After spending a week in Helsinki my three month trip to Europe was over. As sad as I was to be leaving I was just as happy to be flying back to San Diego. Not only because I missed the place that had become my home over the past three years, or because I missed my friends, or Mexican food… but because I had met a guy and he was on a four week trip through California which would end in San Diego.
Alex and I hadn’t seen each other since our trip to Tuscany together for my 30th birthday though we sent messages and Skyped as much as we could. Before we crossed paths Alex already had planned a trip to San Francisco to run in the San Francisco marathon with some friends. Post-marathon he planned to spend 4 weeks road tripping through California with his friend Tom. And as the universe would have it they would reach San Diego in the last week of their trip and just shortly after I returned home from Europe. Tom’s flight home was just a few days earlier than Alex’s as well so we had a few days to spend together just the two of us.
I was incredibly excitednervousanxious for him to arrive. Not just because we hadn’t seen each other in so long. This was someone I spent only two long weekends with, and what would happen when he left San Diego? Would we ever see each other again?
I’m not sure if Alex noticed but by the time he reached San Diego I had some serious walls up and it took a good few days before they started to come down. I spent the first few days enjoying our time together and showing Alex and Tom around San Diego a bit. But simultaneously I was searching for any possible red flag…any little thing to not like about Alex so that it would be easier to say goodbye. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time but it all became clear when the week ended and I took him to catch his train to L.A. for his flight home.
After fighting with myself silently for the past week, from feeling like I’ve met the perfect person for me, to being certain that there was no way it could work, and then back and forth again, it was the moment that his train pulled up to take him to L.A. that everything became clear to me. There was no possible way that this could be the last time we saw each other. I was learning a lot about myself that week. First discovering the defense mechanisms I never acknowledged having, and second how horrible I am at goodbyes. Luckily Alex isn’t and was able to say out loud what I was thinking…”our story can’t be over.”
Unlike in Switzerland this train goodbye was more like the movies. The train conductor stood there politely ignoring us while we made out in the rain until the whistle blew and he told Alex he had to board. I employed every muscle in my face to keep it from crumpling as I watched the train pull away and then immediately erupted into sobs all the way back to my car where I sat for quite awhile gathering myself. My only comfort was that I truly believed that this wasn’t the end.
And it wasn’t. After Alex left we immediately began hatching plans of how to be together. Should he move to the U.S.? Should I move to Switzerland? There were many possibilities to consider. Alex was open to moving to the U.S. but it didn’t make sense to me. He was at a turning point in his job and leaving it would mean taking a step backwards career-wise. I on the other hand ready for something new job-wise and I always had the option of freelance work. A huge struggle for me in all of this was my ego. As much as I wanted to drop everything and just move there was that side of me that wanted to be the strong, independent woman that wouldn’t leave the life I had built on a whim about a guy. Challenging or not, my job was great and I was on the verge of signing a lease that would put me in my first apartment sans-roommates a block from the beach in Southern California. I had worked hard for the past two years and saying that the idea of continuing down that path wasn’t tempting would be a lie. Without Alex there in front of me doubt crept in again. This time it wasn’t about how I felt but whether I should follow my heart or my brain.
I weighed the options carefully. I sought advice from all my close friends and family. The overall vote was unanimous…I should follow my heart. But friends and family are bias and I still wasn’t sure. The push I needed came unexpectedly. I went out to meet my friend Rebecca one night and was introduced to her friend Jamie. Jamie was engaged and would be leaving to Ireland for her wedding in two weeks and then onto Italy to honeymoon. I told her about my time in Italy which of course led to discussing Alex and the decision I was in the midst of making. I was laying out all the options with her, discussing the pros and cons of each when suddenly she barked at me “What are you doing?! Quit your job tomorrow and move there!!” I’m paraphrasing and her language was a bit more persuasive. I don’t know why it took someone I just met to make me suddenly wake up. Maybe it was the few drinks we’d had. Maybe I’d already made the decision and just needed a random unbiased person to tell me it was OK and I wouldn’t be judged for it but that was it…I was going to move to Switzerland.
I told Alex my decision and everything began to fall into place. I took a month-to-month room in my co-workers house instead of signing that lease for the beach apartment. I had to stay in the U.S for 90 days before I could return so I left my job at the end of October and bought a plane ticket that would take me to Raleigh just before my nephew’s birthday so that I could bake him his birthday cake and see my family before flying on to Basel.
But with the highest highs sometimes come the lowest lows. The night before my flight to Raleigh I got the news that my brother-in-law’s mother Jeri had died in a car accident. The news shook me and my entire family to the core. Jeri was the kind of person that made me homesick for my own mom (in a good way) when I was around her. She made every single person in my family feel like they were a part of hers. Every time I saw her and she heard about my next adventure her genuine excitement for me made me feel proud of my decisions. She really had a way of making you feel good about yourself. But now, suddenly my family’s life was turned upside down and I wasn’t sure what to do. My first thought was that I would have to cancel going to Basel so I could be there for them to help however I could. As my thoughts spiraled I couldn’t help but think about how I was about to move thousands of miles away from my own family and my own parents…and how precious every moment is. Was this a sign?
I’m not religious and I’m still figuring out what I believe in terms of how the universe works. All I know is somehow my decision to move to Basel put me in Raleigh the day after Jeri’s death so that I could hug my sister and brother-in-law, help them out in their time of grief and through the funeral, and be there for my 4-year old nephew as he struggled to understand why his Nana was gone forever. I struggle to understand why things like this happen but one thing I pulled from this tragedy was that my brother-in-law is one of the strongest people I have ever met. My sister, my nephew and my niece (who was was on the verge of being born at the time) are in the best hands possible. He took on one of the biggest challenges he will ever face in his life with the same brave determination that his Mother took on in her fight and defeat over breast cancer. And this made me realize two things. I don’t need to worry so much about my family…they are just fine. And if I live my life revolving around the fear of not being close to them then I will miss out on the chance to have what they have.
And so I left Raleigh with a heavy heart but a renewed confidence in my decision once again. And when I walked out of the airport in Basel and saw Alex waiting for me I felt nothing but pure, complete happiness.