When my husband and I were in our third year of law school, we had to decide where to settle after we graduated. We’d spent the summer after our second year in Los Angeles, each clerking for a different law firm. Neither of us liked Los Angeles—we’d worked there primarily because that was the city where we both had summer job offers. In our first year as a married couple, we wanted to be together.
We talked about where we wanted to live. Many of our Stanford classmates planned to stay around San Francisco, but the Bay area was very expensive even in 1978. The Seattle job market was tough that year—Boeing wasn’t doing well, and in the pre-tech era, as Boeing went, so went Seattle. Plus, I had no real family ties to Seattle then (my parents moved there in 1980, but in the fall of 1978, I had no premonition they would relocate.)
We had spent the 1978 Fourth of July weekend in San Diego, and I fell in love with the city. During that weekend, we spent a day on a rented catamaran in Mission Bay. We drove inland to the desert. We tooled around Balboa Park. We were on vacation—of course, we loved it. What’s not to love when the weather is perfect, there’s a beach, and you’re sailing?
“How about San Diego?” I asked my husband during our discussion of where to settle. He had spent time there in the Navy, and was more than willing to consider moving there.
We agreed to look at both San Diego and Kansas City, which was near where his parents lived. There were good reasons to settle in Kansas City—his parents, the farmland his family owned, and a low cost of living compared to California. But it wasn’t San Diego!
As we interviewed that fall, the realities of the job market hit. Lots of law students liked San Diego. Even in 1978, when San Diego was smaller than today, everyone loved the location. It was Southern California without the smog, and in those days the traffic wasn’t too bad.
In addition to the stiff competition, I had to contend with my lack of connection to the city. My husband could trade on his Navy experience, but all I had was a vacation weekend. I got no job offers from law firms in San Diego. One firm was willing to take me on along with my husband while I searched further, but that didn’t sound like a good option.
Meanwhile, we both had several offers in Kansas City. So Kansas City became our destination. In fact, our big decision was which of us would take the job offered by Hallmark Cards. (One opening, either of us could take it—but that is a story for another post.)
Kansas City has been a wonderful place to live and work and raise a family. It’s a good town with great people.
But it doesn’t have a beach.
I’ve visited San Diego a few times since 1978. We spent a spring break there when our kids were in grade school, visiting Sea World, the Zoo, and the Wild Animal Park. In recent years we’ve gone to watch our daughter row in the San Diego Crew Classic. Each time I’ve been there, I’ve loved it. The weather hasn’t always been perfect, but it’s always been pretty nice—and definitely nicer than the Midwest we left.
Every time I go to San Diego (and we just returned from a trip there), I think about what might have been. What job might I have found? How different would our children have turned out? How much time would I actually have spent on the beach? I don’t regret settling in Kansas City, but I can’t help wondering about the other path we might have taken.
Where might you have lived, other than where you do? Do you have any regrets?