the business of leaving

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Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo

I don’t know how to tell my father I’m leaving. Up until this week I didn’t know how to tell myself. But wait, let me back up.

The week was a blur of meetings, minor politicking and emails left unanswered. I met my friend and mentor for Korean, and we talk about the things we always talk about: we trade updates on our respective careers and people we used to work with and know. This person took this job at this place, did you hear? This person landed here and she seems really happy, last we spoke. We talk about heady things–data and marketing attribution models–and the personal. He tells me about his novia and plans to move out west. He asks about this trip I’m taking, the one he’s been reading about on Facebook. It’s a normal, perfunctory conversation, the kind of which I’ve grown accustomed. I have the speech prepared where I talk about the three states, my jubilation, and how nothing pleases me more than living in a town with a population of 6,000. Our food arrives and we tuck in, and he jokes about the fact that I like my beef well done. Shoe leather, we laugh.

My mentor is a kind of father, but not completely, yet enough where I let my guard down as I’m a watchman when it comes to my heart.

We pass vegetables between our plates and I talk about snow boots. How I’ve ignored the need to purchase them. How I’ve lasted the previous winter without them. And then, this week, I broke down and bought a pair and already I feel regret. Why, he asks. Boots are pragmatic, something I need, and I’ve always been the practical kind. Because this is my last year in New York, I say, flippantly. He pauses, allows the words to settle because he’s ahead of me. What I’ve said doesn’t register on my face just yet. I’m still moving food about my plate, talking about kimchi and kale. And then it happens–the words catch up and linger. Something in me seizes, quietly, and he says that I’ll always need boots because he knows I’ll temporarily return. How could I not return to the place I’ve called home? I think about Odysseus, nymphs, and an awaiting shore, but I don’t tell him any of this because it’s kind of strange to be bringing up the Greeks over barbequed beef–you know what I mean?

I want to tell him that this conversations reminds me of the one we had two years prior. I was in his office, head in my hands, talking about fear. He’d asked me if I was happy. Are you happy? I said, no. I already knew I had to resign from a job that had slowly begun to kill me; I had to stop working for a man I didn’t respect or trust. I had to stop becoming the woman I never wanted to be–bitter, stressed, angry, someone who practiced moral relativism like breathing. But what if I quit? What then? This life isn’t the one I want, but I know it. I can navigate it with eyes open. And if my friend (then colleague) hadn’t made me imagine what was on the other side of fear, I wouldn’t be writing this post. So I think about that conversation and how we don’t need to have it again, and that’s the silence that passes between us–the tacit understanding that this decision is familiar, and all I need to do is see out onto the horizon.

You’ll visit, he says. I nod. I’ll visit. What if I don’t secure freelance work? I’ll visit. What if I’m lonely? I’ll visit. What if I lose my apartment? I’ll visit. You know you’re giving up your apartment for good, right? What if New York is it? I’ll visit.

Now to only tell my father I’ll visit.

12 thoughts on “the business of leaving

  1. OH Felicia! The best decisions are often the hardest and scariest. Just remember, there are no mistakes and theres IS and always will be, more than one way to live this life and more than one way to experience it! You’ve got it-with or without those damn winter boots:)

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  2. Some of the scariest decisions are the ones that change our lives for the better. I know. I left a family business that my father started in 1950, alienated myself from my entire family (2 brothers and their wives who also worked there) and felt like a leper at holiday gatherings for an entire year. My father couldn’t understand why I would leave a comfortable position and the security of having my family around me, but I was unhappy. That, he said, wasn’t a good enough reason. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made for myself. I started my own business and was very successful at it. I loved going to work for myself. It energized me and reminded me what a creative person I was. Eventually the tears in the family fabric were mended, but the best reconciliation I had was when my father finally admited to me that my decision to leave was a good one. He saw how happy and successful I was – a changed person. I even came to enjoy my family more at those holiday gatherings when I didn’t have to see them every day at work.
    I believe that when we do something from the heart, and not from ambition or greed, it will always be for the best. And so, in the brief time I have gotten to know you through your writing, I wish you the best. Because, it seems to me, anyway, that you deserve it. Please keep up with this blog. It is my favorite!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Christine — Reading your story completely inspired me! I definitely know there are good things on the other side (and no doubt some hardships I’ll invariably endure), but it’s worth the stretch. I tell myself that every day, every single time I allow fear in. Thank you for sharing. Warmly, Felicia

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  3. There is grief in change even when its for the good. Something always has to die and make way for what is coming. You seem to be a courageous soul.

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  4. Remember who left Ireland and his family many,many years ago to chase a dream and a happier life? He’s already told me he’s excited about the 4 state adventure, so this is just the next step… I think he’ll worry as any parent would then wish you the best of everything to come! 🙂

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  5. I think it is so much easier to love (or forgive when necessary) family if we are following our own hearts and not living a life dictated by the need to please them. Best wishes to you!

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