My family is freakishly close. Our holidays together are events we countdown to rather than dread, and we have a ridiculous amount of inside jokes.
My parents are always favorites among my friend groups and my sister is my absolute best friend. We’ve long feared that anyone my sister and I end up with is going to face an uphill battle to fit in with the four of us.
For the last few years, every time I’ve gotten on a plane to fly away from my family, my heart aches.
I am almost 30 years old, but I still find myself tearing up while I wait in the security line to fly back to California after Thanksgiving, Winter Break and Fourth of July weekend, knowing it will be months before the whole Brown clan is back together again and longing for just a few more days of drinking wine, playing cards, and watching TV with my favorite people.
The truth is, I really love my family and desperately want to live closer to them.
And then, I get off the plane to sunshine, beach air, and palm trees. I drive home along the 405, the 105, the 110 and 10 freeways I know like the back of my hand, with snow covered mountains in the distance to my right and the Hollywood sign ahead to the left.
I get home to an adorable yellow house filled with three of my favorite ladies and their adorable dogs that I love like my own.
I spend my days hiking in the mountains and running by the beach. I drink wine with my girlfriends at adorable corner bars and see movies in Hollywood. In any given week, I spend time with trusted colleagues, my best friend from high school, my old roommates and friends from my college days, and a few more friends I’ve collected during my last seven years living in Los Angeles.
Because of all of this, another truth is that I truly and deeply loving living in Los Angeles.
But for the past two years, these two truths have been butting heads, as I’ve been contemplating a move to Chicago, where my now family lives and where I genuinely enjoy being.
The lakefront and the architecture, the food, and the Midwestern attitude are all definitely up my alley. Every time I visit, I ask myself could I really live here? Could I deal with the months of winter and the lack of mountains and big beaches? Could I ever recreate the deep well of supportive friends I have in Los Angeles, where every weekend I have at least one social outing to turn down, where I became an adult, and where I finally feel at home?
I’ve put off making that decision for months because it’s a hard freakin’ decision!
It will never ever be easy to leave LA and the beautiful life I’ve been lucky enough to create here, and because a deep well of sadness and angst would well up inside me any time I thought about leaving, I questioned whether leaving was actually a good choice.
Recently, I started seeing a therapist who is, as I affectionately describe some people (Molly and my Stratejoy tribe included), woo-y: very into meditation, chakras, the intuitive brain, and sound healing.
She has been counseling me to find and listen to my inner self, my intuition. She gave me exercises to separate out sad or upsetting feelings from the deep knowledge of what is right for me.
She helped me to understand that I’ve lived my life so far by letting circumstances dictate my decisions, so that I never have to sit with the hard choices.
I got into Teach for America and went because it was the only option before me early in my senior year of college. I applied to grad school, telling myself if I got in, I’d go. I only applied to one job post-grad school back in LA, again, knowing if I got it, I’d move back. I’ve never had to sit with weighing equally wonderful and shitty options and pick one.
In the midst of these reflections, my truth welled up to the surface. I don’t want live my whole adult life only seeing my family on major holidays. At the end of my life, the thing I’d regret most is not spending time with those I love the most, and despite how deeply I care for my friends, that will always be my family.
I know I want my mom on call when I have kids to potentially talk me off a ledge when I need her to. I want to spend Father’s Day with my dad for once and be able to get into political debates in person rather than over the phone.
I want to be able to have casual dinners with my sister and watch the Gilmore Girls Netflix revival together.
So, in July, I’m leaving my beautiful, sunny, glitzy city for a drastically colder and grayer one.
And I absolutely know that it’s the right choice, because the lie I’d been telling myself, that the right choices are the easy choices, that they don’t involve any bad feelings or hard circumstances, is just that – a bald-faced lie.
The right choices sometimes cause deep sadness and (eventually for me) homesickness and tearful good-byes and longing looks at the beach and mountains of my home as I fly to my new one.
I’m learning to sit with this sadness alongside my inner voice telling me that this is the only choice I could make.
Because, the biggest truth in my life is that my family is more important to me than hiking and beaches and access to the latest movies and even friends, and I am so excited to make my new home so much closer to them.