The Story Behind My Move to San Diego

It’s not random… at all. In fact, this move is almost seven years in the making. I feel like documenting the story, so here we go.

Let’s go back to 2009. I was at work in FOB Hammer, Iraq. It was a pretty normal day in what would be my third and final tour to Iraq. My 1st Sergeant (1SG) had just returned from the US after three weeks of leave (vacation). Having him back, like any authority figure who has to disappear for a while, was bittersweet.

While he was away, I had additional responsibilities. As a sergeant, taking care of Soldiers and making decisions in my unit were already part of my daily routine. But while he was away, I had to communicate with a few “big wigs” from other organizations. Nothing I hadn’t done before.

Too cool for thumbs up...
Too cool for thumbs up…

There was one particular decision my 1SG advised me on before he left. What started with him asking my opinion on how to handle something that was considered my jurisdiction ended with him telling me how it was to be done. At this point in my career, I was experienced and well respected for my decision making abilities.

For some reason, 1SG chose not to trust my knowledge here.

He left for the States and operations proceeded like normal. It wasn’t long before the aforementioned situation was ready to be dealt with and I was needed to make some things happen. As you are probably guessing, I did it my way.

This was not a life or death situation. In fact, it wasn’t even a unit-wide situation. It was specific to my personal responsibilities as the head of a particular section and I was the subject matter expert. Of course, it was a success.

1SG eventually returned and each of the section leaders briefed him on operations that had taken place while he was away. He was very pleased with the results because sergeants make shit happen. I thought he knew.

Hard work. FOB Hammer - 2009
Hard work. FOB Hammer – 2009

He waited a few hours before saying anything but after a while, he called me over to his desk and specifically asked me about the task we previously discussed and how I handled it. I told him exactly what went down and watched the expressions on his face bounce between “nice job” and “I’m the boss.”

After I explained what I had done, he proceeded to chew me out. That was fine. We got chewed out every single day in the Army. In one ear and out of the other.

Roger… check… hooah, 1st Sergeant. It won’t happen again.

But this time I was bothered. Not because I was getting chewed out, but because he was only doing it to flex his authority. He knew it and so did I.

My decision was the right decision and I could no longer accept the fact that my superior did not see the value in allowing me to use my brain as opposed to just taking orders.

Bottom line, I really wanted to knock his teeth out but it would ruin my career. I was flat out angry.

After he dismissed me, I went straight to my desk, blood boiling, and immediately decided that I would never reenlist to serve another second in the military. I made this decision with three years left to serve in what would eventually be a nine year career.

I never looked back.

What Next?

That very day, I started making plans for what I would do when I left the Army. I was dabbling in WordPress at the time and I knew I wanted to be a full-time web developer. That was an easy decision. What I didn’t know was where I would live.

Just before that deployment, I divorced my ex-wife. So this finalized desire to leave the Army represented the first time in my adult life that I would be free to go wherever I wanted (without having to consider anyone else) and do whatever I wanted to do. I was excited as hell.

Because I was still in Iraq, I could only daydream about what I’d actually do when the time came. But I managed to decide that I would:

  • not move back to my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri
  • not stay in Lawton, Oklahoma, the town around Fort Sill where I was currently stationed
  • not live anywhere besides California or Texas

That was final and I have never budged since that day. While I had been to cities in Texas multiple times, I had never been to California. All I knew about it was what I had seen on TV.

Fast forward to redeployment (the return home) and now it’s time to get busy. Sure, I had roughly two and a half years left to serve but it was time to start mapping things out.

The first order of business was to go city shopping. Throughout all of 2010, that’s what I did.

First stop, the Bay Area. I flew into Oakland, spent time in San Francisco, and did just about everything I could to absorb the ambience of the area. I loved it. It was tech-forward and I was learning to be techy. Perfect.

I also went to the beach to see the Pacific ocean (from the ground) for the first time. That was life changing, mainly because I had never seen any ocean from the ground before. Yes, I was 26.

I returned to Oklahoma to continue on with my duties. It wasn’t long before I was planning another trip to California, though. This time, I was headed to LA.

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Los Angeles, California – 2010

Long story short, I hated it. I still loved California, but LA was not for me.

Shortly thereafter, my best friend who accompanied me on the trip decided to move to LA. Just like I was planning to do, he had recently left the Army. He was okay with the area but it didn’t change my opinion a bit.

The only other city I wanted to visit in California was San Diego. That became my new focus in regard to shopping for cities in California.

Meanwhile, Texas was still a possibility.

Dallas was too much like St. Louis to me. I didn’t see the point in moving there. Houston and San Antonio were too far south and were not known for the industry I was interested in. So “Texas” eventually became “Austin” for me.

Still in 2010, I made the drive down.

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Austin, Texas – 2010

I fell in love with Austin. I thought it was a great city and I knew I could see myself living there and enjoying the environment. For some reason, it also felt like a more realistic move for me. In hindsight, that was probably the fear of going all the way to California speaking.

By the end of the year, I had taken several trips to both California and Austin. California was still my first choice, but the shopping was incomplete.

I had a feeling that I would like San Diego better than all other cities in the state but I hadn’t made the trip yet. I refused to move to California until I checked San Diego out. Smart move.

What People Do For Love

Just before 2010 closed out, I met a woman. This woman had a four year old daughter. Needless to say, my life changed. I was now focused on what was best for them. Sometimes that meant putting my original focus to the side.

How to write code and take a nap at the same damn time.

We started our relationship as I was ending my relationship with the Army. With about a year left to serve, one of the early conversations in our quickly developing relationship was where we’d move when I got out. There’s no doubt that it was still between California and Austin. But we still had to pick a direction.

I eventually became the primary father figure for my partner’s daughter. We were a little family. The only reason we weren’t married yet is because having gone through a divorce already taught me to slow things down a bit. People change. 😉

While we were growing into a family, our individual families became increasingly important. Honestly, I had one main concern when it came to where we’d live. It was all about how easily the young girl’s father and grandmother could visit her. That’s all I cared about because this decision was no longer about me. She is all that mattered.

Never dismiss someone's opinion on raising children just because he or she doesn't have any. Parenting is parenting.
Never dismiss someone’s opinion on raising children just because he or she doesn’t have any. Parenting is parenting.

As expected (if you know me well), I decided on Austin and we made plans to make it happen. I completed my service to the Army in January of 2012 and by July, we were in Austin together. Everything was wonderful.

Without getting into too much detail, things eventually fell apart in late 2013. Having been divorced for five years at that point, I had no fear of ending unhealthy relationships. I had already done it on the big stage. I was being used and I had to do something about it.

By early 2014, I had done [what I felt was] my part to make sure my ex and her daughter could transition back to life without me and I remained in our Austin home to move on with life by myself.

At this time, I was still building Volatyl Themes (the business) and freelancing to pay my bills. I was not in the right financial situation to make any major moves.

Some time passed and things started to come together the way I originally planned them to when I would daydream about it back in 2009. I eventually got picked up to work for Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) and I was able to start the road to recovery (for what ended up feeling like three years of my life lost).

For my first year working with EDD, it was all about fixing mistakes from the years before. I had to take care of strategic sacrifices I made while trying to build my business as well as dedicate time to things that I previously felt I had to neglect.

I stayed on this path until around June 2015. That’s when everything changed… again.

No Reason Not To

In 2013 and 2014, I made a few more trips out to LA since my best friend lived there. Late 2014 and early 2015, I also had the opportunity to travel a few places that I had never been to before. But there was only one place on my mind… San Diego.

Mid 2015, I made it happen. By this time, I was only going to San Diego to confirm what I already felt and heard from other trusted individuals. It was everything I expected and more. So I made the decision that the move was going to happen my way. Now here we are.

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San Diego, California – My First Visit

My desire to move to California is not new. It is not the result of making more money than I used to and feeling like I need to move “just because.” It is not random. I’d even argue that it was inevitable.

By the time I get there, which is just under three weeks from today, I will have spent almost seven years of my life wanting to move there. I probably could have done it much sooner, but I don’t regret any of my previous decisions.

Why am I telling you all of this? Mainly because I feel like it. But part of it is because I like to show appreciation for the reasoning behind things. Almost no decision is random. There’s always a collection of thoughts, experiences, or ideals that drive people to do what they do.

In this particular case, it’s about the power behind making a decision and sticking to it. I obviously didn’t take the most direct path but the way things have come full circle is indicative of how solid the desire was to begin with.

Do that enough times in your life and you learn to trust your decisions right out of the gate.

October 1st, 2015, I move into my new place in downtown San Diego. It’s a much needed mental refresh and I fully expect it to have a positive impact on me both mentally and physically. For the first time in the better part of a decade, I’m actually getting what I truly want.

Author: Sean Davis

I'm a simple guy. I like to code and I like to workout. I'm all about growth and just about everything else is nonsense in my book.

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