Leaving or Escaping?

Life is a series of beginnings and endings. We leave one job to start another; we quit cities, countries, or continents for a fresh start; we leave lovers and begin new relationships. What was the last thing you contemplated leaving? What were the pros and cons? Have you made up your mind? What will you choose?

Yes, this was yesterday’s Daily Prompt, but I’m answering it because it was a good one.

When people accept the inevitability of change, it can go one of two ways: some become resistant, as they understandably don’t want to mess up what they have; others just go with it, even embrace it. This is probably easier for people who don’t have the career/relationship/home situation entirely sorted – people like me.

It’s so hard to leave – until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.

– John Green, Paper Towns

I am an expert leaver. Perhaps that is not a skill most people would like to be able to list on their life CV, but it’s the truth. In 24 years, I have left:

  • Two schools (at the end of the full education, of course)
  • Two universities (again, not mid-degree, but when I’d finished)
  • Eight houses/flats (not always by choice)
  • Six jobs/internships (mainly because of the following bullet point)
  • Home (three times to work abroad, and twice to live with friends)
  • Four guys (one of them was also an expert leaver)

When I write it down that way, it doesn’t seem much at all. However, we can all list things we have left, and the length of the list doesn’t actually say much about how good we are with change; it’s how we measure the impact of each that is significant.

Until a few years ago, I always thought that I was a sentimental person. Like the poet that needs the pain, nostalgia was almost enjoyable. I got homesick after a few days, missed being certain ages, hated throwing out old clothes – I’d even miss specific places I sat in the classroom at school. I hated leaving hobbies, even when they no longer worked around work.

Depending on how long you’ve been reading this blog, you might actually remember the posts about my parents moving house, a three-part lament in preparation for the big day (Moving House Parts 1, 2 and 3, if you’re interested). And you know what? After all that fuss, I have not missed the old house once. Not one single time. And I lived there for nineteen years. I’ve driven past the street a couple of times and had a ‘this used to be the way home’ thought, and that’s it.

Likewise, people always ask if I miss living in France. Well, the honest truth is… no. I love Paris, I really do. It’s beautiful, romantic, poetic, and like no place on earth. I just don’t mind that it’s (I’ve?) been and gone. Besides, I only have to think about how much of a fiasco it was trying to organise social security (it never got organised) to cure me of any fantasy of living there again.

I don’t like to live in the past. On the contrary, I sometimes worry that I have the opposite problem of thinking too much about the future, at the expense of living in the present. Sometimes, like now, it seems a far more attractive prospect.

That is why I’m considering leaving again. There’s the possibility of heading to London in July to try to kick start my career, but what about now? Something less permanent, in May: a three-week ‘trek’ across the States. What are the pros and cons? Well, there are so many cons: the sheer expense of the trip, what to do about work (times two jobs), and not having a warm-weather wardrobe (shock horror), to name three. It would be easy to dismiss the idea and just carry on as I am.

And yet it’s the idea of things continuing as they are that’s the driving force behind wanting to go.

Told you, I’m an expert leaver.

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