Three years ago today we closed on our home in Maine, selling our beloved space and all it contained.
We left the dishes we received as wedding gifts a decade earlier stacked neatly in the cabinets. We left the dining room table we built with our own hands (and those of our sweet friend, Emy, who offered not only her hands to the job but also her laughter) one sunny weekend our first summer there. We left the bookcases from Ikea that took hours to assemble and us to the edge of our wits.
The teapot handpainted in the Polish style that I adored and used nearly every snowy afternoon during our long Maine winters. The chest of drawers that had traveled with my Navy family as part of my parents’ bedroom set when I was growing up and I’d refinished during finals week my second year of law school. The canvas print of one of my very first photographs of Maine, a sunrise at the Portland Head Light where any doubts I’d had about our move were swept away with the crashing waves on that rocky slice of coastline.
Three years ago today, we took one last look at the home we loved and the life we’d built there, and then we closed the front door behind us. We turned the key in the lock for the first time in the eight years since we’d bought the house, and we sat on the front deck for a final moment before turning that life over to the new owners.
In the years since that day there have been moments when we questioned that decision. When we wondered if we made a huge mistake walking away from that home, from that life. Our community that had grown into something special and treasured. We’ve had moments of homesickness for the quiet peace of that life, of our little home on that tranquil street in that town we so adored. Our choice certainly came at a cost.
But in these three years since that day, there have been other moments, too.
There was the moment when I sat shoulder to shoulder with my little brother on the bank of a river in south Texas, tying flies to the ends of our lines, and talking about the small habits of silvery fish in the warming days of late spring.
There was the moment I sunk into the crystalline waters of an alpine lake in the high Sierra and remembered what it was to slip past the fears that had crept in to shrink my world and open my eyes once again.
There were the moments in Tucson when we were surrounded by yipping coyotes on a late evening run in the desert and when watched the saguaros come to life with their once-a-year-blooms and sunset after sunset that painted the sky in neon colors.
There was the moment we woke in the back of our truck in the Brooks Range to snow falling in late August and the one when we ate squashed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches overlooking the Harding Ice Field and the one where we pulled small fish from an arctic river and the one when we stood in the center of a turquoise blue ice cave in Byron Glacier and listened to ancient ice crack and pop under its own timeless weight.
There have been freezing nights in sleeping bags in pull-offs in Montana and countless mornings brushing our teeth in Walmart bathrooms somewhere in the midwest as we criss-crossed the country yet again.
This choice certainly came with a cost. Several of them, actually.
But those costs have been worthwhile. Even as we try to figure out what is next for our life, deciding whether we’ll continue traveling after our obligations in Seattle are through or if we’ll embark on a different kind of journey altogether, it’s impossible to look back on these three years with anything but deep gratitude.
Taking chances and choosing risk and embracing fear doesn’t always pan out the way we hope. Sometimes I think that reminder is important in a world that likes to print fearless quotes on t-shirts and journals and tell the success stories while leaving out the failures.
But it’s easy to forget the every single choice we make comes at some cost.There are no choices that carry zero risk, zero penalty.
So we have to think carefully about what matters most to us, what costs we think we can live with best, what risks carry the greatest potential for reward. And then act on those choices knowing that things may play out differently than we’d imagined, that we may have to course correct as we go.
Because there’s alway another fork in the road, always another choice set before us. Every day.
Every. Single. Day.
Three years ago today we chose to leave behind so much that we loved. We hoped that the unknown would bring with it experiences that would make that choice and all it cost us worthwhile.
And it has.
But never forget that it wasn’t free. None of our choices ever are.
We just have to make each decision that comes before us with as much integrity and courage as we can manage and trust that we have within us the strength and resilience to figure out the next step as we get there.
Because we do.