A big family move to The Golden State

Imagine coming home from a long day of work, to have your wife greet you with “how would you like to move to California?” Not to the next town, but 3000 miles across the country to San Diego.  My wife had that look of seriousness across her face, one eyebrow raised above the other that assured me that her mind was already made up.  Sometime during the day she had made a decision that would impact our whole family.  Wondering what could have possibly transpired from the time I left home for work, and returned for dinner, and trying to be supportive, I asked my wife if we should pack before dinner, or after dinner?  True story.

What could have possessed my wife to make such a monumental decision?  My son had a “play date” on a typical gloomy April day in New Jersey, with gray skies and sleepy trees that remained bare, with only tiny buds begging for warmer weather to explode. Talking to the kid’s mom over coffee, my wife told her that she thought she suffered from SAD disease from lack of sunlight.  The mom related a story of her friends who had moved to San Diego where the weather is the best in the country, and the kids never get sick.  That was all my wife had to hear.  She was envisioning this incredible place to live. Mentally her bags were already packed.  Under the circumstances, my wife was doing the best that she could to make things better for her family.  But, my wife had to consider how this move (her choice) might affect me. Although it may have seemed like an extreme decision, and it certainly did to many people, she knew I was up for the adventure and would go along with her if it were the best decision for our family.

I began ponder about the pros and cons of this decision.  What trade offs would we need to make, and what benefits would be receive in return? We would move to a new land with great weather, where my young son who suffered from asthma may have a fresh start, and we would have a chance to regroup and begin an amazing new adventure perhaps affording us more time together as a family.  What was the opportunity cost of this decision?  Besides giving up a predictable income, there were just a few details that we had to consider before this journey could unfold.  Let’s see, we had to sell our house, my state of the art dental practice, which I had recently moved into, and I almost forgot, I didn’t have a license to practice dentistry in California, a minor detail.  (California had not yet provided reciprocity for dentists from other states in 1992.)   That meant at the ripe old age of 40 I would have to study and take another board examination, which had been a distant nightmare from the days of dental school. I soon found out that the pass rate in California for the gray haired group was less than 50%. Wonderful!

So my wife and I discussed the reality of this decision. California and the good weather were sounding better by the moment. We had always made a good team, and we knew our combined efforts using our respective comparative advantages, would make this plan work. We needed to visit San Diego, to make sure it was the right place for us.  Secondly, we decided to make a plan and divide the responsibilities for our family.  I would sell my practice and begin to study for the California board examination, while my wife would continue her wholesale business in women’s accessories, which she ran from the house. At the end of the year we would sell our house, and hopefully we would be on our way.  Amazingly, this plan worked better than we could have imagined. We were blinded to whatever risk we were taking, as we became incredibly energized in making our new plan a success.  After a few trips to San Diego, we were sold on the new idea. I was eventually able to sell my practice and moved on to my new profession of playing “Mr. Mom” for our son who was in kindergarten. We wanted to allow him to finish the academic year before we moved, as we didn’t want to interrupt his studies. (Classic baby boomer parents!)

During the California board examinations, I quickly discovered that there was a scarcity of patients, which were needed in order to perform certain procedures.  To survive one had to be resourceful.  Clearly there were gains to be made from trade as I had no periodontal patient and another student who was from the dental school, whom I had befriended, had a few extra Periodontal patients, but was having difficulty with the gold crown she had made for her patient.  Since I had lots of experience with lab work, I helped her with the gold crown and she provided me with a periodontal patient, who unfortunately showed up 30 minutes late.  We each used our resources efficiently to achieve our goals.  Our markets had moved to equilibrium as we both passed the exam.

So my family crossed the Rocky Mountains and made it to the land of fruits and nuts.

I eventually opened a small boutique practice, which afforded me more time with my family, so I could be part of our son’s life as he was quickly growing up. In measuring cost of opportunity, what we found in San Diego significantly outweighed what we left behind in New Jersey. My wife had made the best decision she could for her family, understanding the inherent risk involved. Our mutual effort in planning, and implementing this move, relying on each other’s strengths was the key to our success. The balance, better quality of life, and happiness we achieved with this move were immeasurable. We would have made this decision again in a heartbeat.

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