“Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes and I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again…” ~Billy Joel
For someone who was meeting strangers and new people every day, why was I hesitant to ‘friend’ him on Facebook? I saw his picture come up time to time, but we weren’t really friends in real life and that was sort of my ‘friending’ policy – you had to actually be my friend. So I ignored it. And I ignored it again. And then one day, I must’ve been in a good mood and feeling confident, so I clicked “add as a friend.” And he accepted.
When I took off to travel around the world, I left a five-year relationship. And that one had been preceded by another five-year relationship. I certainly didn’t think I had a commitment problem. Or did I? Or was it just not right? Or was I too picky and destined for a life of disappointment?
I had been very much in love and very committed until…I just wasn’t.
I had been very much in love and very committed until…I just wasn’t. It’s so funny how that works. One day you think it will be forever. You are so happy, so fulfilled. You can see your whole life with this person – a “future” however that looks for you. And then it’s over. Maybe that was part of my problem; my future didn’t look as traditional as others (The house. The kids. The ‘burbs), so it was cloudier and harder even for me to picture without those expected milestones.
Maybe I could’ve tried harder and it would have worked? Maybe it wasn’t “meant to be.” I think we have to tell ourselves that or else we’d be forever depressed and longing for something that might have been.
And I liked being single, mostly because it meant I could see and feel and do without distraction, without that longing feeling of missing someone back home.
So, I moved on, literally and figuratively. I traveled the world as a single woman. And I liked being single, mostly because it meant I could see and feel and do without distraction, without that longing feeling of missing someone back home. I met men in foreign lands. Some for a night. And some for months. I tried to be open to possibilities. I had excitement and I had fun. But never a deep connection. I never fell in love. But I didn’t care. I made amazing friends and connections all over the world. Travel became all about the people and the bonds I made. This had an incredible impact on me.
Finding Love in the Most Unexpected Place: New Jersey
So, after nearly three years living out of a bag and living my life in the world with powerful highs and jarring lows, I returned to New Jersey, to my childhood town, home, and even the twin bed of my youth. It was a place I’d left nearly twenty years ago, to go live my life. It was a good place, but not a place I longed for or ever thought to which I would return. And not because I don’t like New Jersey, I do very much and often brag about the beauty that no one seems to know about. But because I’d outgrown the idea of living in the suburbs far from my city of Chicago where I’d grown to feel very much at home with diverse people, ideas and opportunities for growth and learning, literally right outside my door.
But there it was. Love. In the most unexpected place and form. And found on…Facebook. See, not only was he in the suburbs of New Jersey, but we actually had gone to high school together…and I had a crush on him way back when.
“You were probably just ready for love in your life,” he said, trying to rationalize why I’d fallen for him.
“No, believe me, if it worked like that and I was just ready for love, I’d have surely “chosen” to fall in love with the guy in Italy or Spain,” I said assuredly. “Do you think I’d be choosing New Jersey over Europe?”
But I was and I did. More accurately, travel has helped me be open, to meet, to talk to, to easily make new friends and form newer, deeper relationships.
Traveling + Love
And now, we’ve been together several years and are still very much in love. In fact, I think I’ve finally reached that deeper love that I’d been missing. We weathered some ups and downs and are even stronger for it. And soon, yes, I will be living back in New Jersey most of the time.
I never expected or even wanted any ‘Hollywood ending’ for my life. But in my own way, I still got one. I left my hometown and lived elsewhere for two decades. I circled the globe to return to the very first place I had started my life. And now it seems my life has come full circle.
P.S. And is it a coincidence that Elizabeth Gilbert the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” lives just 15 minutes down the road here in NJ? Yes.
This is an excerpt from a future memoir. 🙂