There are two ways to leave something — choosing or being forced. The decision to walk away from something is based on faith and competence. There are few things more empowering than making plans to leave and following through with your escape. The choice to leave affords you the choice to return. When you’re forced to go away you also feel forced to stay away. This is the great differentiator: the assumption that you can be welcomed back.
Your identity, as well as your being, gets changed with either circumstance. Leaving on your own terms, you get to redefine yourself in a desired environment. All the ways you wished things were, you can create. You prove your hunch right that you were good all along and it was where you were that was holding you back. Being forced to leave strips you of your ownership of your place in this world. You end up broken and hurt, knowing that some sort of metamorphosis is needed to survive. A new sense of self emerges out of both triumph and suffering.
A story of victory …
In the fall of 2001, I got in my car and drove to Oregon. The plan was to take a family trip to Italy on September 15th and head west afterwards, but those plans, and the entire world, changed instead. Undeterred, and despite the madness going on everywhere, I packed up and took off. I left at 6am on day one and arrived at 10pm on day two. The only stop I made was for a steak and some sleep in Evanston, Wyoming.
… continues into pain:
My first winter in Salem it rained for 40 days straight. There were many nights I longed for the blistering cold of Chicago, just to be able to eat oranges while watching the Bears with my Dad. I didn’t know anybody in the area, or have any work lined up, but I asked for this. I sat on the floor with my loneliness, and listened to the rain pound against the windows. Perhaps tomorrow someone would call.
Behind the optimism was the knowledge that I could always go home. The absolute worst place I could end up is where I started. I was compelled to keep trying by minimal risk.
You learn what deserves value when you experience the opposite. Expectations shift.
We fail to recognize the worth of things if it’s all we ever know.
I love Chicago. It will always be my favorite city. Growing up in the suburbs, I ventured downtown only a handful of times. Now I take the train into the city every chance I get. For twenty-one years this beautiful place was right under my nose, and I looked the other way. I might never have known how special it was had I not chosen to make farms and forest my new home.
I’ve left a lot of things in thirty-six years. Some by choice, and some not. I return to the things I miss and were good for me and try to forget about those that weren’t. Each separation brought me back to existentialism and offered up a sort of evolution. The new experiences were necessary experiences, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
I left Illinois and found Oregon. I left basketball and found rugby. I left rugby and found myself.
The injury that left me crippled led me to rehabilitation.
It doesn’t make you weak to change directions. Altering your course simply allows you to see more things.
After much too much suffering, I found that you can’t control everything. And you probably shouldn’t.
You can have more than one home. You can have more than one experience. You don’t forget where you came from when you leave. You take it with you. You build it into this new place and get to share all it’s pieces and parts. As much as you’ve created this place for yourself, you will come to realize that the home you build is a place that others also want to be. The space you inhabit when you stay loyal to yourself will be surprisingly full of like-minded beings.