We’ve begun to tell our friends our plans for next fall. And it’s been met in a variety of ways. I’ve been met with enthusiasm–my friend Elizabeth in NYC was probably the most immediately thrilled. She is an awesome friend and one who is so supportive–I think she saw my enthusiasm the instant I told her about our plan. Additionally, she and I have already established a long-distance friendship, so maybe it’s easier for her to feel the excitement for our adventure rather than loss.
At the other end of the spectrum, there has been hostility veiled in attempts at humor, specifically from a friend of ours here. This friend has made attempts at jokes about her desire to cut her emotional ties with me now, since there’s no point in devoting any energy to a friendship that, as she sees it, I’m just going to abandon in a year from now. Funny.
Seeing these responses, both the supportive and the tearful ones (one friend began to cry openly as I told her), have pained me equally, since I’m not ready to say goodbye to any of these people. The ones who are sad to see us go, pained by how close our families have become, well, this separation pains me too. And conversely, the people who fly their flag of support for us… well, they are clearly awesome, supportive friends, and it saddens me that we have to lose them in our life.
I wonder if, in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds, they think we’re being impulsive, careless, selfish perhaps, even stupid people. We’re cutting ties with those who love us. We’re saying that the ties that bind them to us aren’t strong enough to hold us here. Those ties aren’t stronger than our desire for flight. Some of our friends may even be losing respect for us. They don’t see us as adventurous. Probably they don’t see us as brave or resolute in following a pull toward a culture that is more in line with our priorities. Perhaps, the worst, we are seen as self-righteous. As if we’re saying, “We know enough to get out of this hell-hole of a country; what’s wrong with you for staying?”
But it’s for a better quality of life, the same reasons that our friends have moved to neighboring towns, (e.g.), they can get more space there for their growing family. And in a similar way, although more extreme, we feel like we can get more by moving to NZ. Although he’ll be taking a pay cut, my husband thinks he’ll get more time at home with me and the kids. Although he’ll be making less money, we think the cost of living will be lower than what we pay in the States. We think that our kids’ lives will be fundamentally better due to a stronger school system, and a cultural worldview that embraces progressive and liberal ideals instead of greed and excess. We think our kids will be more well-rounded and open-minded people for having lived in vastly different parts of the world. And living on the other side of the planet from one’s extended family will surely encourage them to think globally and hopefully, less selfishly.
So, we have our reasons. (I keep reminding myself.) And our reasons are valid ones, sensible ones. It’s just that we’re asking ourselves to be more adventurous than perhaps most people are willing or want to be. In our eyes, the distance, self-reliance, adaptation and discovery are some of the things that will make us stronger, and therefore part of the reason. In our eyes, we can’t find the quality of life here in the states that we’re hoping to find abroad. From our perspective, we see the benefit of living as a citizen of the global community rather than as an American.
And yet, when I have fantasies of growing old with these Boston friends, our kids remaining friends with each other all through their childhoods, I have to remind myself that my husband and I were never going to make this New England city our home, for good. We kind of knew that going in and we are reminded of it each dreadful winter. My husband has always wanted to move back to the Southeast and while I feel less of a pull to a particular region, I’ve been happy to contemplate seeking out a progressive little haven and see if that’s where we want to set down roots. As I see it, the world is big, and I’m pretty sure we haven’t found our true home yet.
So, we were always going to leave… at some point. So what is it about the decision to move to New Zealand, now, that makes the separation so hard, for us and for the people we are leaving behind? Of course, the geographic distance is sooo far and the obvious deal-breaker. I think it comes across as if we’re saying that we’re ready to never see these people again… forever. Because surely most people will never come to visit us there. Possibly none of our friends will make the trip. And that’s totally understandable. Whereas if we were to say we were moving to North Carolina, for example, we can tell ourselves that we’ll see each other again soon, even if the truth is that it never happens. It’s easier to say the goodbye if you tell yourself it’s not forever. Perhaps that’s the pain we’re dealing with when we tell these people about NZ, that in a year we’re likely to say goodbye and never see our friends again.
I also think part of the difficulty, for us in living with this decision, and for our friends, accepting it, is because this separation is by choice. We’re not moving for work. Or to be closer to family. In fact, this move will in some ways be a step backwards professionally (in the eyes of some) since my husband likely will be taking a pay cut. And we’ve managed to desire to move to the place that is perhaps the absolute farthest possible place from family and friends. We’re choosing self-imposed exile. We’re doing this to ourselves. And to our family and friends who have enjoyed seeing our kids grow up.
I feel like I go around in circles as I write all this out. We feel pulled to NZ for adventure, to enrich our lives, for a better quality of life… But it’s painful to leave, to cruelly snatch our kids from a group of friends, a school, a neighborhood in with they are thriving and that give their lives such happiness. So… why are we doing this? And then back to the beginning. I fear that this back and forth with continue up until the time we leave, probably for some time after, too.