Saying goodbye is hard and there’s no way to get around that. When you’ve spent your entire life in an area, the entirety of your family still lives in the area, and you’ve gone to college and built your professional reputation in the area, the level of difficulty of saying goodbye is basically God level1.
So why then did I say goodbye to The ROC?2 Because there are harder things than saying goodbye to all that. A few of them in no particular order are: living with regret, living too cautiously, getting too comfortable doing things you don’t love,3 working 40 of your prime years to enjoy 20 so-so years,4 believing that the same opportunities we have today will still be there tomorrow, taking your health and wealth for granted,5 telling your kids to follow their dreams when you didn’t follow yours,6 working for the weekend, believing you can have empathy when you haven’t experienced how others live,7 having to lie to yourself about what you can do and what you’re willing to do,8 collecting things instead of memories,9 just to name a few.
So while Lisa and I took a risk by leaving our “good” jobs, selling our home and most of our possessions, and buying a one-way ticket to the other side of the world, I never once thought about not saying goodbye. Hugging my mother as she cried was hard, but there are certainly worse things.
1. For the nongamers, this is the most difficult level. Think the guy who never leaves his bedroom, keeps the blinds closed, has Dorito crumbs on his Star Trek shirt, and is surrounded by empty energy drink cans. This is God Level.
2. The ROC is Rochester, NY. Most people won’t admit this, but the name stems from our mid-size city complex. For a city that lost most of its global relevance due to the decline of our Fortune 500 companies, saying the ROC instead of Rochester makes us feel cooler and more relevant. Also, Jay-Z made “The ROC” sound cool!
3. I am very grateful for the professional opportunities I’ve had, but going to work every day doing something I wasn’t passionate about in a windowless office was beginning to break my spirit.
4. This is the craziest concept we have in America. We go to K-12, get a Bachelors and Masters Degree, work for 40 years (for a total of roughly 58 years), so that we can relax and do what we want for 20 years of hopefully good health, before we begin to rapidly decline and begin our battle with incoherence, dependence, and death. Yea (insert long pause), I’ll pass.
5. For the most part, we are very optimistic about our health. No one thinks the unthinkable will happen. Everyone believes they will be healthy into their late 80’s and early 90’s and that their life will resemble one of those advertisements you see of mature couples hiking robustly in an exotic locale. The truth is that we have no idea what will happen. Example 1: 2 days after we told our parents that we were going on this journey my 40-year-old brother died of a massive heart attack. No warning, no do-overs. The lesson here is that if you can do it now, do it!
6. We don’t have any children yet, but I don’t want to be hypocritical when I am encouraging them to make brave choices.
7. I want to be able to love and better understand people. I cannot do this without getting to experience their culture and seeing how their culture shapes them. While I read as much as I can to supplement, there is no substitute for experience.
8. What we can do and what we are willing to do is usually what separates who we are from who we can be.
9. This is the most liberating aspect of this whole experience. DOWNSIZING!