What will I do when my best friend moves to China in a few weeks?
I can call her at any time of day, even though we are five time zones apart. I can continue a conversation begun two weeks ago. I can bring up any topic and know she will give it to me, a gay man, “straight.” She is loving, caring, practical, startlingly smart, and always a source of wisdom!
Once in a while I’m lucky to reciprocate for all she gives me. Recently, I encouraged her to move to China for a fresh start in her life, her career as a wonderful, nimble teacher, as a constant giver who has a chance to be given a bit of hope for herself.
I knew in my heart that China would be the right move for my friend, but I wondered how I could convince her. I mentioned that when I was barely in my 20s I received a Fulbright to study and teach in Austria. I knew that it was the opportunity of a lifetime. I remember when I received the scholarship, I celebrated by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. I was so excited I could not speak. The only person who knew for a few days was my mother, a teacher who grew up in a mountain hamlet in Pennsylvania. I thought she might be proud of her firstborn son.
A few decades later, to my astonishment I was offered a job in Hawaii, for me the most beautiful place on earth. I played in a small tennis tournament in my mid 20s and at that time thought, “Well, I’m glad I’ve seen it. I always wanted to spend at least a week in Hawaii and Iceland.”
I did squeak in that 10-day trip to Iceland a few decades after Hawaii and before I met my stunning husband. I had given up on relationships, so I thought I would become a good development director, runner, and gardener. My husband is younger than I, and at the time, with encouragement from my sister, I decided I could squeak by in our age range.
Then it came to parenthood.
I had wanted to be a parent my entire life. My husband did not. Oh boy. Somehow, I persuaded him. Time was perhaps running a bit short for me as I was in my 40s, but we did it, the best decision of my life — tied with having the audacity to set myself up for a date with my husband. We have the most glorious daughter in the world. I squeaked by.
As a family, we lived on the continental United States, Germany, and then, Hawaii. I convinced myself it was still the right time in my life to try something new, to return to a paradise I had discovered decades earlier, to squeak by one more daring move to a new home. It was one of the best decisions, next to marriage and parenthood, I ever made.
I’m glad I could recall that recklessness when my friend was considering China, when my Bavarian gut, said, “By all means, do it now, you don’t want to wake up some day and wonder, ‘What if?'”
Maybe we’ve all squeaked by in some way, and you know what, that’s perfectly o.k! Listen to your heart, your gut, your brains, and go for it!