my free time with Teri and being married to her. She really made me a better person and thinking about her still help me fall in love with God and trust him even more. I guess what's important is not really where I live, but who I spend my time with going forward. It's also OK to be alone most of the time and embrace this new season of being single again and just take things one day at a time. I'm trying to figure out my new daily routines and who are the people I should spend more time getting to know better. How blessed I am to be in this season. I received so many gifts on Sunday from my amazing small group, a group that takes care of me in a way that's better than I deserve:

And that's all for now, thank you for reading and watching the videos! Another busy week with lots of work to do, last minute shopping, while trying to eat healthier and get in shape.


Blessings,

Erwin

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Man, taking the time to write this out well really paid off! That was a ride!! So encouraged by Teri's willingness to move to CA; seems to me like she was pretty good at not demanding assurance of reciprocation (at the very least) before sacrificing for others. And, LOL, had no idea she was a ventriloquist. She never ceases to amaze!!

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Jenny Scott
Jenny Scott
Dec 26, 2023

I loved your new post Erwin. Thank you for sharing. I loved hearing new stories and learning new things about you and Teri. I love the Tim Keller quote about being fully known and fully loved. You and Teri sure had that and it is for sure a gift. I love that Teri won the google home and loved hearing about your stories through Covid. Thanks for the reminder of how we need to put our spouses desires above ours to show them God’s love. That is such a good reminder for me, so thank you. Praying for you this Christmas and care about you very much.

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Tiffany Wong
Tiffany Wong
Dec 20, 2023

I really appreciate this post. I appreciate all the posts but this one addresses a really big part of your struggle to submit to one another in love. I love that Teri took the leap of faith to move here for you and that you learned so much from her sacrifice instead of just thinking that you won and that was that. I appreciate her and how she loved you so much that it made you fall in love with God more. Thank you for highlighting it and sharing how impactful love, sacrifice and submission is life altering and an extension of God’s love for us. You encourage us who read towards love and good deeds. Thank you again for…

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Thank you for sharing, Erwin! Merry early Christmas!

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