A good piece of chocolate is smooth in texture, with a complex profile that tickles its way across the tongue as the crystal structure melts and the warmth untempers the cacao butter. The nuttiness folds into the floral aromas, and the richness massages the soul.
A good “bye” is smooth, too, and it embodies complexity. Uprooting myself has been a soul massage of its own kind, because multiple emotions awaken. “It’s bittersweet,” Mom said. “It’s like chocolate.” When I leave home, whether physically moving or stepping outside of my comfort zone/home, there’s a simultaneous unwrapping of sadness, excitement, and appreciation.
Everyone in the States asked, “how long are you going for?” They said it’s not goodbye. “It’s ‘see you later,’ because you’re coming back.” Yes, I’ll be back to visit. But beyond visiting, I’m not sure when. It’s not a matter of being opposed to Boston. (I love Boston.) It’s the principle of my non-singular sense of home. For now, as of Sunday, I live in Berlin, and that’s the only plan for now. Where would I come back to? Am I a boomerang or a frisbee? What are you?
To clarify my tone, I’m okay with you asking. I needed to clarify my answer. If I were a billboard, I’d read “it never hurts to ask.” Or if you prefer my therapist’s version: you have a right to ask; they have a right to say ‘no.’ So please understand, you should ask. If you ask. I won’t say, “no, I’m not going back,” but I don’t have a plan or end-game.
I do have a reason. This original ask was a long time in the making. I studied and lived in Denmark six years ago, and upon my stateside return and consequential reverse culture shock, I knew I’d be back in Europe someday. Years ago, I gently scribbled “live abroad again” onto my list of long-term goals. That list is now complete, and it’s time to ask more questions, to challenge myself in new ways, and to listen for the answers that reveal themselves when I see a new world.
So the question it all started with: well, it wasn’t quite a question. (I’m subconsciously averse to asking for things that have the potential to receive a “no” response.) My ask was a offer, instead. After a year of contemplation, in May, I told my boss that I was open to relocating to our Berlin office, if the opportunity felt right or necessary for the company. A month later, the timing was right. Sebastian told me that he thought it made sense for me to move, and my insides suddenly felt the potential of my new reality. I was visiting Berlin at the time. “Oh my god. My next trip may be a one-way ticket.” (Spoiler: it was. I arrived Sunday.)
With the next chapter in sight, I quickly contemplated the adventures I’d yet to experience in Boston, and my pen birthed my “Boston bucket list” onto paper. My teal notebook listed favorite tastes (what I call “flavorites”) to rediscover, mixed with new challenges to reach the summits and the depths of my home.
While I didn’t complete the admittedly ambitious Pemi Loop in the White Mountains, in a portion of the route, I was privileged to experience one of the most visually rich and adrenaline-laden nights of my life. “Do you want to go for a hike, instead of driving home this afternoon?” With a close friend and his bro-tographer (get it? brother who’s a photographer), I stargazed on the Bond Cliffs, and we descended at 2 a.m. to drive and reach work in Boston by 9. If you ask me whether it was worth it, I’ll give two words – “Summit: achieved” – we’ll let this picture speak its thousand:
In the midst of the impending move, I took an August vacation and rediscovered the joy of SCUBA diving while in the Gulf of Eilat, off Israel’s Red Sea coast. Suddenly, my longtime “would be nice” desire to dive in Boston became a priority for my last few months.
I’ve realized in the urgency of moving that there are many things I want to do, and that the doing requires only a little more energy than the wanting.
Do you have a place or an experience at your fingertips that you’ve long contemplated trying? A person you want to get to know? What are you waiting for? It can’t hurt to ask. It never hurts to try.
Come October, with the move closing in, I called a few local dive shops. “Any chance you have openings for diving this weekend?” Neither Neil nor I had recent cold water diving experience, nor had we ever dove in Boston. Like in all life experiences, we started where we could. Within a week of my proposition to Neil, on the afternoon after my Flour “internship,” we explored the brisk, foggy waters off Grave’s Light in Boston Harbor, spotting a sea lion, lobsters, crabs, fish, and corrals of many colors. Depth: dived. (Yes, that’s the past tense verb of SCUBA diving.)
The other pursuits started as questions, too:
From my co-worker, Caitlin: “Can we find time to ride to Walden Pond together before you move?” We regularly discussed my pre-work summer morning rides. Nothing like a crisp fall Friday morning to kick that kickstand. Ride: completed.
To Sebastian: “Do you still want to bike to Maine? October 7th?” And just like that, after a few training rides to test our endurance, we were dining on lobster rolls in Kittery, Maine, with our wheels locked outside to roll us home. Century: cycled.
To the woman who I met at a farm stand two years ago: “Even though you told me to call in August, do you have any openings for cranberry bog tours this Sunday?” “We have one opening, because someone canceled.” Appointment: scheduled.
And to many a friend: “Do you want to wake up at 7:30 on Sunday to drive to Acushnet, Massachusetts (where’s that?) to go on a cranberry bog tour?” Bog: toured.
All because a question.
All this – sorting and packing my belongings into suitcases and boxes, saying goodbye to every friend, exhausting my pursuit of adventure across Boston, cleaning out my desk and briefly pausing work, documenting my existence and asking for permission to exist someplace else with a Visa, beginning the search for a new physical home, stretching the geographic canvas on which my friendships unfurl – because a question.
Thanks to the urgency of moving, I’ve solidified my sense of home in Boston, by making more memories and more friendships. Multiple send-offs across friendships spanning many years have given me cause to experience appreciation unlike anything I’ve experienced before, challenging my emotions further when the time for goodbye came.
“Why am I letting go of something so good?” I asked Kyndal when we said our goodbyes last week. The answer comes in reflecting on what I’ve created. In March 2014, Boston was nothing more than a place that I’d visited, and I knew I liked it. Now, it’s home, and home is especially hard to leave when it’s a space you create. When you move, you willingly remove yourself from your home, your creation. In the physical sense, you decide what material goods matter and which are now someone else’s. The old physical home disappears. As Mom reminded me, “once you leave, coming home won’t be the same again, because home changes.” After this, home becomes a memory.
Today, Berlin is nothing more than a place that I’ve visited, that I know I like.
After this, Berlin’s memories will start to become a home.
All because I believe I can make something even better.
All “because the best miles are yet to come.” (Shout out to the gas station sign that I spotted on my last ride to Walden Pond.)
All because a question.