Hold the confetti

On our last day of the Pacific Northwest portion of the Wild Wild West tour, we hiked the infamous Rattlesnake Ledge trail. It’s a popular trail so there’s usually a conga line of hikers up and down the switchbacks. At one point Clay and I overheard another couple bickering. As we passed them, we heard a snippet of their conversation that made us both smile. And then we did what couples do after they eavesdrop on other couples… dissect & discuss. 

“That was funny ‘cause they sounded like us.”
     “They did! Did you hear what he said to her?”
“No…I just heard her complaining about the rain and the hike.” 
     “I think they just moved here or something. Because he said “Yeah but I’m just excited. This is just one of many hikes we’re going to get to do here now.”” 

We’d only spent a few days in Seattle, but by the next switchback I knew that this was going to be our next home too. The thought literally stopped me in my tracks, unbeknownst to Clay who kept trekking along.

It’s weird…I should’ve been excited. I should’ve caught up with Clay and shared my epiphany with him while jumping up and down and throwing confetti. Because in case you didn’t already see through right through us, the WWWT wasn’t just a ‘for fun’ thing. We booked these trips with the hopes of moving to one of these cities, in one of these states, we were just trying to figure out where. So this feeling I had, that Seattle was our place, should have been a welcomed one. 

But in that moment I had skipped over the excitement and went straight to grief. I stood there, letting it all sink in as I tried to accept what my intuition was telling me, “We’re moving. We’re actually moving.” No more dinner parties with the Lasater’s, no more game nights with Nate and Katy, no more “we’ll meet you for dinner downtown” with the in-laws, no more tailgating at MSU with all our college friends, no more Tuesday afternoon play dates with my nieces. Everyone was in Michigan, no one was in Seattle.

The weight of each inevitable loss pushed down on my chest until I broke. With that, all the tears I’d been holding back for the last 5 minutes poured out. I sobbed for a few moments, too lost in grief to care that I was on display.

(I don’t think anyone paid attention to me, but if they had I imagine my tears would have been primo trail gossip for other hikers to dissect and discuss:
“Did you see that girl crying?”
“Yeah, what was her deal? I hope she’s okay.”)

Grand Rapids may not have been our wellspring anymore but it was home, and leaving was going to be really really really freaking hard. Even though we knew moving was right for us, it didn’t make the decision to do so any easier. People often forget this. During and after our move we’ve had several emotional conversations with friends and family that have ended with them reminding us that Clay and I “chose this.” As if to say “you brought this on yourself” and therefore our homesickness does not warrant any sympathy. As if our choice to move should eradicate all the unsightly emotions.

I’m sorry. It doesn’t. I realize that Clay and I didn’t move for work, or school, and therefore we did, in fact, choose to move. I also realize that missing out on holidays and birthdays is inherently wrapped up in that choice, but to say that we chose to live far away from dinner parties and game nights and family, seems like an insensitive half-truth. If we could have our cake and eat it too, we would. We chose to move but that doesn’t mean we rejoiced at the thought of living far away from the people we love. We were not full of happiness and excitement every step of the way.

In fact we had many more moments like the one at Rattlesnake Ledge, when intuition insisted that we move to Seattle, and in response we stubbornly insisted back that “no, we’d rather not.”

Maybe we just needed a career change. Maybe if we shuffled enough of our life around we could mix up everything but our residence. Maybe that would do the trick & we wouldn’t have to sacrifice playing tag with our nieces or the Fulton St. Farmer’s market. We tossed several alternate realities around for a while hoping one of them would stick. Sooner or later we agreed that even new jobs would wind up being bad bandaids. And every other option we considered seemed equally inadequate. 

Then there were times when we felt the excitement of moving, and looked forward to all that was to come, until the switch flipped and minutes later we were blubbering, wailing, and mourning the season of life that was ending…laser focused on all that we’d miss out on. It was like the bitter emotions were just trying to catch up to real time, and the sweet emotions were miles ahead. And their occasional collision confused and exhausted us.

As it is with grief, time has helped reduce the frequency and intensity, but even so this bittersweetness still creeps up occasionally. So here’s some advice: stay put if you can help it, moving was hard, and still is hard.