Two weeks away from one’s daily routine is truly good for the soul. Even more important than reconnecting with family and friends, you have a chance to really unplug and do some solid introspection – at least I do. After all, the only way to survive those hellish flights (I’m talking to YOU, Delta Airlines), is to transport yourself – mentally anyway – someplace other than the sardine can you occupy for those 4 to 5-hours in the air.
After not being back in the States for several years, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my visit. Would I realize how much I missed the conveniences of first-world life? Miss them enough to give up my Island Girl status? Would I find the siren’s call of being closer to family too much to resist? Or would I run screaming back to the islands, no longer equipped to handle the pressure and buzz of living with traffic, mass consumerism and dissatisfied people?
It was anyone’s guess, especially mine. And, although he was loathe to admit it, I think Island Boy was wondering if I’d return, too. After all, my rock fever was the worst it had ever been, rendering me anything but a joy to be around. To be totally honest, the idea of just staying away had fleetingly crossed my mind. Although of course, I’d never utter those words out loud.
And I won’t lie. The first few days back were euphoric. Target. Starbucks. A classy, brand new rental car to drive. Good hair and make-up that lasted more than five minutes. Damn delicious, properly made dirty martinis. The beautiful mountains where I always feel so at home. It was oh-so-easy to slip back into old habits. Old habits that felt as comfortable as a favorite hoodie or well-worn pair of hiking boots.
And I started to wonder if I had made a mistake all those years ago. Was jettisoning my “old” life in favor of endless summer the wrong thing to do? After all, if I had stayed put and stuck out the challenging marriage and unfulfilling job, I imagined I’d be living pretty comfortably these days. At least materialistically…mentally would have been a different story, I suspect. After all, constantly wondering what extracurricular activities your husband is up to does take its toll.
I would likely still be in Seattle, living in some overpriced sprawling suburban house and driving the latest luxury sedan – one with the push-button starter, bluetooth and fancy dashboard display that tells me everything from the current weather to which of the seven gazillion satellite stations I was listening to at that exact moment. I would stave off the depression brought on by 300 days of grey skies by doing what everyone does – I’d shop and find endless ways to spend money. I would also be closer to my family, which would, in turn, eliminate the homesickness and longing that anyone who lives abroad is familiar with.
In my mind, I could envision the exact lifestyle that I (and virtually everyone else who knew me pre-Island Girl) pretty much expected me to be living at this point in my life.
But I didn’t stay the course. I said no to expectations and instead did what felt absolutely right at the time. A decision I’ve never regretted, even if I have found myself second guessing it occasionally over the years.
After all, if I hadn’t made the change, I never would have known what it’s like to watch a Caribbean sunrise while standing barefoot on a beach during a camping trip on a deserted island. I wouldn’t know the pure bliss of sharing a bottle of prosecco with best girlfriends, salt and sand still in our damp hair, while the sun sets after an epic kitesurfing session. I would never have met so many people who cared more about who I was inside rather than what kind of car I drove or what I did for a living.
My life on this island is authentic and natural and devoid of the pretenses that come with living back in the States. Probably why I eschew any entanglements here with people who are still stuck with their first-world mentality about those kinds of things, even in paradise. They are no longer my people (neither here nor back “home”), these folks who are fixated on status and judgment.
Yet the clarity I have now about such things – and the rich experiences I’ve enjoyed – would not have manifested themselves had I not made a choice all those years ago.
And it was this realization that made it crystal clear to me that there are no mistakes to be made. Instead, life is a series of choices. Stay or leave. Here or there. This job or that. Yes or no.
You make a choice and then consequences follow – some expected, some totally out of the blue. They arise and you handle them. Some bring you joy. Some are bittersweet. Some even make you cry and doubt yourself. But you get through them all. Every time. And along the way, you learn and grow as a person. At least that’s the plan.
But no matter what events or feelings flow from the choices you make, the choice itself is never a mistake. The only mistake you can possibly make is not making a choice at all.
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