I’m leaving San Francisco next week, but I keep dwelling on all the reasons to stay. Is that how it is supposed to feel when you leave a place that fits you just fine?
When I reflect back on four years, it’s as though the $75 parking tickets and tiresome days downtown never existed. It’s like Will Smith circa 1997 hit me with a neuralyzer and I’ve only been left with memories of charcuterie at the park, urban sunsets, and backyard dinner parties. I struggle to remember the days when I wanted to leave, and so I’ve started to make excuses to stay.
I will never get this house back if I leave it now. My twenties are just about over anyway… should I stick it out? I may get promoted if I stay, and I think that one chick from college is going to invite me to her wedding in the spring. Besides, my nieces and nephews are growing older by the minute. Hell, my parents are growing older too. Am I being selfish? Now that I think of it, I’m actually quite alright doing what I’m doing at the moment. A dog might be nice. Should get a dog?
But, I’m leaving anyway.
One of the most important things I’ve ever been forewarned of is that life only gets more complicated.
Today is never really the best day to go, but three months or three years from now is rarely any better. There comes a time when we have to make decisions about what we want to experience within our years. These are the turning points. Because the lone gray hair we discovered at 25 will gain plenty of accomplices, and time has a way of dragging us along if we let it. Sure, we could wait until our bank accounts are brimming and our careers are secured. Or we could lose everything. And waiting in fear is no place to live, now is it?
I am leaving because I already shoved everything that matters into my 50L backpack. It’s too late to get back my job and the room of my apartment. I am leaving to sleep in strange beds and to wake up to the soundtrack — click, chirp, thud — of unfamiliar places. I say goodbye so that I can wander around cities where everyone is a stranger, and the things I have in common are not language or history, but the fact that we are humans and walking on the same gum-blemished sidewalk. I venture out for dimly lit rooms and shared bathrooms with lukewarm showers so that my expectations of comfort might dwindle, so that I can finally redefine what is necessary. I will tire myself on bike rides and hikes through rugged landscapes and on overnight trains across entire countries. I hope to discover a place or two that everyone should know about, yet choose to tell no one so that I can keep them for myself. I anticipate good days where I feel enlivened by the world and overwhelmed by its abundance. I also forecast terrible days that leave me questioning humanity and the state of things. I will feel lost, and fragile, and frustrated, but it is all in the interest of becoming better. I am leaving with the hopes of becoming more open, generous, and brave.
The world is a massive place with infinite possibilities. It is ok to leave because it is better to do something than nothing at all.
The feeling that tells me to stay is little more than a sign that I have been lucky. That the last 4 years were not wasted, but beautifully spent. Soon enough, the one-way plane tickets may drag me away, but the thrill of adventure will carry me forward. I will never be as young as I am right now, so I’m choosing to take my chances on something big.