Last year, on an early-November night, my mom and I drove down a dark and near-empty U.S. 31 from Traverse City to Frankfort. A few days prior, my grandpa had undergone surgery on his aortic valve. That evening, after a day at the hospital — the surgery was successful and my grandpa was recovering well — my mom, grandma, uncle, aunt and I went out to dinner in Traverse City.
Wanting to spend time with me before I moved south to Argentina in two days, my mom came home for the night instead of staying in Traverse City. With an uninterrupted chunk of time together and country music as our soundtrack, my mom and I talked about a number of things, including my upcoming move to South America.
“I’m really going to miss you, Em,” she said.
“I’m going to miss you, too,” I replied, “and Dad and Kathryn — and LBK.”
Throughout college and the years that’d followed, living at a distance from my family, pets and northern Michigan, a place I love deeply, was never easy. But I had dreams of living elsewhere and knew it was important to see those dreams through. I’m a believer in living in different places, both within our home countries and within our global community. If we’re so fortunate — travel is a privilege — I think it’s important to experience life elsewhere, to have a broader understanding of the world we live in. So I made the distance work, as did my family, and now, with dreams of living internationally in tow, I was about to stretch the distance between us the furthest it’d ever been.
As my mom and I passed darkened fields and forests, I pressed my forehead against the cool passenger-side window and looked up, taking in the magnitude of stars above us.
“Leaving isn’t easy,” I said. “There are so many reasons to stay. There are always reasons to stay. But as heavy as those reasons weigh on my heart, I also know there are so many reasons to go. I know there are so many reasons for giving this move a shot — it’s something I’ve wanted for a while — and I know that now is the time to do it.”
I don’t remember exactly where or how our conversation ended, but for me, that’s not the point. This moment holds a special place in my memory and in my heart. It’s one of connection, love and support. It’s a moment of honesty, a moment of letting my guard down — of letting someone I love know that there were parts of my decision to move that were painful for me.
My mom knew and still knows my reasons for traveling and living in various places. And while I don’t know that she understands each and every one of my dreams, I do know she’s fully supportive of me and the life I’m living. I’m grateful for the love and support of my mom, and my family, every day. I think that love and support made leaving simultaneously bearable and difficult.
Leaving isn’t easy. Living thousands of miles from my family and all that’s familiar to me wasn’t — and, at times, still isn’t — easy. But for every reason I had not to go, I also had a reason to go.
There’s always a reason to stay; there’s also always a reason to go.
Life is a balance. In weighing our options, I think we can measure the reasons to stay against the reasons to go and make a decision from there. It won’t always be the “right” decision, and I’ll be honest — I often question whether being so far from home and my family right now, especially with my sister’s health in limbo and my grandparents getting older, is the “right” thing for me and those I love. I don’t have all the answers, and that’s tough, but it’s also a part of life.
There are always reasons to stay — and sometimes those reasons are really strong and completely valid — but I know there’s also a ton of value to be found and had in going. So long as the reasons for going are honest and true, so long as they’re filled with the right intentions. And when it comes to intentions, I think we have to decide if we’re going to let our fears or our hopes be our guide. Even then, that line isn’t always crystal-clear because, when it comes to my move to Argentina for example, I see fears and hopes on both sides of the equation.
Some of my reasons for staying were (and are) based on hopes and dreams that I have for my life and myself in Michigan. And when the time is right — life is funny in that I now find myself on the other side of the staying-versus-leaving debate here in Bariloche — I believe I’ll give life to those hopes and dreams and future plans.
In choosing to go, in choosing to move to Argentina, I gave life and am continuing to give life to my hopes and dreams of the moment. My fears are still very much alive inside me, and there are days when my fears trump my hopes, but I try to recognize those fears for what they are and then keep them from paying rent in my mind. They’re little tricksters who don’t deserve that power.
There are reasons for staying. There are reasons for going. We’ll never have all the answers. We’ll never know whether we’re better off staying or going. I think the key is figuring out which reasons are most tied to fear, which are most tied to hope and moving forward intentionally.
December 6, 2017