February 29, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Ventures and gains

By |2018-03-21T19:05:35+01:00April 26th, 2015|"American Girl"|
Driving into happiness is never a given.

oward lost his job in Texas and his wife Joan wanted to move north. So my friends left the Lone Star State for Colorado. They packed up their car, their two kids and drove off. They had no jobs, no local contacts and weren’t drawn by the Colorado economy. What they wanted was the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains.

I watched their movements from afar with a mix of trepidation and envy. Howard and Joan were 45, nearly midlife, and had two young lives to consider. A part of me considered them reckless in pulling their kids out of school, leaving their longstanding social network, and selling the house they had custom-built.

With money from the home sale, they planned to rent in a Colorado area they liked before beginning the job hunt. They figured it would all work out. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, they said.

I got a call from Joan when she arrived in Colorado. I heard something in her voice that I hadn’t in a decade. She exuded enthusiasm and excitement. She sounded younger and more vibrant, chatting in an upbeat voice about the quality of the air, the mountain vistas, the friendliness of the people. She reveled in the outdoor activities available just out the back door. Her daughters were adjusting well and were making friends.

“This move is one of the best things we could have done,” she said with evangelical conviction.

In Joan’s voice, I heard my twenty-something self. In those years, I too moved from state to state, attracted to pleasure of exploring and the dreamlike allure of a new place. What I’d do when I arrived was always a mystery, and part of the challenge. I skipped along merrily from impulse to impulse. With only a sketch of a plan, I looked at the horizon instead of possible pitfalls.

I now look back feeling fortunate that things have mostly worked out well. My risk-taking eventually put me where I am now, in New York.

On good days, I sit on my couch looking at my apartment and considering my stable life, feeling satisfied and content. On less good days I think about Joan and the joy I heard in her voice. And I get antsy.

I recall the thrill of a new life adventure and the aching way it made me feel alive. Alive in a way I just don’t feel anymore. How, I ask myself, can I get that back?

But then came my next update from Joan. It was sobering.

“Howard hasn’t found a job yet,” she told me. “He’s pretty depressed and paces all day. Our marriage isn’t doing so well. Our money is running out and we’re starting to feel a bit desperate. There are just no jobs here. We may have to move again.”

Listening to Joan, my heart sank and my envy vanished. She and her husband had taken a big risk and after the initial excitement the rewards had yet to stick.

Maybe in the next town things will come together for them. Who knows? Or I maybe I’ll get yet another call in praise of Colorado and of taking risks. “Look where we are now!” Joan may tell me.

It could still happen.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained: that much is sure — just as sure as knowing the undeniable thrill of a venture doesn’t always result in a gain.

About the Author:

Madeline Klosterman wrote the "American Girl" column from 2008 through 2019.