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DAD Series: Life Decisions - What comes first the Opportunity or the Journey

Edwards Family | KzooConnect

Life is a journey. That is definitely a profound statement that we've all heard before. Although the words sound and can feel like a cliché, sometimes life gives us a push - in the case of the Edwards family, a shove!

After a layoff from Nike corporate offices in Portland, where I'd worked for 16 years, I have to admit to feeling a bit battered and bruised. I knew eventually I'd be enlightened but the family and I were now forced to make decisions that would lead us on a new journey.

As a father, a lot goes through your head when you've lost a job. Where will I work next? Can I meet our current standard of living? Will my benefits cover my kids' health needs? This last one is big for us. My youngest of 4 who is 2 years old, has a congenital heart defect. She's been strong, and surpassing expectations, but what if? The "what if" has always haunted us, and has led to discussions of moving back to SW Michigan where my wife and I grew-up, and where both sides of our families still reside.

Together our family grieved, and toasted new beginnings. I started thinking about my next moves locally when we received a text from my sister-in-law in Michigan with pictures of a house for sale. Not just any house, but THE house... in the neighborhood we swore could pull us away from Portland. The one that just a couple of months prior my wife and I swore to one another might be the tipping point to moving back for. But now this house was available, near family in a great city and with no prospects of local jobs and living in an expensive place, it was time to make the plunge.

As the pictures came flooding in, the excitement grew. I said to my wife, "let's take my severance and run!" Surprisingly, she said, "okay." Whoa, we were going to do this.

In the past talks of moving back, Kalamazoo wasn't necessarily the destination we were set on. To be honest, we'd never been very specific. It was a relief that the decision was made for us, but the nerves did set in.

We'd grown up near Kalamazoo, but didn't really know that much about it, and had only experienced the city as children. Apprehensive, Google searches began to paint a picture of our soon to be home. The search started with education where we learned about The Kalamazoo Promise - are you kidding me, what an amazing gift to offer, add to that the universities are within walking distance of the downtown. We also couldn't get over the monthly Art Hops and plethora of great restaurants, and breweries along with lack of traffic and available parking - a bit of a culture shock for us. Then we couldn't get over how the community supports and encourages active life styles and has a strong soccer culture - which I love. It was also great to see the variety of locally based companies... honestly, the list could go on and on. It's as if we made a pros and cons list of Portland, and removed the cons to form a perfect city. All looked great.

The physical move definitely was the hardest part. Juggling the packing and logistics with 4 kids just about broke us. IT. WAS. HARD. I don't remember having more than a few moments to myself during those 3 months, and will not willingly go through it again. In fact, my wife and I shook on it. But you know what? We're here in Kalamazoo. We made it.

Our oldest is attending El Sol Elementary a bilingual school that is similar to the Spanish immersion school he had previously attended in Portland. We're unpacked, and the kids are enjoying daily interactions with nature. Everyone has been warm and welcoming in the Winchell neighborhood. Google did us right, and we continue to discover in real life everything that we've read about Kalamazoo.

I have not found a job yet, but I'm applying locally first and feeling positive that it will come. FYI my background is in purchasing and information analysis... an SAP specialist that would welcome any leads!

I feel like a poster child for the 'journey' stories told around a campfire with friends where everyone is nodding their heads in agreement. The truth is our family is proof that 'life is a journey,' much like a movie showing the past as it moves to the present. But more importantly the one word that comes to mind from my time here so far, is opportunity. This town has so much to offer, and we intend to plant our feet firmly. We're happy that all directions threw us forward to make the tough decisions and bring us together again with our families as we reacquaint with old friends and make new ones here in Kalamazoo!

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