The end of our last year in the states

2010 is coming to a close. And while, still(!), nothing concrete, nothing tangible, has been done to move us forward, my husband and I have made some discoveries about our hopes for this move. And that is, namely, we’re doing it.

This may seem redundant, given the existence of this blog. However, over the last month or so, complications have been arising. Nothing major. Just a few things that have colored our conversations with flickers of doubt. Like my husband learning that the debt repayment program that has granted him money over the last 2 years, going on 3 years, is actually raising the amounts that they give out for subsequent years. He looked at the new numbers and realized that if he were to stay in a job that qualified for the National Health Service Corps awards, that after 3 years, his mountain of student loans would be gone. In just three years we’d be debt-free. And I’m talking about tens (and tens!) of thousands of dollars. This is an incredibly enticing thought. 3 years instead of 15 years of monthly payments, chipping away at the principle and interest? Umm…

He said things like, “I mean, it makes me wonder if it’s better to stay for the 3 years, be debt-free, and then go to New Zealand. But then I think, all it would take would be for you to have a job, and then we could get those loans paid down without it eating into our retirement, our savings for travel, all of that.”

And that’s true. For the last almost 4 years, I’ve been unemployed as a full time mom to our two kids, a strange, exhausting, wonderful time, but the only time I’ve not had a job since I was 14 years old. And I’ve always maintained that once our youngest, now 15 months, is in school, I’d rejoin the work force. And so, the prospect of having those loans hanging over our heads doesn’t seem quite so foolish, because I do intend to go back to work.

And then he says, “But we can’t do another 3 years here. We can’t.” We are just in the first month of a 5 month winter and already, the prospect of doing this again is unbearable to him. “And the department is facing those huge budget cuts. I mean, we don’t need to stay around for that.” And it’s true, his department’s weekly meetings have turned more and more dire each week, as the reality approaches of major budget reduction. And so, there’s the very good chance that come next year, once the new budget goes into effect, this pay cut we’re trying to anticipate might not be so big after all. “But then,” he says, “I think about Thora starting school, and I think…” It’s so hard to know what is best. Are we being selfish? Or worse, foolish? Reckless?

Then it was our anniversary dinner. We had drinks in a downtown bar and then dinner in Beacon Hill. And it was over these several hours that we indulged in one of our favorite pass times, talking through the plans for New Zealand. It might seem like, what could we possibly have new to say on the matter? But to talk it through is to imagine our future together, to feed on the excitement of the adventure. And so we talked. And we said things like:

He: I mean, what I worry about the most is getting there, loving it, and realizing we can’t afford it. That the pay isn’t high enough to pay down the student loan debt, save for retirement and have us fly home once a year. And that’s not including the travel we want to do around New Zealand. For me, having to move back after we fell in love with it, that would be the worst case scenario.

Me: I know. But here’s the question–let’s say we saw into the future, saw that it would end that way, would we not go at all? And my answer to that is no. We would still go. And it would be disappointing to have to come back and leave a place that we thought was perfect for us, but that we couldn’t afford. But at least we got to experience it at all, right?

And this mindset was confirmed by someone who my husband was put in touch with, a physician working with my mother-in-law and her recently broken ankle. He traveled to New Zealand about 10 years ago and lived on the South Island for 6 months. And he couldn’t have been more supportive of our intention to move there. He fell in love with the place, traveling all over the Southern Island. Granted, he doesn’t know us at all, or the particulars of our situation (moving so far away with two young kids, walking away from loan repayment money, etc.) But he gave us a very tangible way of seeing it when he said, “Even if you end up having to work an extra year of your life because of the pay cut, it would be worth it.” That’s the sort of thing we want to hear: that it’s worth it. That the craziness, the seeming impulsivity of it, choosing adventure over financial stability, that all of these things, might be worth the reward of living in New Zealand.

During our anniversary dinner last week, as he was pouring the last of the red wine into our glasses, as our dessert plates sat empty save for the crumbs and smears of chocolate (mine) and vanilla (his), this is what we decided: that we would go. It doesn’t matter how insane it seems, to be walking away from free money. (We can always come back and he can re-enroll in the NHSC program again.) It doesn’t matter how badly-timed it feels, what with Thora about to start school next fall. (She’ll just start in March–her 5th birthday–6 months after we arrive.) It doesn’t matter that my husband is taking a pay cut. (With the recession finally grabbing ahold of major hospitals and well-funded deptarments, we’re less likely to be as cushioned as we think we are.) We are going on this adventure. And that’s final.

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