It is not easy to straddle two countries, two lives. For twenty-three years I built my life in the states. I made wonderful lifelong friends, lived in several cities, and grew up with a big family to challenge me and provide tough love. After I bought a one-way ticket to Europe, that life did not go away. It is a part of me. The summers spent at my cousin’s pool, the long hours invested in countless jobs, the wild nights of bar-hopping, and the gossip shared on girls night out remain with me during this next chapter. I am every experience I have had, every mistake I have made, and every emotion I have felt.
I spent a great deal of energy and time putting myself second and not being my own priority. I put my goals and desires on the back-burner so that others could thrive and succeed. I carried the weight of everyone else’s burden along with my own: collapsing marriages, floundering businesses, and lost identities. I was given a great deal of responsibility at a young age. At 17 was I able to decide what career I wanted to have? At 20 was I able to save a marriage? At 22 was I able to fix a business? I was a friend, a sister, a daughter, a marriage counselor, a student, a manager, a mother, a therapist, and a lover all at once. I played many roles and rarely thought about the one that matters most – my own identity.
Throughout college I always spoke about teaching abroad and planned to do so the fall following my graduation. However, life decided to keep me chained to my commitments to home for a little while longer. Loyalty to old jobs, a move to a new city, friends and family’s weddings, the lack of funds in my savings, and the pile of student loans kept me from making the move to teach abroad. There was always another reason, another event, and another opportunity that kept me in America. Until finally, life handed me another abrupt 180 and my tie to home was cut – permanently. Once I decided to fulfill the promise I made to myself three years prior, everything fell beautifully into place and I was on my way to Europe.
Even though my journey was delayed, I do not regret nor resent the causes for it. I am glad I got to live in New York City, attend a few weddings, and help old friends in need. It wasn’t my time to leave and I accepted that a long time ago. I needed to finish my business in the States and leave knowing that there was nothing left for me to return to.
Yet now, I am in the midst of my own form of rebirth and this new life I am leading is becoming quite intertwined with my previous one. I came to Europe knowing no one and expecting nothing. Amazingly, I have found genuine friends and the places I have seen and the things I have done are beyond my wildest dreams. I am fortunate enough to share this journey with both the people from home and with the new friends I am meeting along the way.
For quite some time I have unknowingly compartmentalized my two lives. I have my world here: full of new faces and places with its own joys and battles. I also have another existence in the states: friends, family, and the “grown-up” problems of student loans, banking and taxes. Each world has been subtly exposed to the other. However, living two lives at once has caught up to me. I am now knee-deep in a new challenge of maintaining my responsibilities at home and staying committed to myself here.
When I left America, I vowed to myself that I will finally do what makes me happy and put myself first. It is my turn for adventure, happiness, and success. But by making myself a priority, I am making others secondary. Before, I sacrificed my desires for others. Now, the tune has changed and I am sacrificing others for my own desires.
My life is here in Europe – but life is still continuing to go on at home. Friends are getting married, family members are aging, and one day babies will be born. I am living thousands of miles away from home, therefore an extremely expensive plane ticket. So, I must make sacrifices. By choosing to live in the present moment I am sacrificing major life events for those I love back in the states.
I have been asked several times, ‘Is this all worth it?’ Are missing weddings and birthdays worth this experience? I am not sure how to answer that question for I fear I will sound selfish and cold if I say yes. I don’t know if I will regret missing best friends’ weddings or monumental birthdays. But what I do know is that I will regret not living my life - not having this unique experience. I can no longer put my life on hold for others. It is unfortunate that overlapping dates and the price of a flight keep me from combining my two worlds. It is unfortunate to have to choose and to cause one person to suffer. All I can do is have faith that the relationships I have built are strong enough to endure these obstacles. I hope that my friends and family love me enough to let me go and excuse me of my duties. I pray for forgiveness for those who I have hurt or betrayed. There will be plenty more important days and events that I will attend and I will make up for my absences then.
I do not know where I will be a year or even six months from now – but that is the beauty in this journey. Maybe I will still be teaching in Europe, or living in Brazil, or sailing on a super yacht in the seas of the Caribbean. Maybe I will reach the end of this road and find myself returning to a conventional life in the States (which I highly doubt). Nonetheless, my heart is open to wherever the universe wants to lead me. I have signed on to this journey and have committed one hundred percent of myself to it.
I am not the only one to walk this path. The sacrifices I make may be trivial in comparison to other’s burdens. My story may not measure up to other’s whose are full of severe strife and heartache. However, it is my story and this is my open journal. We are all connected and we all weave a web with our tales, each one affecting another's. Now it is my turn to play the leading role in my own story and discover what adventures are waiting for me.