“How lucky I am to have known someone who was so hard to say goodbye to.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
We’re less than five days away now from leaving our home in metro Detroit and embarking on a multi-month trip across America that will eventually lead us to settling down for at least two years in the San Francisco Bay Area.
We’ve spent the last few weekends wrapping up last minute business (selling Katie’s car, selling my computer, selling anything else worth selling, taking leftover clothes and shoes to Salvation Army, etc.). We’ve had this planned for a while now, so we were able to get an early start (we had two garage sales last summer), but it’s amazing how long of a process downsizing can be.
There’ll be a more actionable post on all this down the road — one that explains specific strategies we used to get rid of all of our crap. There’ll be another one that offers tips on crossing the country by car, too. But that will all come after this forthcoming period of gallivanting slows down a bit. After we’ve had the time and distance to process our experience thoughtfully.
For now, I just wanted to take a moment to reflect.
Cue the navel-gazing:
I seem to have this incredible ability to avoid the emotional weight of my life decisions until after things have been set in motion — or at least until the very last minute. While that can translate to a general ease of moving from one major life event to the next, it also means that things tend to catch up with me down the road (pardon the pun), when I’m a bit off guard.
That’s been generally true of our decision to uproot our lives here in Michigan and move a few thousand miles away from most of our friends and family. But there’s this common theme that’s been at the fore of my thoughts the last few weeks that seems to be something I can’t put off for another day.
It’s both a feeling of closure, and a feeling of loss.
As in: “This is my last Piedmontese burger from Redcoat Tavern,” or, “This is the last Sunday night I’ll be spending with my parents watching movies,” or, “This is the last time I’ll enjoy a Mother’s Day brunch with my sister and nephews.”
I know I’m being overly dramatic. We’ll be back to visit often, and we’ll be hosts to visitors even more.
But there’s a certain sense of finality that’s been hanging over every mundane or routine event of the past few weeks and I’m trying to acknowledge and accept it now, before it’s too late. Before I’m lying on our blow-up mattress in our tiny, barren, overpriced Bay Area apartment wondering how I so easily and foolishly let go of all the cushy amenities that life had blessed me with back in Michigan.
As if I’m the first person to leave home in the hope of gaining something a little brighter at the end of the road. Many people never have the opportunities Katie and I have before us. I keep reminding myself of that, and all the unease of leaving transforms into gratitude — gratitude for all the love and support we’ve had and will continue to find throughout this thing. And the fact that we are doing this together, with each other to lean on. It can only get so lonely…
I can’t help feeling like this is the end of a chapter. Despite being born in the former Soviet Union, metro Detroit has been home since I was 4 years old. And though I’ve lived more or less on my own since I was 19 (with the exception of the last six months and a briefer stint a few years back), my parents have always been within a 15-minute drive.
I’ve gone through a lot of defining moments over the last few years: graduating college, getting married, starting a career, buying a house, getting divorced, selling a house, getting married again.
All were pretty momentous occasions.
Still, this next step seems to be the first that definitively ushers in this vague concept of adulthood — a life stage that seems to be becoming less and less defined with every generation.
I now understand why so many people go away to college for undergrad. At 18, the further you are from your parents, the better (for both parties). But at 27, having come to know and befriend them as adults, it’s a bit more difficult.
If anything, all this just makes me respect and revere them more for what they did. When they said goodbye to their friends and family to flee the Soviet Union, they thought “goodbye” meant forever. (Luckily, the Iron Curtain fell and they were reunited with many loved ones not long after we left, but you can still imagine the enormity of their decision.)
And there was no Facebook then. You couldn’t blog about your trepidations before embarking. Even the planning was all done at the last minute and in this shadowy, might-get-arrested-and-sent-to-a-gulag-if-caught kind of way.
And not only were they leaving their loved ones, they were going to a new country where they knew no one, where the inhabitants spoke a language they did not understand, whose culture was completely foreign.
All this is to say that we are very lucky. To be doing this, and to be doing this now, when the world is a much smaller place. When we can instantly know what our friends on the other side of the country are having for dinner … and being totally jealous when it’s a Piedmontese burger from Redcoat Tavern.