Flashback: What A Difference A Year Makes

It’s been a year now since my husband lost his corporate web developer job. It also marks the year anniversary of a cluster-f#ck of scenarios that could have ended horribly and illustrates the human drive of self-preservation.

Or what I like to call “Get the hell out of dodge.”

In the grand scheme of life-altering events, this was good—my husband’s job had sucked the soul out of his artist’s body over the 11 years he’d worked in the corporate world, trouncing him mentally and physically. I talked about it here. So when the pink slip came (not really pink at all), we were relieved.

That is after we got over the initial shock of turning into an American statistic.


We had over-extended ourselves, not unlike nearly everyone we knew. A year ago, we had a house we wouldn’t be able to afford once my husband’s “go away, we don’t need you any more” money ran out. We had school tuition for our daughter, an anniversary vacation scheduled, and my husband had a niche publishing conference in England in the fall that could help further propel his illustration business.

We had just put our house on the market so we wouldn’t turn into another American statistic and put down a hefty deposit on an apartment we’d lose if we didn’t sell our house in time.

In short, we had dug ourselves a hole to China.

Since there wasn’t a ladder with enough rungs to bring us back to the surface, we decided we might as well do the next best thing.

Run away.

So we drove nine hours northeast of Iowa to Door County, Wisconsin. If there was any semi-affordable place where we could ignore everything, this was it—charming, unhurried towns horseshoeing the peninsula, hugged by Green Bay and Lake Michigan; in-season, at-its-best, locally sourced food; small, off-season crowds; a quiet and stillness hard to find anywhere these days.

On the second full day we decided to take the ferry to Washington Island, the 35 square-mile button of land north of the peninsula. We drove up Highway 42 and headed toward Northport Pier. I was looking forward to floating across any body of water larger than the pool-sized ponds and lakes around our home town. I couldn’t wait to gaze at the endless horizon of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, which to my landlubber’s eyes could have been any ocean.

And then I remembered.

I get motion sick—mostly on planes, but on boats too. I was pretty sure the ferry counted as a boat. And with no Dramamine, I was screwed.

I wrestled the Door County Visitors’ Guide out of the car’s side-door pocket and flipped to the map. My eyes darted between the peninsula’s tip and the southern-most edge of Washington Island, and tried to figure the distance between the two. My brain fired off questions, calculating via my internal puke-o-meter the likelihood of starboard vomiting.

Is it really as far as it looks?
Will I be able to see land?
What if I hork and everyone on the boat sees me?
Sweet Nancy on a jungle gym I’m going to puke just thinking about it!

We decided to take our car with us on the ferry. As we waited to board, I tried to convince myself that if I stayed in the car I wouldn’t get sick, that I’d be able to trick my brain into thinking we were just taking a regular old car ride.

Then I remembered—I can get motion sick in cars.

Especially cars on boats.

We boarded the ferry and soon inched away from the dock. Doesn’t this goddamn thing go any faster? I searched the ferry brochure. It said the trip would take 20 to 30 minutes—plenty of time to work up a good gag reflex.

I peered out ahead and saw a little island, but I knew it couldn’t be Washington Island—it was too small. I craned my neck, trying to see around the pancake of land to judge how far away the big island was from it.

But the goddamn baby island was in the way!

I had a desperate urge to flail my arm to the side as if to shoo it out of the way.

The ferry dog-paddled around the tiny island and I kept my eyes on it, my brain’s only lifeline to emesis control. As we skirted its edge, I wrenched my eyes away and commanded myself look forward into what I feared would be nothing but water with no land in sight. I braced myself for the rising vomit I knew was about to surge its way up my gullet.

And then there it was—Washington Island, in all its land-massing glory, the beacon of my puking reprieve.

I took a huge breath, confident that the contents of my stomach would stay put.

But I still kept one eye on the island and the other on the water…like the stereoscopic eyes of a chameleon.

Just to be safe.

In the end:
I didn’t puke, not eve on the way back.
We sold the house and got the apartment.
My daughter stayed at her school.
My husband made it to his conference and is finally living the life he’s always wanted.
And we’re all grateful.

So what about you? Have you ever been in the middle of a perfect storm? How did you navigate your way out…or did you go down with the ship? What happened next? Do you ever have the urge to get out of dodge? What makes you stay?

9 thoughts on “Flashback: What A Difference A Year Makes

  1. This happened to my husband and I once. I had been working at a terrible, corrupt small business and hated my life everyday that I had to work there. I was going on job interviews on the side to get out of there, and I was scheduled for my third interview with a large corporation. One day they were being very cruel to a customer, and I decided to quit right on the spot. My husband was shocked when I got home, but I couldn’t take it anymore. I ended up doing well during the third interview and was offered the job with the company shortly thereafter, but it was a rough 10 weeks between interviewing and getting paid. We switched apartments during the time to have a lower monthly payment (and to be closer to my new job), and it was very hard on us financially.

    We call it “the dark time,” which compared to what other people have had to deal with, wasn’t all that dark. But it was one of the worst times that we had in our marriage because we were not making very much money to begin with.

    Keep up the great posts!

    1. Good for you Wesley! At a certain point, you just can’t take it anymore. If you hadn’t proactively made that change, who knows where you’d be now, but man is it hard to make that kind of move in the heat of the moment. Thanks for reading!

  2. I just love your voice, Kelly. I know you know that, but it never gets old hearing it right?

    Anywho – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten out of Dodge. 30 just in my 20s. Seriously. If moving were an Olympic sport, I’d have the gold. Easy peasy. It’s my thing. Yes, Kate is based slightly on some things I may or may not have done, but mostly not. 😉

    In my opinion, a change of scenery is a good thing. I think we need it every once in a while. Maybe not as much as I’ve gotten it, but it’s good for the soul. Hubby’s bosses did the best thing for him, even though it might not have looked like that at the time. I’m sure that wasn’t their impetus, but that’s how these things turn out a lot of times. We don’t know what we’re going to find through the next door until we unlock the one we’re behind. Change is good.

    And I always have the urge to get out of Dodge. “…charming, unhurried towns horseshoeing the peninsula, hugged by Green Bay and Lake Michigan; in-season, at-its-best, locally sourced food; small, off-season crowds; a quiet and stillness hard to find anywhere these days.” Wow – yes please! That sounds amazing! Sign me up. 🙂

    1. Never, ever gets old, Kelly! 🙂

      Wow, you would be a gold medal winner for sure. One day, we will have to sit across from each other somewhere, hopefully sipping top-shelf margaritas with salt caked on the rims or G&Ts, and you’ll have to tell me about every one of those out-of-Dodge moments. I’ll live vicariously through you. One day.

      1. We will indeed, but I’ll be imbibing lemonade or some other less alcoholy drink – though you do make them sound kind of nummy. I’m not a drinker. No problems there, just don’t have the taste for it. I know – crazy!! 😉

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