I knew the moment would come when the reality of all this would hit me. What was a crazy, hair-brained idea six months ago turned into a series of logistical steps and planning checklists. We’ve been so engrossed in the process of selling the house, planning the first legs of the trip, winding down job obligations and coordinating schedules that we haven’t really stepped back and objectively looked at the nature of what we’re about to do. It’s been a continuous topic of conversation in our household, so it had come to feel somewhat commonplace and a little intangible. Like it was this theoretical thing we talked about and planned on paper, but the actual execution was still difficult to envision.
However, in the last four days things just got real. We’ve sold our house, attended our going away party, I had my last day of work and now I’m knee-deep in packing up the house. Twenty days from today our family of five will be without a home. Everything we have with us will fit in four suitcases and some carry-on bags. Our children will no longer attend public school. I won’t have a job. We will leave the country for an undetermined amount of time.
As my friends have heard me often say…HOLY SHASTA!
To be honest, there are moments when the phrase “What the hell are we doing?” flashes into my brain. This is clearly not normal behavior for two responsible, well-established thirty-somethings. But then those fear-filled words are quickly replaced by a phrase I saw almost a decade ago, scrawled on the back of a bathroom stall in a bar: “Pearls don’t lie by the seashore.” Yes, I too was surprised to see what is apparently a Chinese proverb displayed next to derogatory comments about people and their private parts. In fact, if I’d seen that same phrase on a shabby chic decorative block of wood at Pottery Barn I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Instead, I sat there, in that most vulnerable of positions, and found myself really thinking about its meaning.
Life’s most miraculous and beautiful rewards are not going to be easily accessible. Like those Ama divers in Japan who have upheld a tradition of female pearl diving for over 2,000 years, I feel like I’m holding my breath with anticipation, bracing myself for the shock of the water and preparing to kick my family to a place where an amazing reward is waiting for us. But instead of a sphere of calcium carbonate that can be placed on a piece of jewelry, our reward will be a new view of the world and an experience we will keep with us for the rest of our lives. Like finding a pearl oyster on the ocean floor, this trip wouldn’t be nearly as valuable and life-changing if it were an easy thing to do.
A couple days ago, one of my closest friends gave me a fresh water pearl necklace as a going away present because it happens to be Tennessee’s state gem. It’s serendipitous that’s the gift she chose. I will wear it throughout this journey as a constant reminder of why we’re doing this and how important it is to keep kicking when the water gets a little choppy along the way.