Las Vegas was my home for exactly forty years before leaving. While I was born in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois at the start of the seventies, I was eight years old when my parents, my sister, and I left our extended family behind and moved to the southwest and the valley whose Spanish name translates to “The Meadows”. It was my father’s job in retail that brought us here, and it’s of little surprise that the name of the shopping mall in which he worked is called The Meadows.
I was not happy to leave Chicago, my friends, my school, and a world that measured little larger than my small neighborhood and the occasional trip to see grandparents and my dad’s large extended family. Both of my parents were born and raised in the Chicago area and it was no doubt hard for them – both at the end of their thirties, to leave a familiar life behind for what might lie ahead out west. That was of no matter to me – my world was about to change, and I was convinced that it wasn’t for the better. We moved into our new home on April 1, 1979, and I knew it was a cruel April Fool’s prank.
Over the years, I’ve seen the city grow and change in ways that are uniquely Las Vegas: casinos are demolished and quickly replaced as “old” Las Vegas yields to ever-larger mega resorts. The thing about “old Las Vegas” is that there really is no such thing – the city has always been changing since its very inception at the start of the twentieth century. Las Vegas resonates with a glitter and a vibe that is unique and exciting, and even if a party-life isn’t your cup of tea – be assured that it isn’t ours, Las Vegas locals appreciate that they live in one of the most unique cities in the world.
Despite its reputation as “Sin City”, I’d fallen in love, married Shannon, raised a family, and started a career there. It was a comfortable life, not without its struggles, but as our son Sam entered his last year of high-school, we made a well-considered decision in 2019 to start pulling up those deep roots and follow a career growth opportunity in Dallas, Texas. Could we do it? Could I do it?
It was surprisingly easy to pull up those roots, and it felt like the time was right. Shannon and I both looked forward to new people, places, and new experiences. I was excited about how my career would likely expand into the future as my company moved their corporate presence to the Dallas area. Sam desperately wanted a change of scenery and a fresh start at new friendships.
We didn’t anticipate how much effort, expense, and sacrifice it would ultimately require to make that move, find a new home, and settle in. To say that it was easy to pull up roots might be a bit of a misdirection: we purposely left many of our possessions in storage back in Vegas until we knew just where and how we’d land. As we also provide care for mom, she made the move with us, and we were concerned how she would respond to being away from family, friends, and away from a city where she’d raised her own family and lost my dad to cancer. We didn’t know was what was about to happen in the world.
Much of the United States began reporting the first cases of COVID-19 in February of 2020. As the Coronavirus quickly raged across the planet and the global pandemic resulted in a travel lockdown, many people just like us had stopped cold to cope with an uncertain, dangerous future, and the loss of loved ones.
We have been blessed with good fortune in so many ways: we were able to stay home during those early months, we remained healthy, got vaccinated early on as a result of our pre-existing medical conditions , and we watched with profound sadness as so many people suffered and succumbed to a disease whose rapid spread seemed to be fueled by an overabundance of political and ideological division and a abject lack of science and reason. The world I knew was contorting itself into something I neither recognized nor readily understood.
Our life in Texas did not unfold in any way we would ever have predicted: so many things unanticipated, so many challenges I struggled to overcome, and the impact on my family’s mental and physical health was something else I’d not expected. While I believed I had accomplished the professional goals that had prompted our relocation to Texas, I wondered if I had failed to move my family forward and to provide for a future that was better than our past.
It was Valentine’s Day when we first experienced what was to be known as Snowpocalypse 2021. Winter storm Uri ultimately caused the death of hundreds of people in the US and the significant failure of the Texas power grid. Unlike the relatively stable climate of the southwest, the volatility of north Texas weather with its hail, driving wind and rain, tornadoes, and temperature extremes were a challenge of which we were quickly becoming familiar. We didn’t predict the prolonged loss of power and heat and the politically-charged blame-game between Texas agencies that followed while people died.
I’ve learned that true growth sometimes requires a course correction. One of my favorite sayings is that “motion doesn’t equal progress”, and I’d spent the last two years either watching it, complaining about it, or contributing to it. We weren’t improving our lives. The time we had spent in Texas had taken a mental and physical toll on each of us. The answer is that I wasn’t doing the right thing for any of us. It was time.
Our journey back to Las Vegas was not effortless, but I didn’t expect it to be. It also isn’t the same city as the one we had left two years earlier. COVID had impacted the city whose economy largely depends upon tourism and travel. It’s hard to say if we were spared from being affected by that sudden disappearance. I don’t look at Las Vegas the same way I did before we left it in 2019, and I also recognize that we’re not the same, either.
I celebrated my fiftieth birthday last month, and the question of where and when to plant new roots crosses my mind daily. Let’s just see what happens next.