“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~Andre Gide
I’ve lived in Virginia all my life. Pretty much all that I remember at least.
I was a young boy when my parents moved here from Long Island, New York—away from much of our family—because life in the place they had grown up just didn’t provide the opportunities necessary to support a family of six.
Since then, nearly my entire extended family has followed—most of my aunts and uncles, and their children, and their children. And though they may live in Virginia, these older family members remain New Yorkers.
You hear it in their voices, in their attitudes. You see it in the Yankee hats and the Giants jerseys. They’re so “New York” in fact, that I often jokingly call them Virginian just to watch the comically disgusted looks on their faces.
I’m evil. I know…
And though I myself go back to New York all the time and do enjoy it, I’m just not one of them.
I am not a New Yorker. And though my family may secretly cringe at the thought, it’s true.
I love Virginia. I love it.
I think it’s the most beautiful place. I love all the hills, and the creeks, and the forests. I love how I’m a short drive from bustling young cities around DC and rustic old farms down south. I love how nearly every road has a sign marking some long-forgotten event of the Civil War.
I love the old split-rail fences that frame the historic houses. I love imagining that these forests were once walked by Indians and settlers, Confederates and Unionists.
I was educated here at a university founded by Thomas Jefferson. I graduated on the lawn where he once walked. I lived there on land that was once owned and farmed by James Madison.
This place is so perfect to me, and I love it.
So, Long Island?
It’s just some place to me—known more in my memory for the countless old car dealerships, and the endless delis, and the fact that no matter how long it’s been since I’ve been there last, it never seems to change at all, as if it’s perpetually 1985.
It’s like people never move there. They only ever move out.
But despite that all, I am always reminded that to my parents, and much of my family, Long Island remains “home” to them. It’s the place they think fondly of, and have great attachment to. I’m reminded of how difficult it must have been for them to leave there, and to start a new life here—in a state they had no real connection to, or knowledge of.
I imagine the risk they took, and the fear they had. I imagine that to them, the decision was a difficult one despite the very real reasons they needed to leave.
I imagine it was, indeed, one of the hardest things they had ever done.
And though it was scary, though it was risky, though it seemed to those they knew so random a choice and place to live, it was indeed the right choice. It was what was best for them at that time, and has since proven to be amongst the wisest decisions they have ever made.
I think we all inevitably face such decisions in life, such forks in the road.
Life is truly a path; a path we inevitably walk in darkness, never knowing what lies ahead, or what will happen around the next bend—whether the obstacles that obstruct us, the challenges that await us, or the dangers that loom before us will help our journey or hinder it; will be the best thing that was ever given to us, or the worst thing that ever happened to us.
And though we may not know the way—though we may not know where any particular road will lead or path will end—we know that we must choose a path regardless, because we cannot stay where we stand forever.
Life stops for no one. And that means that sometimes we must risk the danger of this dark course over the safety and comfort of the present lightened way.
We must risk all to gain all. Because to stay where we are gets us nowhere.
Many of us make the mistake of choosing comfort over possibility.
You probably know people who keep jobs they hate, and relationships they resent, and the self they are ashamed of because they’re used to them.
Although these things may disappoint them, or anger them, or ruin them, at least their situation is familiar. At least it’s the disappointment they know, rather than the possibility they do not.
But the choice to choose a different path lies before them like it lies before us all. Always. Inevitably.
For me, it seems, that time is now.
I love Virginia. I have family here and friends here; history here and roots here.
But I also know deep in my heart that I am ready and in need of a change; that there exists an opportunity for me elsewhere that I will not find here, nor replace here.
And so this month I’ll be moving to Austin, Texas for a new job. But mostly I’ll be moving because I’m ready for it; because in my heart I know I’m in need of something new, and different, and…scary.
And it does scare me, of course.
But it doesn’t deter me, as the fear of change ought not deter you.
Because whatever you choose and wherever you go, you must go with the faith that everything will be okay; that even though your decision may not work out as you planned, that at least you tried, at least you did it, at least you proved yourself willing to risk what you had for something more.
At least you chose action, where others can’t choose anything.
As my parents did when they moved from New York.
As their parents did when they moved from Puerto Rico.
As so many do every day, all around the world.
Change is not something to dread, but instead an occasion to look forward to. It’s an adventure, as all your journey has been and the rest of your journey will be.
So today I choose a different path. I push my boat from these shores, toward the ocean I have never traveled, and the future that remains a mystery.
To me, though, it’s not a risk. It’s exciting. And if it’s not, I can always move back!
Photo by awnisALAN