“I am going to live in New York City until I die,” I used to tell her. After college, we found ourselves in a long distance relationship. She was going to move to New York, eventually – that was the plan. Maybe it wasn’t fair of me, but I couldn’t possibly leave New York, not with the job I had. Plus, it was the greatest city in the world.
She was a great girl and I was in love, but we began fighting. I don’t remember why, but I’m sure it was my fault. One day, she called to tell me she didn’t want to move to New York anymore. We broke up right there on the phone.A few months later, I went on vacation to Peru with some friends. During the trip, I was offered an opportunity to fight MMA in Lima. “I can’t,” I said. “I have a really good job back home.”
A few months later, I quit my job and moved to Peru.
When I arrived in Lima, everything was novel and interesting. It was a Third World country. My daily life was difficult. Ordering a sandwich at the café on the corner became an adventure in a foreign language. I was fighting MMA. It was hard and scary and brutal. And it was everything I had ever wanted.
I shuddered at the thought that I might have stayed in New York. If my girlfriend had actually moved there, I wouldn’t have had a choice.
Throughout the year, though, several misfortunes befell me. I became injured and couldn’t compete anymore. I was in and out of hospitals. Imagine a Peruvian hospital for a second. Yes, they are just like you picture them.
By the end of my tenure in Lima, I was miserable again. The slight inconveniences that had once been adventurous and exciting now cast me full of doubt and frustration. But there was one light at the end of the tunnel: I had fallen in love with a British girl.
Almost right away, we began talking about moving off to some crazy corner of the world together. Our life ambitions aligned and we were going to have adventures together. She went back to England to finish school. One day she called and said that she was thinking about doing another year of school in England. She was nervous and reticent. Could we make it another year apart?
“I’ll move there,” I said.
A few months later, I went to visit her. I really didn’t know anything about England. Before I planned the trip, I had thought Wales was an island. We traveled around the country together for a week and it rained every single day. We argued as we traveled, but I was still deeply in love. When we got back to her apartment she said, “This just doesn’t feel right.” I was crushed.
I walked out the door. “You don’t have to leave,” she said.
I still had two weeks before my return flight home and didn’t know what to do. I caught a bus to London and moped around all day. From there, I fled to Paris.
For the next two days, I was alone and miserable in the City of Love. I stayed in a dingy hotel and wandered the streets, a dim shadow floating through a purgatory of my own making. I have to assume that Paris is a beautiful city, but I just couldn’t see it. To me, Paris was dark and dreary.
The next day, I caught a bus to San Sebastián in Spain. I went for a hike in the surrounding hills and gorged myself on pintxos and txakoli. I continued traveling through Spain and I fell in love with the country. I asked everyone I met about local job opportunities. On my last day in Barcelona, someone told me about a program that hires English teachers. I applied to it that night from the computer in my hostel.
A few months later, I moved to Madrid. I now live here and work as an English teacher. I shudder at the thought that I almost moved to England. I can’t see myself living anywhere but here. But who knows what I’ll say a year from now?
Right before I left for Spain, I visited some old friends in New York City. As I walked through the streets, everything looked different to me. It was like running into an old girlfriend. I still remembered the good times fondly, but the emotions were like a poor photocopy of the originals. It just didn’t feel the same.
What had changed so much? Me.