Ever been asked a question where there was no right answer, just your answer?
Anyone who knows me well knows that I am the first person to say “let’s hop a plane.” I have a name for the regular shuttle flights between NYC and Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, even Chicago: puddle-jumpers. To me, it is super easy to take the shuttle bus in the sky to get where I’m going and then to turn around and take it back home, even in the same day.
I don’t mind planes. In fact, I like them.
I don’t mind hopping on an overnight to London to spend a few days with a friend. Or tripping down to Brazil for a wedding. Landing in Rome to meet a friend in the city and then heading back to the airport to hop a “puddle jumper” to Naples to take a bus up into the cliffs of Positano for a wedding and then the next day planning to take a ferry from Positano (except that day the weather was poor so we ended up taking the a car from Naples to Salerno and then hopping the Freciarossa high-speed train from Salerno back to Rome).
The point of the above is that I like to travel. I like visiting different places, seeing and experiencing different cultures, getting lost and being found, but most importantly:
I like to do it fast.
In a strange way, I don’t want to be away from home for months at a time, even weeks. On a trip to Belgium, years ago, I got tired and cranky and something didn’t sit right with me… So after spending a day with my sister in Cologne (Germany), I came back to Ghent, spent another two days, and changed my flight to come home and to rest for a few days, in the quiet and air conditioning, before going back to work.
I have the reputation for always wanting to leave, but it is misunderstood: I travel to see and to learn how to appreciate home, better, to keep myself open yet to also anchor myself, too.
So, this year, when the opportunity was put before me, to stay or to go, to stay in my hometown and attempt to experience it in a different way, or to set out and find a new home, for awhile, I was stuck.
Would I be happy in a new place? Would I find the type of community that has been fracturing to pieces in my hands over the past few years? Would I regret not deepening new friendships? Would I miss old ones? I live in what is supposedly the “greatest city on Earth” – would anywhere else, could anywhere else, be enough?
Well-meaning friends and family had their opinions. Not as well-meaning friends and family had theirs as well. Some were excited, some more tepid, some were mixed, some were spiteful, some were hurtful, and some were absent.
Should I stay or should I go?
I made lists, ha, of course! I wiped out lists. I read books; I visited websites; I visited cities; I searched my thoughts and searched my feelings. I teetered this way versus that. I oscillated and vacillated between one position and the next. How does one decide the answer to a question where there are no right answers except failing to answer at all?
Certain real life conversations and engagements definitely pushed me in direction unintended (at least from the people pushing), but, most of all, my brain kept coming back to that poem.
No. Not Robert Frost. Better.
It is always so early in here, it is before the crossroads, before the irrevocable choices. I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.
We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route.
That is from “Blue House” by Tomas Tranströmer. I wrote about this before and it originally was introduced to me while reading tiny beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed. It is the concept of us having “ghost ships” in our lives, versions of ourselves that could have existed, but we’ll never know having never being able to experience those alternatives.
I like to believe that if I stay, that there is a version of me that would have left, and that version would have gone on to have a perfectly wonderful life, and it would have been enough. I also like to believe that if I go, that there is also a version of me that would have stayed, and would have gone on to also have a perfectly wonderful life, and it would have been enough.
So putting aside the rational considerations and the emotional ones; silencing all the external voices; enough of the weighing of pros versus cons and pluses versus minuses; deep, deep down inside, which version of me do I want to embrace? That is the only question that needs to be answered. Whether I stay or whether I go, both will turn out just fine.
But which version of me do I want to be? The one who has a hometown but continually hops on planes to see others to remind herself why she likes it? Or the one who finds a new hometown, perhaps even a home, and proceeds to fall in love with the place around her and so spends more time on the ground than off it?
I have my answer.