Last year I moved from my hometown, a large, fast-paced, East Coast city, where all of my family and friends live, to a much smaller Western city. I moved because my boyfriend, whom I had been with through four years of graduate school, has career and recreational interests specific to this region and was miserable on the East Coast. I am 28 years old, and we have seriously discussed marriage. I love him and can see myself with him forever, having his children and being his partner. I know that this is rare and wonderful. I also have a great job here that I enjoy more than any job I would have in my field in my hometown. But it breaks my heart to be so far away from my friends and family and the area I love. He knows this, and tries to be accommodating by encouraging me to take many trips back East, and by using his vacation time to come with me. But I know that he will never, ever want to move back there, and I don't know if periodic visits are enough for me.
I was really touched by your statement in a prior article that "joy is a compass." My problem is that my joy exists in two places; I love my job here, and I love my boyfriend, who is here, but I also love my friends and family, who are 2,000 miles away, in a place where my boyfriend refuses to live. How can I decide which to choose? I worry that I will regret it all my life if I leave him and move back home. But I also worry that my homesickness will eat away at me forever if I stay here and start a family so far from my parents and friends. How do you choose what you want the most when you know that you can't have everything?
Yes, yes and yes. It is so true what you say. And no matter what you do there is some ache somewhere because this is our modern multiplex. And how to decide? I do not know. I have chased after things and sacrificed things and I long for the things I sacrificed and I grow tired of the things I chase and I decide weekly to move to Africa or the Philippines yet I do not like to travel all that much so I stay here. And what is there to do about this multiplicity of lives we lead except choose, and then later change our minds and choose again, and travel a lot, and try to talk people into following us out West and then grieve as they pack up and go back East or keep going off to Asia, and harbor the most secret of resentments and kernels of revenge toward those who desert us and never stop to think how those we deserted must feel about us and our fabulous lives where we have gone.
I know only a few things: I know that family is more important the older you get. It will make more sense to be with family the longer you are away. By the time you are 48, in 20 years, issues you do not have now will begin to arise with the older members of your family, and you may also begin to really, really long for those close, irreplaceable hometown friendships. So if you stay West for many years try to keep your options open. And think of your kids, too. If you are moving try not to do it when one of them is 12.
I am personally opposed to moving at the age of 12.
Make of that what you will.
So the compass needle swings and swings back and swings again. And there is no right choice. There is only accommodation and sacrifice and finding out how it turns out in the end, and the end never seems to come and then when it does, well, then we don't care. Oh, and flexibility and travel and spending time with folks, and staying in touch, and having room for them so they can visit and having money so you can visit them and maybe even talking them into moving out there so you have some company.
Beyond that, what is there? It's the world we live in. I wish I had more but honestly, it is all about living and how you live.
Best of luck to you.