I’m a new Uber user. When I was in Savannah a couple of weeks ago, I took my second and third Uber rides ever using the service.
As an introvert—especially as an introvert who knows she’s spending the whole weekend talking nonstop—I often prefer to sit in the backseat and stare out the window. But I got talking with my drivers … and then I couldn’t stop.
I returned to the airport in a cheerful red Volkswagen with a driver whose temperament matched his happy little car. He and his wife had just passed their one-year anniversary of moving to Savannah, for semi-retirement. He told me about how they had taken a 3-day trip to the city years ago, fallen in love with it, and decided on the strength of only three days they wanted to live there, eventually.
They were from Columbus, and had dreamed for years of escaping northern life, especially the dreaded winter months. We talked about how their move came to pass; how the obstacles fell away, one by one. But he said the transition hadn’t been without its hiccups.
Savannah summers are brutal, he said. (After experiencing the humidity of a Savannah September I don’t doubt it!). That first June, they had a moment when they thought, WHAT HAVE WE DONE?
But they finally landed on a mental trick that made the summers more bearable. The Savannah summers were rough—so rough, in fact, they were awfully similar to their old Columbus winters, when all one wanted to do was hunker down inside, read books, and drink tea. In one city they escaped the cold, in the other, the heat, but the idea was the same.
Since I’ve returned home, my thoughts keep returning to my driver and his Savannah summers. I’ve noticed how easily I congratulate myself on smart decisions, or improved circumstances, and how unhappy I can be about the downsides to these very same things.
An example. For the past few years, we’ve carried low-premium health insurance (well, relatively speaking, because it’s still crazy expensive) with a higher deductible. We’ve been weirdly healthy these past few years, so our medical costs have been low. But this summer our doctor ordered a bunch of tests to investigate a potentially troubling issue, and they were pricey. I’ve been happy with the perks of our insurance arrangement, but I got whiny real fast when finally faced with the downside. That deductible is our Savannah summer: it benefits us in the long run, but sometimes it hurts.
Or this one. As I’ve mentioned in the blog and newsletter already, my family is traveling this week, again—and leaving town is a big fat pain. When things get crazy right before we go (and will surely get crazy again right when we come back), I start wondering if it’s worth it. Maybe we should just stay home. But the prep and recovery are our Savannah summer: of all the problems to have, travel-related hassles aren’t too terrible.
I’m reminded again of The Course of Love, a strong contender for my favorite book of the year. In it, author Alain de Botton tells the story of an ordinary marriage, using one particular fictional couple to explore what actually creates marital happiness. Life is a series of tradeoffs, he says. No one will make us perfectly happy; when choosing a life partner, our task isn’t to find the one person who will understand us 100% of the time; it’s to choose what particular brand of suffering we’re signing up for. Whose particular brand of craziness will we commit ourselves to for years to come?
You can have your dream city, but even your dream city is pretty unpleasant three months out of twelve.
It seems pessimistic to admit the downsides of having a dream come true—or even the downsides of a nice health insurance plan. But life is a series of trade-offs, and purposely seeing it as such is helping me to be much more easygoing about the not-so-great stuff I’m bound to face because it’s inextricably bound to the good stuff.
Do you relate to the idea of the trade-off? What’s your version of the Savannah summer?